Adhering to a healthy food-lifestyle can seem like an impossible task at times. Whether it’s the clean-eating, meal-prep life that’s advertised all over Instagram and social media, with matching little Tupperware all lined up in rows with perfectly proportioned foods, or a diet plan, like Paleo, sugar-free, or worse…..carb-free. People develop a type of routine with how they eat over the years, and I feel like once you are out on your own and planning your own meals, this routine becomes hard-wired into you. You gravitate toward the same snacks, the same restaurants, and it becomes a cycle…which can be difficult to break.
Studies show, according to Phillippa Lally from University College London, it takes, on average, 66 days to break or make a habit. During this time period, people can become frustrated. Maybe they aren’t seeing results as quickly as they would like, or they make the mistake I usually do, and compare themselves to others, or maybe a craving for French fries is their ultimate undoing. Making better choices to benefit your athletic performance or just your overall health is a sometimes difficult decision that requires persistence, resolve and self-control.
I will admit, I have bailed on my fair share of dietary journeys. For example, my mom is a vegan so I figured, eh, I’ll give it a try. Health blogs are always raving about how good you feel once you go vegan, and how even a month of veganism can benefit your health.
I lasted 3 days.
Another time, I attempted to go carb-free and give up all meats, other than fish.
A week and a half.
From my years of experience bouncing between eating plans and diet ideas, I have learned the best way to stick to healthy choices is to make smaller changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. Trying to cut out everything all at once leaves you with this shell-shocked feeling of deprivation. You crave EVERYTHING. This new healthy lifestyle seems more like a chore than something beneficial to your life. Eating right becomes a burden, something you dread…and who wants to stick to that?
So where can you start?
1. Limit the amount of times you eat out per week. If you currently eat out three or four times, cut back to two or three.
2. Swap out a more caloric side with something a little better. For example, swap your baked potato with some veggies.
3. Limit the amount of Starbucks flavored coffees/sodas/sugar-loaded drinks you enjoy! This was another hard one for me (Starbucks-YUM!) but it makes a huge difference! Next time you pick up a Mountain Dew, check the nutrition panel.
4. Pack your snacks for the day. It cuts down on the temptation to buy something unhealthy because it’s easily accessible or you’re in a rush.
Personally, one of the harder, healthy choices I made for myself was cutting down on white bread and other refined carbohydrates. Notice, I say cutting down, because giving it up completely was not an option. I love Panera, too much. After weigh ins, I hightail it to the closest one and get a bread bowl full of something. So instead of depriving myself of something I loved so dearly, I chose to limit how much I allowed myself to get it. I started with letting myself eat it as many as four days a week, did that until it was easier. Then I cut it down to two, eventually got easier. The key for me was gradual change.
The thing to remember as you start your individual healthy-eating journey is that everyone had to start at the beginning! Comparing yourself to others can often be discouraging-you are at a different starting point that the fitness model with a million followers on Instagram. Everyone had a day one. Just stick to your decisions and stay positive.