“Healthy eating” = “diet”. Yes? No? Maybe so?
That’s certainly what I first thought. I thought eating healthy meant cutting out certain foods, following the trends, and eating other “healthy food” in excess. That was a huge reason as to why I stayed away from anything titled “healthy eating”. I didn’t want to cut out white bread, butter, or dairy! Hell no!
I think that my thinking has always been this way. Always. Until this past year, when something just clicked in my head that it didn’t have to be that way. I’m not totally sure what it was. It could have been that I made friends with people who usually chose healthier food options. Or it could have been the fact that I put on 30 pounds this past year, and trust me, it shows. I know have a lovely range of stretch marks going from my crotch to below my knee. And while I always tried to stay confident in my body no matter what, it’s hard to stay positive when you finally cross that line and technically become overweight. That’s not very fun.
So this past spring and summer, I started trying to make healthier choices. Working out, eating a little bit healthier. And that was all going fine and dandy. Until I fractured my foot.
So I know find it more important than before to make sure that I eat healthier while I wait for my foot to heal so that I don’t end up having to start off again with more weight than I had before. And no, I don’t think that losing weight is what matters when it comes to being healthy. But I know that it is unhealthy decisions that put all this extra fat on my body, and it’s physically uncomfortable. One of the best things that I have done for myself is find easy, fun, and challenging ways to stay healthier. Perhaps I will dive further into this in future blog posts. But for now, I want to give you all a few very basic tips that can help get you started if you want to shift from a unhealthy diet to a healthier way of living.
Don’t cut out food
Like I said, one of the main reasons that I hated diets and “healthy eating” magazines and books was that it required cutting out basically my entire diet and replacing it with these supposedly better alternatives. In reality, any diet that restricts a certain food group isn’t healthy for you. From carbs, to vitamins, to fat, to sugar, our body needs it all. If you know that your biggest guilty pleasure is eating carbs like bread and pasta all day err day, don’t take that as a cue to cut out all carbs. Your body needs carbs! And don’t ever think that just cutting out all sugar will ever fix your sugar addiction.
Basically, whenever your body craves something, it’s because your body needs it. I know that when I am on my period, I crave meat. Like, sausage, pepperoni, the works. Why? Probably because of all the iron in it. What about chocolate cravings? Chocolate can help stabilize your mood (aka is stabilizes your hormones). The trick isn’t cutting out unhealthy food and ignoring those urges, it’s about moderation, which we will talk about in a second.
Eat more often (aka more regularly)
We’ve all been in those moments when we are starving because we haven’t eaten anything in hours, and now our bodies are hungry, our blood sugar is low, we’re thirsty, we’re tired. And we make awful decisions while thinking with our stomachs.
I know “eat more often” sounds counterintuitive, so maybe if I say “eat more regularly”, it will help. Basically, plan ahead for meal and snacks, and make sure that you are eating at a regular rate. Eating anywhere from 4-6 meals and snacks a day will keep you from going into that pit of despair where only the wrong decisions can be made. A big plus is that not only will you never get so hungry that you will eat literally anything in sight, but also, it will help stabilize your blood sugar, so you won’t crave something with a lot of caffeine or sugar to bring your levels back up.
Also, when I say 4-6 meals, they don’t necessarily have to be full big meals. You can eat a bunch of decent sized meals throughout the day of about equal size, or you can eat a couple of big meals a day and a few small snacks. Basically, the goal is to never get hungry. Because if you are hungry, you are no longer healthy eating.
Reach for veggies or fruits first
Okay, before you jump down my throat, hear me out. Who ever said that veggies had to be boring? Perhaps you had a mom like mine that just steamed broccoli and cauliflower and called it delicious. In that case, may we cry together. But have you ever actually tried stir fried veggies? So good. Or chicken with some veggies? And who doesn’t love fruit? Bananas? Blueberries? Strawberries? What about combining the two? A chicken veggie salad with fruit on top…
By the way, Wendy’s has some awesome salads like that, especially during the summer. You’re welcome.
But seriously, even if it’s a small leap, take that leap. That can mean a full on veggie wrap and fruit salad, or it can mean adding a little lettuce or tomato to your sandwich. Either way, when you start building your meal with veggies in mind, instead of focusing it on meat or a sauce or some shit, then you will find some easy and delicious ways to fit veggies into your food.
And like I said, who doesn’t love fruits? Add a banana in at breakfast, add some strawberries at lunch, end the day with a sweet smoothie bowl. It’s really very easy when you try to find good ways to fit veggies and fruits in instead of focusing on carbs or, like I said, meat and sauces.
Have a list of go-to snacks
Ok, now listen to me. This list does not include a bag of chips, a pint of ice cream, or a bag candy. Have a list that you carry in your bag, your notebook, your phone, whatever, of food that you know will be a good choice for you when you start to feel a little bit peckish. That way, if you are, say, traveling by car from one city or state to the next and you stop at a gas station, instead of wandering the aisles aimlessly, you know what to look for. That was oddly specific, but I hope you get my point.
I know that a lot of the time, the reason I didn’t pick healthy options was because I wasn’t really sure what to look for. If I had a list of good go-to snacks in situations like that, I would have made a lot healthier choices. Some good examples of good snacks include:
- Small salad
- Fresh fruit
- Peanut butter
- String cheese
- Apple slices with peanut butter
These have a good amount fat and/or protein and will keep you going through the day. Have a list like this somewhere. Really sit down and pen out a good list that you know you will stick to.
Like I said before: do not cut out foods you enjoy. It will just make life so much harder for you.
Seriously, your body will have a hard time adjusting. Plus, you won’t enjoy the act of eating healthier and making healthier choices, and the whole point of eating healthy is to have a better, stronger, happy life.
That got a little bit deep, but seriously, don’t cut out food that makes you happy. Just moderate it.
I know it sounds crappy, but trust me, when you limit the amount of sugary goodies you eat in a day, not only will you enjoy them more (because who doesn’t love a good tease), but you won’t feel so guilty about eating them!
When it comes to chips, candy, or small cookies, limit yourself to small portion. Actually pour out a specific amount (it can be one actual serving or even less if you want), and put it on a plate, a small bowl, or even straight into your hand. Don’t eat mindlessly from the bag. I’m not joking, I have polished entire bags of Lay’s potato chips within minutes by doing this. Don’t make my mistakes. Pour the damn chips into a bowl.
If it’s something like a piece of cake or some ice cream, limit yourself to one piece or one big scoop… and actually stick to it. I know, it sounds cruel. But there will always be cake and ice cream in this world. Always. It will always be there. You don’t have to eat all the food that is in front of you.
I like to limit myself to one treat a day. That may sound like a lot, but if you keep the portions low, it really isn’t that bad. You can try a few days a week if you like, but try to keep it a once a day or less.
Call on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Google
The internet exists for a reason. Use it.
Use Pinterest to find super cute recipes. Did you roll your eyes when I said to eat more veggies? Well try look up cute recipes on Pinterest. Then you will see where I’m coming from.
Or you can use Tumblr to find inspiration to keep going. Tumblr is seriously like one big group hug. I love you Tumblr.
And don’t forget to use Google (or Bing or whatever) to search up good recipes. Just type in whatever food you want to use + recipes and look for a recipe that is good to you. Basically, just make it fun. Make it a challenge. Make it enjoyable. Because like I said in the tip above this one, eating healthy is about having a healthier, better life, so you need to make sure your happiness and enjoyment is a priority too.
Perhaps I should have just left this as part of #5, but sugar is unique and is the weakness of many a great men and women, so I wanted to make a separate tip. I said before that cutting out sugar will not help you get over sugar, and to be honest, this is true. If you can’t let go of the candy or the sweets, letting it all go will just make the urge come back stronger, and the reason is that sugar is actually kind of unique. When you eat it, your body actually starts to crave more of it.
Unlike craving meat (like I said before, my period craving), or craving salty foods, where you can eat some and feel satisfied eventually, sugar actually is literally addictive. It will make you crave more.
It’s like a double edged sword, really.
If sugar is your big thing, then my tip to you is to also try and limit yourself to one sugary treat day. And not a big treat either. A little one. And yes, honey, agave, fructose corn syrup, dextrose… those are sugars. Tread carefully.
Make small changes
Small, teensy-eensy changes. It starts a little at a time, and before you know it, your whole diet has changed! Or maybe you will find that you liked something that you didn’t before.
And whatever a small change means to you is fine. If a “small change” means switching all fries to salads, that’s fine. Or maybe it’s trying a new dish every day. Or even just switching from a pepperoni pizza to pepperoni and green peppers. Small changes build up and they lead to a big change. Try doing one new thing everyday to try and eat healthier and see where you end up in a week, a month, or even a year.