Sticking to a healthy eating plan, note: not a diet, that may also help you lose weight, can be tough. Even if you don’t want to lose weight, eating healthy can be a challenge. We are inundated with advertisements, flashing signs, attractive packaging and clever marketing to try and get us to eat a host of convenient, tasty offerings that are mostly hype not healthy. They can seduce even the most committed of healthy eaters occasionally.
The other day I went grocery shopping with my husband. All we needed were a couple of things but we strolled up and down most of the aisles anyway because he enjoys the process. What I realized as I wandered those aisles looking at every conceivable type of food, from sweet, delectable cakes, cookies and pies to freshly prepared pizzas, mayonnaise laden salads and sweetened, carbonated soft drinks was that I would happily have loaded half that stuff into my cart. It reminded me of why I usually stick to the perimeter of the store, avoiding the bakery and deli sections. If I don’t see it, I don’t know that I want it.
Instead I was using every ounce of willpower and trick I’ve learned not to put a single one of those items in my cart. This experience helped me remember that we have to be vigilant in keeping the good habits we’ve started. In an effort to help anyone else who may have the same struggle I have, I’ve put together five habit strategies to help you stick to or start a healthy eating plan.
1. CREATE A HABIT.
A habit is something we do with little or no conscious thought. Habits form when the brain learns a certain behavior through repetition and eventually only a small region of the brain is engaged when participating in the habit behavior, leaving the rest of the brain free to think about something else.
When we have created a habit we don’t need to utilize as much willpower or self-control. Not everyone agrees on how self-control is managed. It could be argued some people have more self-control than others. Some also suggest that we have a limited amount of self-control and as we use it, we eventually exhaust it. Finally, some suggest willpower isn’t limited, but rather that if we look at things from another way (reframe our actions), we gain further reserves.
Regardless of what is suggested, each of us need to figure out what works best for us. So as much as possible create habits and beyond that look at other options to assist our willpower.
2. AVOID TEMPTATION.
Instead of putting yourself in harm’s way, stay away from places and sometimes even people where you might be tempted beyond your ability to resist. I will definitely think twice before going on an aisle by aisle stroll of the grocery store again.
In grocery stores that could mean making a list of things you need and only going to those aisles where the items needed are located. If places like burger joints or pizza places tempt you too much, go to places it’s easier to make good choices at like a pita place or sushi bar. If your route to school or work goes right past a major temptation, change your route. Go to the gym or for a walk at lunch and bring something from home instead of going out to eat. If you live with a spouse or kids who may not be as interested in eating healthy, at least keep the serious temptations in a cupboard (out of sight, out of mind). That works so well in our house, sometimes my husband even forgets the treats are there.
3. MAKE MULTIPLE MEALS AHEAD OF TIME.
One of my major downfalls is if I don’t have a meal preplanned or already prepared. The reality is when I get home from work it’s likely been ten hours or more since I left in the morning and I rarely want to cook, so if I don’t have a meal ready to go aka heat’n serve, I may start fridge diving. You know, when you open the fridge and dive in for whatever looks good, even if it’s not good for you.
Recently, I found a meal service called Hungry Panda that provides nutritious meals cooked by a chef. I order them by Thursday and pick up my order of freshly frozen meals on Monday. Perfect. The meals are a perfect balance of protein, carbs, fat and low in calories AND taste great. Check out what is available in your area if that idea appeals to you.
Alternatively, a more cost effective option is make ahead meals. There are lots of ideas for this on line, just go to Pinterest and type in “meal prep”. Meal prep is the trending thing to do. You pick one or two days during the week and do your shop, chop and prep on those days so your meals and snacks are ready to go throughout the week.
4. MAKE IT CONVENIENT.
Sadly, our modern, uber busy lifestyles have made us the ultimate convenience seekers. This is why I went with Make Ahead Meals as number three on the list. But convenience goes for everything. Buying a bag of carrots that need to be peeled, and chopped is a great option if you will do the meal prep above. You know yourself best, if it’s likely the carrots will stay in the fridge until they are sprouting, buy the ready to eat ones. Same goes for anything. Single serving containers and pre chopped or peeled items are a bit more expensive, but if you actually eat them versus letting their more time consuming cousins sprout and mold, which is the better option?
Cakes, cookies, ice cream etc. tend to be far more economical in Costco size multi packs. But can you eat just one? I can’t. I have learned that it’s better to buy a single serve piece of chocolate cake for my Sunday night treat than to buy a whole cake and eat only one or two pieces and give the rest away. I always end of eating most of it myself before it leaves the house.
5. CREATE A MANTRA.
I like mantra’s. Essentially you create a statement about who you want to be. One of my mantras is, “I don’t eat sugar.” Now, I’ll be honest, I do in fact eat sugar. But when I’m in a lineup to get my favourite beverage at Starbucks, I repeat that mantra the entire time I’m standing beside their bakery case. Not only does this help me resist the purchase, it actually means I don’t feel deprived for making that choice, because I’ve told myself I’m just not the kind of person that eats sugar. Often this is a case of reframing something in your mind.
Elizabeth Craft, the cohost on Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, has declared herself “free from fries.” See what matras you can come up with to liberate yourself from something that’s been holding you back or create a mantra that aspires to something you want to be, for example, “I go for daily walks.” Whatever you do, make sure its something that resonates with you personally.
Well, that’s it. Hopefully these tips will inspire you to make a change or keep working at the changes you’ve already made. I’d love to hear from you on what works best for you, so please leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the journey!