We are closing out the third week of January, and by closing the third week, I mean January 2017 is almost over! And so it begins, another year flying by just like the last. If you've made resolutions this is usually around the time that we start to lose focus, give up, or begin to battle some negative self-talk (i.e., "that was a silly resolution anyway, there is no way you'll...insert goal.) Most of us will have strayed from the set goal already. Notice I include myself here. 2017 was off to a rough start for my resolution of recommitting myself to my mindfulness practice, although we'll get to that later in this post. Sigh.
Trying to eat healthier is a very standard resolution. And for a good reason! Even if you're not eating healthier to lose weight, you may be wanting to eat healthier to get back to your pre-holiday habits, save money (for example: eat out less), or just feel better. Whatever your motive might be, if you want to eat healthier in 2017 this article is for you! As a Certified Family Health Coach, part of what I do is offer clients real life solutions to maintain their health goals. Below we'll discuss the top 5 real life, no fuss, solutions I provide to clients (and use in my home as well!) to stick to eating healthier -year round.
1. Steer Clear of Trends
It seems every year there is a new hot diet or eating trend. I would say, in general, the overall long-term (think past 10-15 years) trend of foods has been positive -minus GMO's in my humble opinion. However, many of the restrictive diets don't work in their entirety for most people. For example, I totally get the Paleo mentality, and I choose to eat the cleanest grains possible. Although, there is no way I could go completely Paleo. I love grains; My husband is Colombian-American (think: Rice and Beans!), and it would be unrealistic to believe that this type of diet would work in the long run for our family. Most importantly, we wouldn't enjoy it. If you don't enjoy your food, then there is a problem!
Indeed, if you have a strong moral or ethical reason to go vegan or vegetarian then, by all means, go for it. However, you could just as easily try adding a few meatless or vegan meals into your rotation each week and reap the benefits of more plant-based foods and fewer animal proteins. My point is that food is social, emotional, and cultural there is no denying that. You should enjoy it and look forward to it! It is possible to find foods that your crew loves and looks forward to and make them healthy, which means sticking to eating healthy won't be a problem.
2. Forget Perfection
What typically happens when you are on a "diet"? We all have a tendency to start strong then fall off the bandwagon somewhere. Then the all is lost mindset creeps in - and all hell breaks loose. For many, this becomes a vicious cycle yielding few results and leading to a lack of confidence toward living healthfully. Accept that it is highly unrealistic to live on a "diet" 365 days a year. Accept this, try your best to stick to the eating standards you set for yourself, and treat yourself with kindness when you fall below the bar. Then wake up and try your best again. You will still reap the rewards, I promise.
Let's talk about my new year's resolution for a moment. I used to practice meditation regularly, pre-baby number two. As someone who has struggled with anxiety my entire life, it was a fantastic resource for me. Enter Elena, my sweet, larger than life, nonsleeping baby. The past 2 1/2 years have tested what it means to live sleep deprived, and most days I am lucky I brush my teeth. Although, my hygienist does not find this excuse acceptable. Alas, we are finally down to 1-2 night wakings, and having noticed a marked difference in meditating me vs. non-meditating me, decided to get back on the horse.
That's right; I resolved to get up before the kids to do short guided meditations to start my day. Right. Would you believe that the first week of 2017 proved to be one of the worst sleep week's we had had in months?! Pair that with the fact that I do most of my work after the kids go to bed and waking up would have meant burning the candle at both ends of the stick. I finished that first week (having hit snooze Every. Single. Day.) disappointed and defeated. It seemed ridiculous to think that I could have pulled that off at this stage in my life. Then I thought a crazy thought. I would try my best, anyway, and that would have to be enough - That my best was enough and counted for success.
A funny thing happened the following week; once I removed perfection from the equation, I felt more motivated for the early mornings, regardless of how the night went. If you want to eat healthier, try your best. And even when you falter, you will still see results over time. If you couple this "good enough" mentality with setting yourself up for success you'll be golden.
3. Set Yourself up For Success
One of the most important things you can do for yourself when trying to stick to eating healthier, long term, is to put yourself in situations where you are likely to succeed - just like you would a child or a puppy! More specifically, be careful what you bring home, folks. Keep minimal Red Light Foods in your home, and you'll eat minimal Red Light Foods. It's very straightforward. If you want the ice-cream, cookies, or late night bad food enough to go out and get it, then get it! And, enjoy it - you apparently wanted it bad enough. You're less likely to overeat the food when you run to the convenience store at 9:00 PM to buy the snack sized version vs. buying the Costco big boxed version and keeping it in your pantry - guaranteed.
Furthermore, if you are eating out and splurge on a decadent meal consider not bringing the leftovers home. Leave them at the restaurant or hand the box over to a person in need on the way home if you live in a more urban area like me. This way you have allowed yourself to live and enjoy life but are still practicing healthy eating habits (which is also how we interact with food).
4. Practice Balance
This tip is an offshoot of forgetting perfection, but worthy of discussing. We have already discussed that striving for perfection is going to leave you frustrated and disappointed. I want to point out again, that food is cultural, social, and emotional. Guys, we should enjoy our food! We should be able to live in a way that allows us to be healthy but also be able to indulge and participate with the rest of society.
In our home, we live by the 80/20 rule. 80% of what we eat is freshly prepared, clean food. The other 20%, however, is whatever we want it to be. It might be Tostones, Beer, Pizza, Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich (I have totally gone out at 9 PM for one of these on occasion.). Let me tell you the best part of the 80/20 rule. There's no guilt. None. I have never felt sorry about my 20%. Everyone's schedule is different, and I have clients work their 20% into the week differently, however in our home, we keep it to the weekend for the sake of simplicity. There's never this feeling of failing or falling off the bandwagon. You enjoy your 20% and move on with your life, and know you'll get another 20% the following week.
5. Buyer Beware
This one is probably one of my easiest tips, and if you follow my blog, you've heard it before. If it comes in a bag, box, or can, buyer beware. I want you to strive to eat fresh food. Guys, the food industry is designed to make "food" that lasts the longest, the cheapest way they can, to make money. Most of them go out of their way to skirt, the few, regulations, and to deceive consumers. They don't care about your health, your kids' health, or anything other than making money. Indeed, there are some ethical companies out there, but they're not easy to find, and they're not cheap.
Even if the box says, it's Gluten Free, Organic or Non-GMO, inspect the ingredients. Also important, just because something is organic does not make it healthy. A Chip, is a chip, is a chip. I want you to strive to eat real food, and prepare your food whenever possible. It doesn't have to be fancy, or elaborate, but your health will improve, significantly, when you know what you're putting into your body. I understand that some people don't like cooking. I get it, and it's a legitimate argument. Consider a meal delivery service or a meal preparation service if your budget allows. At the very least see if you can redistribute the cooking to someone else in the household who would enjoy it.
There is no way around taking the work out of changing behaviors. It can feel uncomfortable and be challenging for most. If it didn't nobody would ever have resolutions! I do know, however, that you can make it easier on yourself by trying the tips above. I love food and believe, without a doubt, that we can live a healthy life eating the food we love. Fill out the form below and let's chat about how we can make eating healthier easier for your family.