Studies show that people who eat breakfast are more likely to lose weight compared to people who… eat breakfast, lunch AND dinner. Kidding aside, when we’re trying to lose weight, there is a lot of conflicting and misleading information out there to sort through. Deciding on the “right way to eat” can be be confusing. There are so many diet plans, all claiming to be the best one for you – but are they? If so, which one? Should you do the Mediterranean Diet? The Keto Diet? The “Clip Your Nose While You Eat” Diet? I know the clip is meant to reduce the appealing aroma of food, although I think pizza would taste great right now with or with out a clip on my nose. Besides, that clip just sounds painful. To be honest… all diet plans sound painful in one way or another.
Choosing which healthy diet to pursue is overwhelming, not to mention how difficult it is to prepare for the diet, start the diet, and stay on the diet past noon on the first day. I’ve found the best way to start a healthy eating plan is to begin by simply incorporating a few good eating habits right now. Not tomorrow, not next Monday…just start one good habit today. Big changes require a lot of effort, preparation and risk. What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m miserable? What if I invest all the time and pain and I don’t lose weight or feel better? On the other hand, small changes toward good nutrition can have huge benefits in the long run. Take the time you need to find and prepare the right meal plan for you if you need to, but in the meantime, here are ten things you can do today for better health, wellbeing and weight management:
- Reduce or remove “white” food: If it’s white, take it out today. White bread, white rice, white potatoes, white sugar. There are plenty of delicious and satisfying choices out there to enjoy instead. Replace “white foods” with something that’s better for your body, such as fruit or green veggies or whole grains. You may find you really don’t need some of these “white foods” after all and can let more of them go than you thought.
- Eat the Rainbow: Add a rainbow of colored food to your diet. I’m not talking about the Froot Loop rainbow, but instead, the rainbow of food that grows out of the ground. Strawberries, carrots, yellow peppers, arugula, blueberries, and kalamata olives for example. If you have the opportunity to choose organic, all the better for your health.
- Prepare healthy snacks in the form of grab bags when you’re already making food. Making breakfast? Great. Studies show, you’re already more likely to lose weight. While you’re at it, cut up some carrots or apples and put them in zip lock bags to take with you during the day, or have on hand for the evening melt down. Make it easy on yourself by throwing together a few snack bags when you’re already in the kitchen preparing food. Take advantage of healthy, prepared snacks first when you get hungry throughout the day or have a craving that won’t subside. Avoiding a food emergency by having healthy, grab-able food that’s ready to go when you need food fast is a small eating habit that makes a huge difference.
- If you eat or drink it… log it: Confession: I hate journalling my food. Regardless of my feelings, I find that I lose and maintain weight better when I consistently enter all the food I eat into my food app. I like the app Lose It, but there are a lot of apps like it out there. Think of it strictly as data. Simply log your food intake and see what your calorie count is for the day. Make adjustments you want to make with the data you collect.
- Replace alcohol. Studies show that people eat more when they drink. I knew this about myself, even though I didn’t want to admit it. I learned it to be true when I watched a fun documentary called “The Truth About Alcohol” on Netflix. I used to enjoy a glass of wine regularly at night before or after dinner. I dramatically changed my calorie intake just by replacing alcohol each day with something else. Put flavored Perrier in a wine glass, or pour Kombucha in a beer shaker. You’ll eat less, add useful nutrients to your body and ingest less sugar, all of which will help you on your journey to better health.
- Consider the value of nutrition vs. pleasure. When you’re hungry, before you eat, stop to consider if you’re going for a pleasure hit, or filling fuel. In our culture we have an abundance of dense calorie, pleasure giving food available, and far less opportunity to spend energy. This combo is leading to rampant obesity. Our stomachs want to be full. While a bag of chips is very pleasurable to eat, consider how many bags of Lay’s it would take to actually fill up your stomach. I don’t know if it’s actually possible to do that (much to the seller’s delight.) So, even though junk food is pleasurable, it doesn’t satisfy hunger or provide nutrition. Today, picture the size of your stomach and actively choose and eat foods that will fill your stomach’s volume with fiber, nutrients and fewer calories, like broccoli, peppers, or an apple. You may not get the same pleasure hit in the moment, but you’ve been eating long enough to know you’ll be happier in the long run.
- Imagine eating that unhealthy food before you eat it then decide if you still need it. Stop and eat the tempting food in your head first. Take a bite and eat it in your imagination. When you’re done imaging that you ate the whole thing, ask yourself if you still really need it. You’ve eaten that donut a hundred times. You know what it tastes like, you know how it makes you feel when you’re eating, and how you feel a half an hour after you ate it. You know the good and the bad of it. Can you let it go just for today and choose a healthy snack or glass of water instead?
- Be a student of your own behavior: We can say we believe, or want to believe anything. What we do, how we act, proves what we really believe. If you’re having trouble eating healthy food in tough moments, what is this telling you about what you truly believe about food? Once you figure out what you are actually doing, seek to understand what that tells you about your core beliefs around food. Next, take the journey to find out if your core belief is right or misled, and decide what you’d like to do next.
- When you eat… eat, and only eat. Stop and eat when you are eating. Being distracted while eating, whether it’s on our phone, computer or even driving, robs us of the satisfaction of eating and creates a disconnect between our actions, our brain and our bodies. Sometimes, we even forget we ate because we so involved in something else. Self care is very important, and this includes providing healthy nutrition in a healthy way for yourself. Take time out today to focus on good nutrition and intentional eating, because you are the one feeding yourself- feed yourself health.
- Relax, it’s not a race. Take a breath. Pursuing health is a life-long endeavor that will always have joys and challenges. Do something healthy today, but remember you can’t do everything today-and that’s ok. You’ll get to your destination, just take one step at a time and fuel your life with health.
What new healthy eating habit will you start today?
Julia Fikse is a Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach. Julia is not a therapist or a doctor and this blog cannot and should not in any way replace doctors advice.