7 Tips on How to Start and Maintain a Healthy Eating Lifestyle
What you eat every day affects your health as well as how you feel now and how you will feel in the future. Good nutrition has always played a major role in leading a healthy lifestyle. When coupled with a good physical regimen, your diet can help you obtain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic illnesses (such as diabetes or heart disease), and improve your overall well-being and mood! Yet despite all these health benefits, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can be quite the challenge.
Getting started on a diet is the easy part, the hard part is sticking to it. But fret not, we have some tips and tricks to help you create and maintain some healthy eating habits to aid you in your quest for good nutrition. If you start by incorporating some small healthy changes into your daily habits, you can make a large impact on your eating pattern which can lead to lasting, healthy eating habits. Here are some things to keep in mind before you start your very own journey for good nutrition.
Start with Realistic Expectations
As stated above, eating a nutritious diet has a plethora of benefits, including potential weight loss. This is a big draw for many, but it is important to set realistic expectations. For example, if you go in with the idea that you will lose weight very quickly, the pressure you put on yourself can backfire and ultimately your plan will suffer. How many times have you gone into a new diet, or any new change, with high expectations only to crash and burn within a few weeks? This is very common and can be remedied with a much more realistic approach.
Studies have shown that participants who expected to lose a lot of weight were much more likely to drop out of a weight loss program after a few months. So many people go into a new diet with an all-or-nothing mindset. They’ll follow everything intensely for a short period of time, and when the results are less than what they expected, they get discouraged and sometimes give up altogether. Not only will this approach set you up for disappointment from the get-go, but it also makes the changes you are trying to make harder to implement and stick with.
Setting more realistic, achievable goals can keep you from being too discouraged and may even lead to greater weight loss in the process. You don’t have to make drastic changes or overhaul your whole life to get results. Small changes and realistic short term goals that you can stick with tend to get much better results. And since they tend to be much easier to accomplish, you’ll feel much better about succeeding in your goals and in turn more motivated to keep going.
Start with one or two smaller goals that you believe you can work on and mainly focus on those for a couple of weeks. The end goal is to turn them into habits. Once you have mastered them, add a couple more. If you start struggling with keeping up with a certain goal, don't get discouraged and give a different one a shot. Try forming different habits until they start to click.
Implement Some Systems to Make it Easier
A great way to keep yourself on the right path is to create systems that are designed to help you. Systems help you remove obstacles and build good habits, as they are routines that you build into your everyday life.
An example of a system is making sure you pick out your gym clothes every night and laying them out prior to your morning workout the next day. These small systems you create will make it easier for you to stick to your goals. Need to workout straight after work? Pack your gym bag the night before so you won’t blow it off the next morning if you wake up a little late. Want to stop eating out for lunch all the time? Spend one day a week meal prepping so your meals are ready for the rest of the week, or even opt into a healthy meal service that will do the heavy lifting for you.
The more seamless you can integrate your systems, the easier you will be able to stick to them, and the faster the results will come.
If you don’t Measure it, You can’t Manage it
This one is purposefully overlooked by many because it takes some effort to get used to measuring all your portions and counting your nutritional intake. But the fact of the matter is, if you don’t know how much you’re eating, there is little you can do to track and manage your progress. Stop guessing how much you are eating and start tracking it using a nutrition app. There are a plethora of both free and paid options you can use, so do a little research and find out which one best fits with your routine and nutritional goals. You can even just keep a written diary if those aren’t your style. The idea is to strive for accuracy so you know what you are putting into your body. Tracking your food intake every day, including cheat meals, is also a good way to keep yourself accountable and to ensure you are hitting the goals you have set for yourself. The more information you have, the easier it is to make adjustments or to acknowledge your success.
Measuring your exercise progress is also quite beneficial and goes hand in hand with keeping track of your nutritional intake. Doing both also can instill the habit of logging what you eat and what you burn, which will, in turn, make it much easier for you to manage.
When it comes to your nutrition, there is no substitute for the accuracy of what you are putting in and exercising out. Otherwise, you are flying blind and will get frustrated when you don't understand why your results aren’t what you expect them to be.
Cravings aren’t Evil
It is very much normal to crave things, especially once you start restricting something you once had on a frequent basis. Our bodies naturally crave sugar and the more you restrict it, the stronger your cravings can be. It’s not unusual to crave what you can’t have, some might even argue that it's part of human nature!
Outside of just sheer willpower, eating a balanced diet is a really good way of suppressing those cravings. Increasing your protein intake and emphasizing eating more fruits and vegetables can help cut down on those troublesome cravings. Consistency is also integral to suppressing cravings as the longer you keep up with your good eating habits, the more your body adjusts to them. This means fewer cravings for you to deal with as you get used to the foods you are eating.
Cheat meals are also a great way to reward yourself for hitting certain goals and satisfy your food cravings. As we believe no food should ever be fully forbidden, cheat meals can be a good thing to work toward. But it is important to be strategic about your cheat meals and to work on your relationship with your favorite foods. Be sure to schedule your cheat meals in advance to help remove any guilt associated with them. You don’t need to overdo it and eat a lot to enjoy it! Remember to reward yourself sparingly, just because you schedule them all doesn't mean you should be having them very frequently. Challenge yourself to include your favorite foods and scale them back a little at a time.
We’re human, it is inevitable we are going to face failure at some point. But failure is an important part of the process. Without it, we would never learn how to get better, improve, and become more prepared for next time.
Learn to embrace your failures as part of the process. Instead of looking at it in a negative light and as a reason to abandon your course, see what you can learn from it. Maybe you set your goal too aggressively, maybe you cut too much too fast, or maybe you didn't plan well enough. Regardless of where you may have fallen short, it can be a great step toward self-improvement. Dust yourself off and keep at it, no one is perfect. The more you try and persevere, the more likely you are to succeed.
Grab a Partner
Starting and maintaining a healthy eating and exercise plan can be daunting to do on your own, so why not grab a partner?
Having a diet and exercise buddy can be very helpful as you can keep each other accountable to keep up with your goals. Also, it's much more fun when you have someone to go through the challenge with. Having a partner join you in making healthy choices can greatly increase your chances of success, especially if that partner is someone you are close to.
CONSISTENCY. IS. KEY.
If you want to see real change, as in one that doesn't just last a couple of days or weeks, you need to be consistent with your healthy eating and exercise practices. A permanent lifestyle change is the result of consistency and patience, not necessarily perfection. Your overall health is the outcome of all the decisions you have made in your life up until this point, not just the last few meals you have eaten. You are what your choices have made you. So whatever you consistently do, the more you repeat it, the stronger an impact it has on your overall health. This is what lifestyle change is.
Strive to get it right most of the time and don’t get too hung up on not getting it right every single time and you’ll do great.
The Bottom Line
Breaking your current habits isn’t easy, neither is starting new, different ones. However, there are plenty of strategies and different approaches you can take on your quest for self-improvement. We hope these tips are able to aid or inspire you on whatever your goals may be, and we believe if you stick to it, you can attain them!