Healthy Eating: How to Get Back on Track
We've all been there. You know, you've been trying to eat better and stick to healthy habits, and you've been doing a good job and feeling great. Then something happens. You have a crazy project at work, or one of the kids gets sick. OR perhaps it's even worse than that. Maybe you've just gotten back from a getaway or enjoyed a holiday. Habits fall off, you indulge, or survive depending on the circumstances, and before you know it you're far, way far, off the healthy track. It seems daunting to get back, but it doesn't have to be, keep reading, and I'll show you how to get back on track toward healthy eating, in three simple steps.
1. Take Stock
Assuming your lifestyle was health-focused before you took a nutritional detour, it's safe to say that you were probably feeling pretty good in your skin - literally. When we are eating nutrient dense foods, sleeping well, and hydrating adequately, we look and feel better. Things like our skin and eyes will be more clear and bright. We will experience less water retention and bloating, and our digestion will be moving more smoothly. In general, we will feel better and be happier. As soon as you decide you're ready to get back to looking and feeling your best, I want to you take stock of your current appearance as well as how you are feeling.
Chances are in addition to things like bloating and poor complexion mentioned above; you will most likely be feeling slower or more tired, or notice a brain fog. Reflect and pay close attention to your body and how you feel. Now I want you to think back to how you were used to feel when you are eating healthier regularly. If you're anything like me, you will be jumping at the chance to get back to your former fabulousness. The importance of this step is two-fold. First, it helps to motivate you to get back in the game - and stay in it. And second, it helps to train your brain to pay attention to your body’s cues. Our bodies are always communicating with us; it's our job to listen and respond accordingly. Like any other muscle, being in tune and aware of what is happening in our body takes practice.
The goal is for you to eventually get to the point where before you eat a bowl of ice cream at 10 PM, that your brain will automatically make the connection between poor sleep and the bowl of ice-cream, and consider that when making your decision to late night snack or not.
2. H20 to Go Go
Chances are somewhere along your indulgences you consumed your fair share of processed foods which are full of sodium and food additives. There may, or may not have also been adult beverages included (no judgment), as well. In any case, hydrating (preferably with plain water) is a great place to start. We are 60% water! True story and this nutrient’s vital role supports many of the body's systems. Water is essential to any healthy diet but especially when resetting it. It will help to flush any extra sodium or toxins from processed foods from the system. Let’s look at water in correlation to hunger cues. It's a fact that our body will often miscommunicate thirst as hunger. Staying hydrated will help you feel full and ward off unnecessary snacking habits that you may have picked up while you were off the wagon.
Getting back onto your sleep schedule may seem like an unlikely step to get back to healthy eating habits, but you will see just how important it is. First and foremost, what we eat is directly linked to how well we sleep at night, and increased alcohol consumption is known to disrupt restorative sleep. You will inevitably be running on a sleep deficit as you come off your red light food bender. Not only does diet affect how well we sleep, but it also helps to dictate the types of food we crave throughout the day, as well as how much we eat of them.
For example, you may notice when you are not sleeping well over a while, or even after one rough night with a little one, that you crave sugary/fatty, processed, or carbohydrate-based foods. This lack of sleep puts the body into a state of stress and will release more of the stress hormone cortisol (which causes sugary/fatty/junk food cravings). It not kept in check keeping your body in this state over time can lead to Adrenal Fatigue. Furthermore, with less than 7 hours of sleep the way our body regulates hunger hormones changes.
The hormone that controls hunger cues, ghrelin, starts to be produced in more significant amounts vs. the hormone that controls, satiety (fullness), begins to be released in smaller quantities. These hormone disruptions set us up for big problems in the weight maintenance department. One other simple but effective benefit to getting back to your regular sleep schedule - less time in the day to eat. If you aren't up at midnight, it's less likely you'll be mindlessly snacking at midnight. Here’s one last fun fact about sleep (because I love all the sleep things ), did you know you get your most restorative sleep between the times of 10 PM - 2AM? Yep, even Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, swears by prioritizing his sleep to meet the 10-2 sleep standard. The sooner you can restore your body to a rested state and get back into a routine on all fronts, the quicker you will be back to healthy eating habits which make you proud.
The most important take away here, is not that we are wrong for straying from healthy habits from time to time, but that we equip ourselves with the tools to get back on track without much drama. I liken it to meditation practice. During meditation we understand that our minds will wander, heck we even expect it. And when it does, we take note of it and gently direct our mind back to the meditation. There is no self-loathing, no going off the deep end - just a simple nudge back in the preferred direction. We should apprach our clean eating efforts the same way.