Another trip around the sun means another crack at the self-improvement we all strive for. With almost two months of the new year behind us, how are your New Year goals coming along? After the holidays, many of us have had enough of the holiday cookies and are looking to shed some of that unwanted belly fat that keeps mocking us when we look in the mirror. But with all of the information these days surrounding health, it’s easy to become inundated and discouraged. Dieting trends, fitness magazines, and the meatheads at the gym can make you feel like you’re lost inside of an endless health conscious maze. News Flash: no one has found the golden diet.
The fact of the matter is, what works for some people as a healthy diet may not work for you. I’m not suggesting that you bank on surviving until you’re 106 years old restricting yourself to sodas and bacon. I am encouraging that you take it easy on yourself if the diet you have been adhering to doesn’t equal enormous results within 30 days as advertised. People’s bodies, metabolisms, genes, and digestive systems are not one size fits all, so diets can’t be either.
This may come off as a bummer to you, but I’m not here to talk about the 5 foods lining your cupboard on your way to a six pack. While there are foods that you should definitely be picking over others, I’m mostly here to give you tips that will help you in the long run– so that you mean it when you say, “new year, new me.”
There is one unifying factor regarding a healthy diet, and it is something that most people forget; simplicity. This goes for both your mental and physical health. The more you stress, the more weight you gain– it’s science, thanks cortisol! You also don’t want to be ingesting things that have a list of ingredients 3 pages long with names that you can’t pronounce.
Think about your macronutrients; fats, carbs, and protein. Your bodily utilizes these nutrients for energy. How many of each you need depends on your body, so experiment with numbers. There are plenty of equations on the internet that will get you pointed in the right direction.
Moderation is perhaps the biggest challenge that I face when trying to adhere to a healthy diet. For some people, not eating 12 Oreos comes easy. I am not that person. While it is best to cut out empty calories completely, I’m simply lying to myself if I say that I will never have a cookie again. Telling myself I will never eat an entire box is much more manageable. It gives me room to work with.
The idea of moderation brings with it, a sense of accomplishment. If I resolve to never eat another Oreo, I’m likely setting myself up for failure. But If I resolve not to binge on Oreos, I have a much better chance of long-term success. The key is smaller steps.
So, whether it’s bread, cookies, alcohol, or sugar that you are trying to cut out, understand that your diet is a lifelong thing and not a quick fix. Reward yourself with treats, but don’t make them out to be a daily, or even a weekly occurrence. Treats are to be reserved for special occasions.
I understand why you would use diets such as the whole30 diet or juice cleanses if you are looking to get a leg up on the healthy diet race, but the fact of the matter is, those extreme diets are not designed for long term adherence. So, if you have tried those diets and notice that you achieve results while you are on them, but as soon as get off of them, those results are negated, it’s time to start thinking about a diet that you can follow long term.
True change takes longer than a month. And health is not a one and done situation. One of the easiest ways to facilitate long term change is to establish a routine. I love going out to eat, but the chances I eat something I shouldn’t are doubled. Make a list, go to the grocery store, and stick to that list for two months. Try and stick to white meat, plenty of vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. The more consistent you are with sticking to a simple diet, the more strict you can get in the future.
After you have established a foundational diet, you can start getting into more specific diets. I’m not telling you that strict diets don’t have their merit. I’m saying that those strict diets are usually designed for short periods of time. Find a diet that will help you achieve long term results, which don’t make you feel miserable. The main component to health is happiness, and if you’re not happy, what’s the point?
Understanding that there will be failures and obstacles on your health journey is another key component to eating healthy long term. Whether that means you didn’t hit your macros two days this week, or whether that means you had a string of weddings and you’ve been eating terribly for two weeks, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is how you respond to those failures and shortcomings. Everybody fails, not everybody learns from their failures.
Take your diet one day at a time. You don’t need to harp on the fact that you were one week away from achieving your goals when you slipped. There is still time to adjust them no matter where you are in life. Positivity affects your mental health, which affects physical health. Again, it’s science, not some Tony Robbins cliché.
Don’t let yourself or anybody else minimize small accomplishments. Make no mistake, putting down the fork and foregoing seconds is an accomplishment. There is a battle between parts of your brain; one telling you, “oh, it’s okay, one more can’t hurt,” the other saying, “you’ve been down this road before and you know where it leads. It’s not worth it.” No one hears those battles besides you. So, don’t let outside voices chime in.
Above all, you should enjoy health. Don’t become so inwardly focused that you lose sight of the great things in life. Eating healthy can be looked at as something that is fun, tasty, and productive, not as something you dread from the moment you wake up groggily until you force yourself asleep. It’s not enjoyable to starve, and it’s not healthy either, but it’s also not enjoyable to feel like a balloon.
Find what works for you and commit to it. Keep track of key changes as well. If you try something new and it works, go for it. The point is, no one can tell you exactly what works for you and what doesn’t, so you have to pay attention to your body. Some people can’t have gluten, some people can’t have sugar, some people can’t digest red meat or tomatoes… the list goes on. It’s up to you decide what makes you feel good.
Eating healthy should be a priority, not a fad. While having new year’s resolutions for eating healthy is great, you should try to look at it from a perspective that you can maintain. Search for information online, but don’t take everything you read at face value. The more you read, the more tools you’ll have to overcome obstacles.
Be patient with yourself. If you haven’t reached your ultimate goal by March, you’re not a failure, you’re human. Keep going, and by next year you won’t be stressing about all the new changes you need to make to your diet. You’ll be thinking about minor adjustments to improve your already healthy diet.