There are any number of reasons why people consider changing their eating habits: health, illness, weight, allergies, or intolerance to certain foods, to name a few. Sometimes making these changes can seem overwhelming and even confusing, given the amount of information available and the different agendas being pushed. To make it just a little bit easier, I’ve listed my top tips to making this transition below.
- Make gradual changes. Consider what you’d like to change, and why. The reason behind this is very important, because it’ll keep you motivated to stick to your decision. Once you’ve decided that, make incremental changes. For example, if you’d like to cut out something from your diet, reduce your intake slowly and consistently over a few weeks, until you’ve weaned yourself off completely. Try not to box yourself into a definition too early on, as this could become burdensome too. Instead of saying “I’m becoming vegetarian,” say “I’ve decided to reduce my intake of meat,” until you’re at a place you’re completely comfortable with being vegetarian. Very few people are able to go cold turkey, while progressing in stages will help you maintain a sense of achievement.
- Consider it to be a lifestyle change rather than a diet. Diets typically do not allow you to make gradual changes and are often so restrictive that people are only able to stick to it for a short period of time, after which they fall back into bad eating habits and you know, the weight piles back on. Think about the reason why you should be making that change, is it reason enough to commit to for the long haul? I hope so. Your general health, your waistline and your ailments will improve as a result of better eating practices.
- Our palates are trained. Many of our food habits are formed during our youth. We may love meat dishes, sweet treats, or favour additional salt on all we eat, but it’s important to remember that our palates are trained, and can therefore be retrained. We can learn to prefer less salty foods or to have our hot drinks without any sugar – the latter being something I have personal experience with. We can retrain our palates if we are willing to do so, and if we exercise enough patience to form a new habit.
- Reduce your intake of processed foods. I once heard a great piece of advice made about grocery shopping. Something along the lines of, “stick to the outer perimeter of the store.” The outside isles are often where the freshest produce is found. Give it a try. Many products that are boxed, canned, or wrapped in plastic are processed, and may contain additives and/or preservatives. These are things we don’t need. And since they’ve been transformed from their natural state, we have no control of the quality of the item, whose nutritional value has more than likely decreased significantly.
- Make informed decisions. Not all of us can or want to be health experts. I certainly am not an expert. But we’ve all been given a body for which to care. It can help us achieve great things, or undermine us with ill-health and sickness. I think we all have a responsibility to learn about what we eat and what to eat. Nothing extreme. Simply, what does my body need? Where can I get that from? What are the most natural sources available to me?
- Be creative. If you’re eating the same thing every day, you’ll most likely get bored with it. Life’s too precious to be eating boring, bland food, people! 🙂 Experiment a little, and slowly build up a mental or online collection of dishes you enjoy to rotate through. It’ll satisfy the taste buds and keep you engaged.
- Don’t be discouraged if you slip up. Make the decision to eat well at every meal. Remember that we are all human, and many of us succumb to whatever our food temptations are every now and then. That’s okay! Everything’s going to be okay. If you’ve had a sugar binge, learn to make a different decision the next time that opportunity arises. If you’ve had an excessively decadent meal, eat simply for the next few. Don’t give up. You made a bad call, and you can’t change that, but you can keep moving forward.
- Commit to your decision and stick to it. Perhaps most importantly, commit to your food decision. Sure, you’ve already made the decision. Now, you need to commit to it, in order for it to work. Many people say, “I’ll start exercising on Monday. The new year. The new month. When work isn’t crazy. When I have a gym contract.” We’ve all been there. Start now. At your next meal. The next snack. Start now and stick to it. And so coming back to point 7 above, if you slip up, don’t call it a bad day, it’s just a ‘bad’ meal. Keep going. And remember, it’s called cheat meal, not cheat day for a reason.
I hope that these points are useful and perhaps, even reassuring. ♥
Wishing you well with all your food adventures,