The last time I went for my well-woman visit (=the gyno), they asked if I ate a healthy diet a) all of the time, b) some of the time, or c) never.
To which I wanted to respond “Who the f**k came up with that scale?” (I actually didn’t say that, because I’m a total doormat, but that’s beside the point right now.)
First of all, show me the person who eats a healthy diet ALL of the time. 100%. 24/7. Never slips. Show me, so we can all hate on that person together.
And second of all, in what world does it make sense to lump people who eat healthy 90% of the time with people who eat healthy 10% of the time?
And third of all, I’m convinced that it’s exactly this type of all-or-nothing thinking (apparently promoted by health care professionals!) that makes it seem like following a healthy diet is an impossible, unattainable goal. So why would us lowly human beings even try?
I firmly believe that eating mostly healthy food, most of the time is good enough. And that goal is very much attainable.
In this article, I will list a few things you can do to set yourself up for success. And I will also tell you how to deal with those inevitable days that turn out to be less successful.
I know, I know… This article is supposed to be about diet and not about exercise. But the thing is, exercise is a giant help in two ways.
First, when you work your body hard, your thoughts naturally start moving from “what should I deprive my body of so I can lose weight” to “what should I give my body to make it strong”.
And second, the more extra calories you burn by exercising, the more extra calories you can eat without feeling gross.
2. Don’t Keep Unhealthy Food At Home
I don’t know about you, but if someone puts junk food in front of me, it’s almost impossible for me not to devour it. So it needs to be kept out of my sight – ie. not brought in my house. Here are a few ways to keep unhealthy stuff out of your house and your sight:
- Take a list when you go grocery shopping and make it a rule to stick to the list.
- Go grocery shopping when you are feeling good and energetic – not when you are tired, hungry, or stressed and more likely to make unplanned purchases.
- If you must have junk in the house, ask whoever you live with to hide it. Or if you live alone, put it in some place that is a pain in the ass to get to. Like the far corner of the attic or the top shelf in the unheated garage.
- If people you live with insist on eating junk food in front of you or leave it laying around, ask them who they love more. You or potato chips?
3. Keep An Abundance Of Healthy Food At Home
Keeping unhealthy crap out of the house doesn’t have to lead to an empty fridge. It’s better to replace rather than eliminate. Again, prepare on the weekend when you are on top of the world. Make sure you have a kitchen overflowing with healthy alternatives for when you are stressed and tired during the week and feeling like you MUST. EAT. SOMETHING. NOW. When you open the fridge in that state, you don’t need to see an empty shelf with a few sad crumbs on it. That sight will send you straight to that candy stash hidden in the attic, or worse, to the McDonald’s drive-thru. What you need to see is a colorful fruit or veggie platter all cut up and ready for dipping. Or a handful of nuts in a pretty bowl. Or some nutrition-packed smoothies. (Try Pinterest for more ideas!)
4. Never Go Hungry
Following a healthy diet shouldn’t and doesn’t mean going hungry. Here are a couple of ways to make sure that doesn’t happen:
- Try to keep up with regular meals.
- Fill up on fiber-rich salad veggies and lean proteins. Not only are they nutritious, but they keep you feeling full a lot longer than carb-y foods.
- Make it a rule to eat the fiber and proteins first, before you let yourself turn to the carbs. You won’t want to eat as many carbs, because you are already full from the fiber and proteins.
5. Only Eat Food That Tastes Delicious
Life is too short to spend it eating food that tastes like cardboard. Make it a project to figure out how to prepare healthy meals that taste good. (Again, Pinterest is awesome for this!) Instead of a daily dose of torture on your plate, your healthy diet can become a series of mouth-watering new treats.
Related: Everything We Ate During Our Whole30
6. Change Your Diet Incrementally
We’ve all tried those extreme diets that have you change all your eating habits overnight and they never last. Those diets are too overwhelming – too much change, too fast.
How about tackling one habit per week? Maybe one week you’ll focus on eating a healthy breakfast every day. The next week, you’ll replace salty snacks with fruit. Then you’ll work on trying a couple of new salad recipes.
And instead of going from sugary sodas straight to tap water, how about going to diet soda first, and then after a while to flavored water? Or instead of going from a nightly bucket of full-fat ice cream straight to a big bowl of nothing, how about trying a smaller portion first, and then going to yogurt?
Related: How To Make Willpower
7. Put Food In Smaller Containers
Speaking of portions… Instead of landing on the couch with an entire bag of pretzels, put some in a cute little bowl instead. And then close the bag and put it back in the pantry. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m so spent at night that it’s too much work to go all the way back to the kitchen to get more and I only end up eating the one little bowlful instead of the entire bag. Sometimes it pays off to be lazy!
8. Allow Occasional Treats
Points 1 through 7 above are about what we should be doing MOST of the time. But not ALL of the time. When I think about things like chocolate, french fries, funnel cake… If I ate them every day, I would feel like shit and my life would be worse for it. But if I treat myself with some of that forbidden deliciousness occasionally – if I thoroughly enjoy every morsel because it’s a rare delicacy – I count it as a life improvement.
I’ve also stopped beating myself up for occasional stress eating. I read some article that said you shouldn’t eat junk food if you are feeling bad, because it will make you feel worse. But I beg to differ. The night I had to say good-bye to my dog soul-mate, I came home and ate a bag of potato chips (not the lunch box size). And after a certain election fiasco, dinner was double quarter pounder meals for three days in a row. It didn’t make me feel worse, because I was already so low that I couldn’t feel any worse. I just felt like I needed comfort food and that’s exactly what I got.
This type of eating is only a problem if you are doing it too often and you’ll know when you hit that point. If you are eating to alleviate stress more than occasionally, then the problem is really the stress – not your diet. If you work on addressing the source of the stress, the diet will fall into place naturally.
9. When You Fall Off The Horse, Get Right Back On!
When my sister and I are on vacation together, we eat every possible kind of crap that we can get our greedy fingers on and we keep telling each other that it’s ok because we’ll start a “new life” as soon as the vacation is over. But when the “new life” starts, we are so stressed about having to go back to work, that it’s an excuse to pile on just a few more crappy meals. 😉 And then somehow the “new life” is completely forgotten about.
But we don’t really need a whole new life. The perfect new life where every meal is healthy is an unrealistic fantasy. The sooner we let go of this new life fantasy and focus on making small, realistic tweaks to the old one, the better. In the old life, we sometimes behave in less than ideal ways. But that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that we are failures. It’s just life. We can always do better with the next meal.
What do you think about my tips? Does it sound doable? Any tips you would add? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂