7 Simple Steps: Change your eating habits FOREVER!
How is it that healthy living no longer seems to be about good old fashioned common sense? Nowadays it’s all about the gadgets (a watch to monitor my every move? No thank you!). There’s also an element of kudos and one-upmanship – and don’t even get me started on the scarily competitive, obsessive ‘clean eating’. Well scrap that people, because we all know that gizmos have a short shelf life and fad diets fail (and are very boring).
The only effective approach to permanent weight loss is to establish a way of eating that’s healthy, balanced and sustainable. But, while most of us know we should be eating less sugar, more vegetables and cutting back on our alcohol intake, it’s often easier said than done.
So I asked Kent-based Jennie Gough, a nutritionist who specialises in helping people change their eating habits, what her top tips would be. And the good news is only the smallest of lifestyle tweaks can reap huge rewards. Here you go:
1. Avoid weighing yourself
Don’t allow the number on the scales to define your success or how good you feel about yourself, as your weight can vary significantly depending on time of day, body fat percent, hormones and hydration. Instead measure your progress by how your clothes fit plus other non-weight related factors such as your energy, mood and sleep – all of which will improve as a result of eating healthier!
2. Beware the “what the hell” effect
Diets usually demand that you follow a set of rules. But the problem is that no-one eats perfectly all of the time so don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up. The important thing to focus on is not how well you do, but how you respond when you don’t do well. Research shows that people who feel guilt or shame when they break their diet are more likely to eat more of the types of food that caused them to fail in the first place, whereas those who are self-forgiving actually go on to eat less. So instead of thinking “what the hell, I’ve blown it so I might as well go on a binge”, simply move on and get back on track quickly by eating healthily at the next meal or snack.
3. Curate your kitchen
Designing your environment to encourage healthy eating will make it much easier to change your habits. Keep unhealthy foods out of sight – put biscuits or chocolates in a box, high up in a cupboard so that you have to make a conscious, concerted effort to retrieve them. Remember everything in moderation. Avoid leaving loads of sweet stuff lying around, instead have lots of healthier options within grabbing distance.
4. Re-frame how you see food
Yes those doughnuts taste divine but how great are they really? Maybe you’ll feel good from the initial sugar kick, but before long you’re bloated, an hour later your energy crashes and you’ve got a headache. By the next day you’ve broken out in spots and your trousers feel a bit tight. Maybe those doughnuts aren’t so appealing after all! Reminding yourself of the downsides will make you think twice next time.
5. Plan for pitfalls
Sometimes life gets in the way of good health. Busy schedules, the demands of work or family life can hinder our best intentions. Planning what you’ll say or do will make it much easier to deal with those situations when they arise. Imagine what snack you could throw in your bag before you leave the house or see yourself saying “no thank you” when the bread basket comes by. Mentally rehearsing what to do in times where you may be more vulnerable will make a big difference.
6. Choose your words carefully
When you’re trying to eat healthily it can be easy to think and say “I can’t eat this” or “I shouldn’t have that”. Instead say “I don’t eat this” and “I choose not to have that”. It’s a subtle difference in semantics but it has a huge psychological impact on whether you see it as depriving yourself or being about making positive healthy choices.
7. Don’t wait to feel motivated
Are you holding out for the perfect time to change the way you eat? “When the holidays are over”, “When I’ve got more time” or “After the party this weekend”. It’s a common misconception to think that we need to feel motivated in order to take action, when in fact it’s the other way round. Drop the excuses, take any small action to get started and by doing so you’ll create the motivation and momentum you’ve been waiting for.
8. Create a new you
Take 10 minutes to close your eyes and imagine how your life would if you changed the way you eat. How would you look? How would you feel? And what would happen if you don’t make any changes? Having a vision of how you want to be will keep you moving forward towards your goals.