A healthy lifestyle is so much more than extreme dieting or forcing yourself to eat foods you don’t like. In fact, there is nothing healthy about that approach. Short-term, extreme diets may help you shed LB’s, but that typically lasts only as long as you’re following the diet. Yet making one small change in your eating habits each week can lead you to a healthy, sustained lifestyle that works for you and your family.
As a Certified Health Coach, I can tell you that swearing off certain foods “forever” is a surefire way to binge on those foods when your cravings become overwhelming. Instead of depriving yourself of foods you love, focus on adding specific foods to your diet. What??!! Add more food?! Yep, that’s correct – adding healthier food to your plate (and eating it) can actually help you fill up on the good stuff (nutrient dense foods), while eating less of the not-so-good stuff (calorie dense foods). See tip #4 below for more on this concept.
If you’re ready to be healthier, try incorporating a few of these tips into your daily routine. The key here is to start slowly so you don’t burn out. If you find one of the tips listed here isn’t working for your lifestyle (or tastebuds), try a different one on the list. The ones that work best for you can eventually become healthy habits, and that is where the magic happens!
1. Make breakfast a priority
It really is the most important meal of the day, so choose wisely. The primary purpose of breakfast also lies within it’s name: it breaks the overnight fasting period. Blood sugar levels are at their lowest when you wake up, so a morning meal of lean protein and fiber (oatmeal; nonfat yogurt or cottage cheese; a sprinkle of almonds for fiber; eggs) will replenish blood glucose levels and kickstart your metabolism, giving you more energy and better cognitive function.
So you’re not hungry when you wake up? We’re not asking you to feast here; just “break the fast”. 1/2 cup of yogurt or oatmeal with a sprinkle of almonds and a dash of cinnamon, or an 8 oz fruit smoothie is perfectly adequate as a healthy breakfast. (BTW, Coffee is NOT considered a meal 😉 If you skip breakfast, you’ll likely have low energy, which is often a cause for overeating or snacking on high-fat, high-sugar foods later in the day.
2. Watch your portions
Our society is in a dire state of overfed, with most Americans consuming two to three times more than recommended serving sizes. Hence the obesity, hypertension, and diabetes epidemics we’re currently faced with. Restaurants often serve astoundingly large portions, causing patrons to overeat and head straight into a food coma. (Not to mention the massive amount of food that is wasted.) When preparing or ordering meals, refer to this chart to guide you in determining how much (or how little) food/fuel your body actually needs.
3. Use smaller plates
This is a brilliant hack my family has used for years! Looking at the same amount of food on a smaller plate versus a large one can convince you there’s more yummy goodness on the smaller plate. It’s the Delboeuf Illusion, and yes, it’s really a thing. Dinner plate size significantly impacts food consumption. We naturally tend to “fill our plate” and can easily overserve/overeat when using a bigger plate.
Put this concept into perspective: if a larger plate encourages you to eat an additional 50 calories a day (doesn’t sound horrible, right …), your weight will increase by approximately 5 pounds per year 🙁
4. Add some color to that smaller plate
Instead of removing things from your diet, consider adding healthier things to it. Completely depriving yourself of your favorite treats can cause you to binge on them later. Go ahead and enjoy that sugary breakfast bar OCCASIONALLY, but focus more on slowly increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption. Most dietary habits are critically lacking in fruit/vegetable intake, yet these colorful foods are packed with important nutrients that will keep you healthy and energized. Bonus: the fiber in vegetables helps you feel satiated longer, so go ahead – eat the rainbow!
Start low and slow, allowing your tastebuds to adjust. If your tastebuds don’t fancy one of the fruits or vegetables you try, replace it with a different one. Week 1: add a cup of fruits or vegetables to at least one daily meal. As you get used to them, start adding to other meals. Your waistline will love you for it!
5. Drink your water – Eat your water
Did you know hunger spasms are often a signal that you’re thirsty? The next time you feel hungry and want to grab a snack, try drinking a glass of water before heading to the pantry or fridge. If you’re still tempted to grab that snack, try noshing on things with high water content before downing a bag of salty chips or pint of Ben & Jerry’s®. An easy calculation to determine how much water you should be drinking each day is to take your weight and divide it in half. That’s the number of ounces you consume each day in water. (ie: Weight is 140. Divide in half = 70. Your target daily water intake is 70 ounces.) BTW the more water you drink, the more your skin will glow!
6. Set aside time to prepare your lunch
We’re only talking 10-15 minutes here! Making your own lunch versus dining out has innumerable benefits. You’ll be more aware of what you’re actually putting in your body, and that you’re getting adequate nutrients. It often saves money – prepping lunch for a few dinero usually costs less than a visit to the local bistro or fast food joint. You’re also less likely to skip lunch on days you’re extra busy, because your lunch is already made and waiting for you. If you’re eating lunch out four days a week and try this approach for two of those days (perhaps on the ones you’re most busy), you’ll get + results. I’m not asking you to completely cut off lunching with friends and co-workers. Again, start low and slow.
BTW if you think skipping lunch will help lower your caloric intake, consider that your body won’t get enough fuel to sustain your energy levels, and zapped energy combined with extreme hunger later in the day often leads to bingeing and/or overeating when dinnertime rolls around. Healthy habits are centered on healthy choices, and skipping an important meal is not a healthy choice!
7. Snack well
We all love a snack, and there are times during the day that our body may need an energy boost. But if you’re trying to shed some pounds, snacking can be a sneaky endeavor. A big issue with mid-day snacking is that we often consume more than we realize or need. A quick and easy fix for this is to pre-portion your snacks according to serving size instead of digging into the jar of almonds for a heaping handful. And if you’re a grazer (meaning you eat mindlessly during the day), keeping a food journal may help you realize the ‘pros’ of snacking purposefully versus the ‘cons’ of grazing.
Oh, and ridding your desk drawers (and pantry, if needed) of easily accessible bags of chips and other salty or sugary snacks is highly recommended.
8. Put the brakes on access to second helpings
Here’s another great hack we’ve been doing in my house for years! When you dine with the temptation of serving bowls loaded with extra helpings staring right back at you, it’s easy to mindlessly refill your plate, even if you’re full. Try limiting the food on the table to what is on your plate. Leave the serving bowls and pots full of tempting goodness in the kitchen. By the time you make your way back to clean it up, your gut appetite hormones will have sent messages to your brain that you’re satiated and not interested in more food. Bonus: you’ll have extra leftovers for another meal.
9. Track or journal your food and beverage intake
If you’re in the habit of practicing several of the tips in this article but aren’t seeing a noticeable drop in weight, there may be something you’re unconsciously doing that’s inhibiting your weight loss goals. Try starting a food journal to give you a detailed view of your healthy habits and your unhealthy habits. Log your food and beverage intake for a week, including the time, and portions of the food and/or beverage you consumed. Keep in mind that many food tracker apps and smart watches also include calorie features, alarms, and other health-related features. A week of food journaling could easily help you discover a specific area in your daily diet that could use a bit of tweaking. Be honest about tracking your intake, but please remember this a tool for data and information, not for shaming yourself.
10. Log enough sleep every night
This can be a tough one! Bingeing on “Ozark” episodes is a tempting proposition. Late night surfing on Instagram, TikTok, etc. is another one. But logging adequate rest each night will absolutely assist in weight loss. Leptin and ghrelin are the appetite hormones in our body that regulate our energy/food intake and stimulate our appetite. Lack of sleep leads to an imbalance in these gut hormone levels which can lead to increased appetite. In addition to weight gain, inadequate sleep is also linked to heart disease, depression and dementia. So turn off bluelight devices (including tv) an hour before your bedtime and tuck in to seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Healthy habits are best maintained when our body’s internal (circadian) clock is efficiently regulated.
Detoxing Can Introduce Healthy Habits to Your Lifestyle
As a health and wellness coach, I’m a big proponent of routine detoxing – and host seasonal detoxes for dozens of clients. These detoxes are never designed to starve ourselves or put strange foods or supplements in our body. They’re whole food-based, and focus on mindful eating and self-care. We eliminate gluten, dairy, sugar (including alcohol), and caffeine for a period of five days each quarter. We focus on replacing processed foods with whole foods, eliminating certain trigger foods, and caring for our personal health and needs. When we do this, many of the toxins that have been stored in the tissues of our body (for God knows how long) are able to exit those tissues and enter our bloodstream so we can purge them from our body. The results? AMAZING! We feel remarkably better, boost our energy levels, shed a few pounds, even sleep better! We also learn ways to replace a few unwanted habits with healthier ones which, over time, boosts our health in big ways.
If you’d like to join our next seasonal detox, please email me at email@example.com so I can add you to our rapidly growing list of detoxers!
Please remember: If you’ve been attempting to lose weight for an extended period and doing ‘all the things’ but the scale isn’t moving, please check in with your physician to make sure your hormone levels, blood markers, and overall health are in check. There are always non-scale victories, but making sure our health is in check is #1.
For more on replacing unwanted behaviors with healthy habits check out these 5 Steps to Kicking Your Unhealthy Habits