How many times have you said to yourself, “I know I need to eat differently and make some changes but I just don’t know where to start”? I get it – with all the information available to us on fitness and nutrition, figuring out what changes to make can be hard. How can you know what changes will get your healthy eating on track? And which will be a waste of time or money?
It’s tough to know what steps are needed to get healthy eating on track. It is for this specific problem that many women want to work with me. They know that they need to make some changes in their diet, lifestyle and activity levels. The problem is, they don’t know where to start. They don’t know what advice to listen to. And, they aren’t willing to make changes that completely overhaul their diets or lives.
I get this. If you were to ask me to completely change everything I do today, there is NO way I could oblige. Baby steps are my thing. Give me one or two small changes and I’m probably okay with that.
But how do baby steps help get your healthy eating on track? Well, all change needs to start somewhere and I find changes easier to manage if there is some structure to them. So, keep reading to find out how to start.
What’s Your “Why”
Before jumping into random changes, though, I want you to ask yourself why you think you need to make a change. It’s important to understand why you believe your health is on the wrong path.
Once you dig down and pinpoint your real reason for wanting a change, it helps keep you on track.
Possible reasons could be that you want to be healthy so that you’re there for your kids in the long-term. Or, you’re afraid you’ll end up sick like your mother or father or someone else.
Maybe you’re sick of feeling defeated every time you look in the mirror. Your confidence is suffering in your work and your social life and you just want to fit into your favorite jeans again.
Or, you’re just fed up with constant pain and chronically low energy.
Whatever YOUR reasons are for wanting to change, it’s important to understand them. This keeps you focused.
Set Realistic and Attainable Goals
Start by identifying the end results or the destination you want to achieve. Make sure your goal isn’t too vague, like “I want to be healthy”. Spend some time determining what being healthy really means to you. You can relate it to your ‘why’ exercise, if that helps.
For example, I want to be pain-free in 12 months. Or, I want to sleep well every night and wake up feeling refreshed, with enough energy and focus to get through each day.
Goals should be achievable. So, sometimes it’s best to identify your end goal, identify where you are now, and set small, achievable goals to get there.
For example, if your goal is to run a 10K in 6 months, you don’t want to start running 10Ks tomorrow. Instead, if you’ve never run before, start with 1K comfortably in 2 weeks, 2K comfortably in 4 weeks, etc. Don’t worry, small goals may seem small, but you’ll get there.
Another example: If you want to lose 50 pounds by Christmas and it’s August, you do NOT want to suddenly go on a calorie-restrictive diet. Instead, cut back on one snack or, better yet, swap that snack with a piece of fruit. This way you’ll cut back on calories while improving your intake of nutrient dense foods.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help identify your goals:
What is one action you can take today to begin to put this plan in action?
What is another action you can take this week? (Put this in your calendar!)
What are your 1-year goals? 6-month goals? 3-month goals? 1-month goals?
Write them down and put them in your calendar!
Get Your Healthy Eating On Track
Okay, now that you’ve set your intention, put your goals in writing and defined your ‘why’, you’re ready to get your healthy eating on track. Here’s how!
One of the first things people do when they want to get their healthy eating on track is go on a strict diet. This puts your body into starvation mode, preventing it from burning excess fuel. Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll deprive yourself of essential nutrients, especially healthy fats, if you go this route.
Think of food as fuel.
You want high-quality fuel to look and feel your best. Think about each piece of food you put into your body and ask yourself whether it’ll help or hinder your health. Whole foods will help you get your healthy eating on track fastest.
Make exercise a priority.
Exercise is just as important to health as good food. Exercise helps balance blood sugar, reduce symptoms of stress, and improve detoxification. You need all these things in balance to be motivated to keep your healthy eating on track.
Each meal should contain one portion of protein, one portion of healthy fat and two to three portions of complex carbohydrates. Use this infographic to help you identify the right sized portions for you.
Don’t skip meals.
When we skip meals, hunger and cravings hit with a vengeance and we tend to reach for unhealthy foods first. Spread out your meals evenly throughout the day and make sure each contains the correct portions.
Leave tempting treats in the grocery store.
If the temptations aren’t in your face, you’re less likely to eat them! So, just don’t buy the bad stuff! Buy fruits, veggies, raw seeds and nuts and whole grain breads to munch on when you need a snack.
Include protein and healthy fat in every single meal and snack.
Low-fat diets are SO 1980! Healthy fat is crucial to providing essential fatty acids that fuel our brains, immune system, hormones and for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Plus, if you eat enough healthy fats, cravings usually disappear.
Put sleep first.
When you’re well rested, it’s so much easier to show will power. When you’re sleepy, hunger hormones get out of whack and you’ll be reaching for sugar and caffeine all the time.
Learn to read food labels.
Look at every food label of every product you buy. If a food has ingredients you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize, put it down! If a food has no label, well, that usually means it’s a real, whole food. Apples don’t have labels, right? And, avoid any food that has 8 grams of sugar per serving or more.
Ready, Set, Go
Are you ready to get your healthy eating on track? The hardest part in any lifestyle change is making the decision to do so and taking the first two or three steps. Set your goals and choose 1 or 2 actions that will help you reach your first set of goals.
Clean out your kitchen. Rid your life of junk food, processed carbohydrates and anything with 8 grams of sugar or more per serving. (Or hide them where you don’t see them every day.)
Address your mornings first. Swap one not-so-healthy food item from your breakfast with a healthier option. Eat breakfast if you typically skip it. Start gradually reducing your sugar and caffeine intake.
Drink more water. Sometimes simply getting your 8-10 glasses of water each day can make a huge difference. Cravings may diminish. Sleep may improve. Give it a shot!
Move more often. Get up and walk more at work. Fit in at least 20 minutes of exercise every day.
Follow these 9 tips to get your healthy eating on track. New habits take a few weeks to form, so stick with each change for a month before deciding whether or not to try something else.
And, if you need motivational support and coaching, contact me to see if my programs may be a good fit to help you reach your goals.