How many times have you started a diet, or program, or plan, only to ‘fail’ or ‘fall off the wagon’ after only a few days or weeks? How many times have you vowed to make changes ‘for good’, only to find yourself back to your old habits time and time again? What is the secret to people who make real, lasting changes to their health and nutrition? It’s not about willpower, I’ll tell you that. It’s about habit change.
Habit change does not come from gritting your teeth and restricting as much as you can, as long as you can. It doesn’t come from following a rigid plan, assuming once you’re done you’ll just be magically transformed. Even if you see results- when habits aren’t formed, results don’t stick. One of the huge challenges is, most plans are far too complicated to continue through everyday life. Ever tried a detox or cleanse? You might shed a few pounds and even feel more energized after a few days, but that energy doesn’t last once you start pounding energy drinks and chowing down on Chinese takeout twice a week. Ok, maybe you’re not that extreme- maybe you do have some healthy habits, but you’re still not feeling good. Maybe you’re simply out of balance for YOUR body (I see this ALL the time). How do you make the changes you need to to finally feel your best, and make it last?
1. Start with ONE habit at a time.
This is the hardest for my Type-A, go-getter moms who want to do it all and do it well. These moms actually tend to be the ones who get the BEST results, the quickest- but they also tend to be the ones that take it to the extreme and end up on the opposite spectrum of imbalanced, verging on restriction. These moms tend to be the ones to cook themselves a different meal from their family (instead of making minor tweaks), restrict until the point that they’ve had enough, throw in the towel, binge on unhealthy food for a few weeks only to jump into another program to get ‘back on track’ and the cycle continues. Taking on more than you can chew, for lack of a better phrase, is also hard on my busybody mamas, who are so overwhelmed by making so many changes they basically quit before they begin. They’re much quicker to start and stop, start and stop, and their weight, energy and health markers yo-yo as much as the diets do. There are other moms who struggle in this area, too- in fact, MOST moms do. Starting with ONE habit at a time, as hard as it may be, simplifies the many steps it is inevitably going to take to create real change. The reward? You can celebrate every time you create a new habit. Each new habit is one step toward a healthier mama life.
2. Focus on adding, not subtracting.
This is part physical, part mindset shift. You will never make lasting change if you only focus on the negative- taking things away (especially things you might love!). I’m not here to tell you to take ANYTHING away (barring very specific health concerns). In fact, I want you to eat as many different foods as humanly possible and work for your body- I’m serious. Some things won’t work as often as others- that’s part of finding your beautiful balance. But we’re not there yet. Right now, I want you to focus on ADDING in more real foods. I want you to focus on eating WHOLE foods, with ingredients you can pronounce, adding in a super smoothie, drinking a glass of lemon water (or simply more water)– whatever step you need to take, start by ADDING, not subtracting. You’ll likely find the more you add in healthy habits, the other habits fall naturally. But don’t even go there. Just add.
3. Think REAL.
This is the first and best step towards changing your nutrition. Just eat REAL food. Forget carbs, protein and fat (for now) and definitely throw away calorie counting. Ain’t nobody got time for that, especially busy mamas- and those numbers are arbitrary and antiquated, anyway. Focus on REAL food, first- once you are filling your plate with nourishing, whole foods with ingredients you KNOW and can pronounce- then we can start honing in on details. For now, focus on real food. When that doesn’t feel hard, then we can move a little deeper.
4. Balance your blood sugar.
This comes soon after you begin to focus on real food, because this is an important step many health experts miss- but it can mean the difference between a healthy diet (as in, eating style) and an unhealthy one. Even a diet filled with wholesome, real food ingredients can be unhealthy if it is causing dangerous blood sugar spikes and drops on the regular. Ever have what felt like a full meal but you’re still hungry (or dare I say, hangry) only a couple short hours later? Do you feel like you are ‘white knuckling’ it to lunch, trying not to have a snack (or maybe you had a snack and it just made you feel MORE hungry)? That’s your blood sugar, on a roller coaster. Those spikes and drops are what cause unnecessary hunger (even after you eat ‘enough’), excess snacking, sweets cravings and detrimental effects on your heart, metabolism and body composition. Big deal, right? Luckily it’s a simple switch. I go into depth in Balanced Eating Basics but you can start by simply putting clothes on your ‘naked’ carbs- that is, pairing any carbohydrate foods (grains- yes, even whole grains; starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes, legumes and fruit) with protein and/or fat foods.
5. Listen to your body and find your beautiful balance.
All of these steps aside, every single one of them- this is the most important one. Listening to your body is CRUCIAL. Being MINDFUL of how certain foods make you feel and being HONEST with yourself about what truly works (and what doesn’t) to make you feel and look your very best. Your ultimate goal is to learn to eat intuitively, so healthy living comes naturally. So you stay the same size without yo-yoing up and down and you DITCH the diets for good. So you can finally eat with your family and choose whatever you want, without guilt. This is your beautiful balance. Where health marries intuition and eating is effortless. I want healthy living to be your life- no bumper sticker label attached.
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