Would you run a full marathon before you can manage a single mile?
It sounds pretty silly really. So, how could following a crash diet or jumping head first into the world of healthy eating ever result in any successful long term goals?
Simply put - it won't. Suddenly cutting out everything that you love to eat will inevitably result in failure, not to mention a rather bruised ego.
Delving into healthy eating isn't about forgetting the foods you love, but rather about understanding how the food you eat impacts your body, helping you to create a sustainable way of eating - all along with a few nifty tricks of course.
In fact, eating healthily brings you in tune with your own body and encourages you to explore and discover amazing foods that you've never even heard of. You'll try things you would never have dreamed of trying and you'll even become creative in the kitchen, being able to tailor food to meet your own personal tastes and nutritional needs. Ultimately, you'll become your own nutritionist and chef!
If you feel like you've tried everything to get healthy, trust me when I say there is a simpler way.
Follow these 5 tips to get yourself on the road to a healthier, happier you. Starting today!
#1 - Don't go cold turkey!
It might sound like a total cop out, but just trying to go cold turkey will result in you feeling tired and negative.
You'll be upset that weight isn't dropping straight off, you'll feel drained, and you'll become trapped in a negative cycle of wanting to eat and feel better but finding all of the restrictions too hard to cope with, especially with the busy lifestyles that many of us lead.
Eliminating just one thing at a time might be a slow process but it will be a much more positive and succesful one!
By setting yourself one small goal at a time you will be able to commit to it easily and before you know it you will be seeing positive results such as improved energy, better skin, happier moods, and improved sleep. These positive results will make you feel proud and focused, and only then will you begin to climb your goals one by one, hard and fast.
#2 - Keep a food & mood diary
Jotting down how you feel both mentally and physically after you eat certain foods will help you to further understand what your body does and doesn't like.
Write down how you feel before you eat a meal or snack - you might start out full of joy and energy but eat a baked potato, something you thought was good for you, and feel tired, bloated, and lethargic. This technique is also useful when you've eliminated something from your diet and decided to just have a little 'treat' - those Haribo might just be a little too sweet to handle and leave you feeling sick and exhausted.
But why do we experience these crashes?
A hormone called ghrelin is produced by our stomach when we're hungry and this signals our brains telling us that our bodies' energy levels are low and in need of food. This doesn't effect just energy levels but our memory and emotional states too.
When you eat, your food is broken down into glucose, which acts as a fuel for your brain. Your brain functions optimally when there is a consistent level of glucose within your blood (around 25g). So although you could gain your glucose fix from your favourite treat it won't maintain optimal glucose levels and will end up feeling that 'crash'.
When you eat foods high in simple sugars you need to eat more of them to feel full and they rapidly raise glucose levels, causing a crash in energy. This crash happens because of a spike in the release of insulin, telling your body to absorb as much glucose as possible, eventually leading to tiredness!
'Complex carbohydrates' such as fruits and vegetables will release glucose slowly into your bloodstream, reducing the risk of that 'crashing' feeling occuring and resulting in higher energy levels and an overall better mood.
#3 - Break up with lady junk and find a healthy hunk
It's hard to believe that just over a decade ago I was a rather dumpy smoker who was regularly chowing down on Haribo, Doritos (or whatever I could get my hands on) and enjoying them, or at least I thought I was.
Studies have shown that foods high in fat and sugar were found to be attractive to our ancestors, which is why we are so hard wired to enjoy them today. But why?
The reason we crave these foods is because they are 'energy rich' and thus help to increase our chances of survival. If you think about it this makes perfect sense - poisonous foods are often bitter and noxious, and again less desirable. But for modern man our high sugar and high fat foods are no longer natural; they're highly processed, and also readily available too. When we eat these foods our body becomes unable to tell us when we're full and so the more unhealthy food we eat, the more desirable it becomes. And we all know where that one goes...
Crispy foods were also a sign of food being 'fresh' and so safe and again desirable to eat - so it's no wonder why those Doritos seemed so good at the time!
The trick is to learn how to swap those naughty foods for their healthier counterparts. Craving something sweet? Opt for fresh and dried fruits. Milk chocolate your vice? Go for at least 70% dark chocolate, slowly working your way up the ranks to 90% dark chocolate.
Switch crisps for toasted coconut chips, nuts and seeds, fizzy drinks for kombucha, coconut water, or fruit juice diluted in naturally carbonated mineral water. Trying to give up dairy? Try swapping cow's milk for almond or coconut milk, and try topping food with nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour.
#4 - Use simple portion control
Once you've reigned in the majority of your eating habits it helps to know how to portion your food. Buy smaller plates and bowls to start out with and aim to only fill those bowls or plates once.
Once you get used to this move on to portioning your food out in the right nutritional groups - don't start weighing your food (unless you're wanting to become a bikini model this summer of course) but aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with complex starches/carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes etc.
To break it down into further detail a portion can be:
- Two cupped handfuls of salad greens
- A fist of cooked vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa or buckwheat
- A palm of lean protein
- A small handful of nuts and seeds
- One thumb of coconut oil
- One tablespoon of olive oil
Exercising portion control is one of the best ways to prevent overeating and ultimately keep you on track towards your goals. Take time to enjoy your food so it's not all gone in minutes!
#5 - Stick with it!
If you want to get results, you have to be patient and stick with the process!
Hopping from one diet to another will only leave you frustrated. Create a lifestyle that you enjoy, be patient, and watch your results unfold.
Taking these 5 simple steps, one-by-one, will help you to create new healthy eating habits and ditch your old ones. Kiss goodbye to aches and pains, tiredness, stress and weight gain in no time!