Ask 10 people in the gym, or even on the streets for that matter, what aspect of leading a healthy lifestyle is the hardest. Without even giving them a list to choose from, I’d be willing to bet that at least 8 of them say eating right is the most difficult aspect. You know why??? Because it is!!! There’s no secret why so many people struggle with health issues in this country. Even individuals who exercise regularly still have problems, and it is because of our eating habits!!
I know first hand how difficult it can be to go from a crappy diet to a very healthy one. It takes a lot of will power before it turns into habit. But once it is habit, it is worth every second of it. My diet isn’t necessarily perfect, but it beats the hell out of what 90% of our population consumes on a daily basis. And you know what?? You can do the same thing!!! It may not come easy, and it may not come overnight, but it can happen. Let me give you 4 very simply steps that will help you change your eating habits. They have worked for me, and I believe that they can help you out, also.
Get Your Mind Right
Have you noticed that I haven’t used the word “diet” at all?? Well, it’s because I hate that word. “Dieting” in the traditional sense of the word DOESN’T WORK!!! The majority of people who start a diet, whether they complete it or not, end up back to where they started or even worse at some point. To avoid this, I urge people to view it as eating healthy/healthier as opposed to dieting. Telling yourself that you are going on a diet implicates that there is an end date in mind. If you are simply going to eat healthier, there is no end date.
The great thing about “eating healthier” is that it can be whatever you want it to be. You don’t have to follow some intense diet that calls for foods that you can’t even pronounce. Maybe healthier eating for you is simply cutting out soft drinks. Maybe you aren’t ever going to be one of those individuals who counts their protein and carb intake down to the final gram. That is totally OKAY!!! I tell my clients all the time: You have to crawl before you can walk. I believe this to be a very important thing to keep in mind when changing eating habits. You can’t quit smoking overnight, and you can’t completely change a diet over night. Start small, make your own choices, and stick to them.
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it is so true. Whether you are taking it to a nutritionist, a personal trainer, or keeping it for your own record, having a food journal will hold you accountable. Yes, it may be tedious and annoying, but so are crunches, and you do plenty of those. Keeping a diary will allow you to see on a bigger scale the total amount and types of foods you are eating. You might think one bad meal won’t hurt, but seeing multiple meals in succession can make a huge difference. After seeing it over and over again on a food journal, maybe that chocolate doughnut won’t be so appetizing to you anymore.
Timing Isn’t Always Everything
I see plenty of “diet plans” out there that just aren’t applicable to ordinary, every day citizens. You’ve probably seen them, also… 10-meal-a-day plan…. 20 grams of protein at 7:15 am…. 1 scoop of protein 30 minutes prior to breakfast…. Eat once every 3 hours… I could go on an on with some of the things I’ve seen.
The reality with these types of food plans is that while they are highly effective for some, they require EXTREME time, effort, and desire. Now, some people would say that eating healthy requires the same thing, but it really doesn’t. The truth is that you can eat very healthy without sticking to a plan such as this. Many people do not have the time to make 10 meals a day. Majority of people are still at work at 4 pm and can’t just bust out 2 scoops of whey protein from their coffee maker.
Here’s my advice: Find a meal schedule that works for you!!! If that means eating 6 meals a day, awesome. If you only have time for 3 meals, research has shown that can be very effective, as well. The underlying factor here is the food that is actually going into your body. Healthy foods trumps timing and frequency any day of the week. Go for whole foods. Get plenty of protein. Choose complex over simple carbs. And avoid processed foods. If you can do that on a regular basis, the time at which you eat breakfast or dinner will be irrelevant.
If You Ain’t Cheating, You Ain’t Trying
Okay, so that has a little more ethical and moral bearing than I care to get into with this entry, but I want to make one final point about cheat meals and cheat days. It’s a very simple point: DO IT!!!! Allow yourself a cheat meal or cheat day once a week. Cheat meals are obviously preferable to cheat days, especially for those wanting/needing to lose more weight. But, we need it, both physically and mentally. If you concentrate so much on eating healthy at every single meal, you will drive yourself crazy. Not only do you need to give your mind a break, but you need to treat yourself every once in a while. To be honest, there are too many good meals out there that need to be enjoyed. Just don’t make a habit of it, or let one meal turn into five or six in a row.
Here is what I do… Every Sunday, regardless of what I’ve done the previous week or what I have going on the next week, I use as a cheat day. I try my best to start the day off with a relatively healthy breakfast. It at least has to have some sort of high-protein food source. Whether it’s an animal protein source or adding some protein powder to something, I always get some at breakfast. After that, it’s fair game. I usually only eat two meals after breakfast on Sundays, but neither one of them are worth a shit. What I try to do here is not only give my body a break from the same stuff all of the time, but I’m mentally recharging for the week ahead. By the time Sunday night rolls around, I’m so sick of bad food that I literally look forward to waking up and eating healthy again. You may think this sounds a bit weird and unusual, but hey, it works for me. That’s all that I really worry about.
So, you may be thinking to yourself… When is he going to tell us what foods to eat?? Well, I’m not. That’s both the hard and great part about eating healthy at the same time. The hard part is that people are so unique and different that there is no perfect plan that will work for everybody. It just doesn’t exist. There are some that are more effective than others, yes, but none perfect. The great thing about the uniqueness of eating is that there is something for everybody. You may not like a lot of healthy foods, but I promise you there are healthy foods out there that you enjoy eating. You’ve just got to find them.
Eating healthy isn’t always easy. I won’t lie to you and tell you it is. But, if you can make it a habit, something that you just do as, rather than think about, it can make a HUGE difference in your health. So, get out there, challenge yourself, and make a change for the better in your own life.