In an article last week, I gave you many reasons why diets don’t work and what you can do instead. I talk a lot about eating healthy and finding what feels good in your body. I know this can be easier said than done. The internet is full of contradictory articles on what is healthy and what isn’t. And as far as listening to our bodies goes, that is not always hard. People keep looking for the “perfect diet”. While a diet mentality in itself won’t help, there are some things that can help you find what feels good.
Reduce processed foods
Please notice the word reduce. Unless you have serious health issues, never try to forbid yourself to eat something. You’ll find that’s the only food you’ll be thinking of. Try to figure out how many times you eat heavily processed foods in a day. Start by creating a food journal, without really thinking about the outcome. Just write down everything you eat. Be careful: when you start journaling your food for the first time you might fall into the dangerous trap of judgement. You might get scared to see you actually eat more junk food than you even realized. Please, don’t judge yourself!
Once you have a clear idea of the processed foods you eat, start reducing them a bit and replace them with whole foods. For example: if you find you eat sugary cereal for breakfast, snack on a chocolate bar by 10 a.m. and have another sweet treat mid-afternoon, here’s where you need to make the change. Replace the sugary cereal with fruit and make yourself a smoothie. You can even add some protein powder some unsweetened nut butter. Or go for some chia pudding – you can make it the night before and it’ll be ready to eat when you wake up. You can go further and replace at least on of the sugary snacks with fruit again. Allow yourself to eat some chocolate or cookies if you really crave it. But slowly move towards replacing it on more and more days.
I know, you’ve heard this one before. Veggies really are key. If you work a 9-5 job and like to go out with friends for lunch it’s ok. Don’t stop the habit. Hopefully your restaurant of choice is not McDonalds or KFC every day. If it is, you might want to cut it two 1 or 2 days a week. If you go to restaurants with more food choices, add more veggies to your menu. You don’t have to change completely and go for the stale grilled chicken breast with broccoli. Start by choosing the food you like but ask for an extra serving of veggies – grilled, steamed or even raw as a salad. If possible, eat the salad first to reduce your appetite for the unhealthy things. The same applies for dinner. If you are eating at home, or bring your own lunch to work, things get a little more simple as you control what you cook. When you start cooking healthy for the first time – less oil, less frying – you might feel food has no taste. My tip: use condiments!
How do you feel?
You know the sitcoms that have one of the characters going to a psychologist and he keeps asking “How does that make you feel?” Well, I’m not aiming for a sitcom joke here, I’m no good at telling jokes. But the answer to that question is key here. And the answer is not as simple as good or bad. How do you feel after a certain meal? Do you feel to full? You probably ate too much. Bloated? Possibly some bad food combining or even a little intolerance to one of the ingredients – think lactose, gluten and more. Do you feel sluggish instead of energized? More possible causes here. One, the meal was too heavy for you, too fried, too much fat etc. In this case, the body just uses all of its energy to digest, leaving nothing for you to keep working. It’s something pretty common after lunch.
Second, you might not be tolerating well some of the ingredients. Maybe it’s the meat or the eggs that aren’t sitting well with you, or the gluten. Long story short: see what you ate when you didn’t feel good. And try to eliminate the possible culprit. For example if you ate something apparently healthy like grilled meat with veggies but feel sluggish, the meat was probably not great for you. Try a vegan meal the next day and see how that makes you feel. Apply the same thinking in all other cases, until you find the meal that does make you feel good. You should be aiming for something that leaves you satisfied but not uncomfortably fool and energized for the rest of the day.
A healthy lifestyle has to have some exercise. You hate that, you say? That means you haven’t found the right exercises for you. For example, I hate running. Not only on the treadmill, but even outside. I can have the most beautiful scenery for running in the world. I hate it! However, I love talking long walks in nature as it helps me ground and connect to my intuition. But make me pick up the pace and start running and I’ll never go there again. If you’re the same – it’s fine, just stick to walking. That is still moving your body.
On the other hand, I love cardio group classes. I go with friends, there’s good music, great atmosphere, it’s like a party. And I sweat like crazy! Give it a go if you haven’t. Yoga is also fantastic for those days when I need something lighter or when it’s too cold for the walk in nature. For me it has the same grounding effect. There are so many workout options now. Find the one that makes you happy. You should feel like you’re doing some work, but don’t risk injuring yourself just for the risk of doing more. No pain, no gain is not always the best solution. You can gain a lot even without pain!
Don’t label yourself
I know it is fashionable for many to label themselves as vegan, vegetarian, paleo and more. Don’t aim for that. One, you’re restricting yourself, by putting certain foods on the forbidden list simply because the diet says so. Two…well, what’s the point? It’s food. You’re human and you eat food to fuel your body. That’s the only label you need.
There is no perfect diet
The truth is, there is no universally perfect diet. Don’t look for that! You want to find freedom, not to let a diet enslave you. Eat whole foods, move your body, love yourself and all your flaws. Don’t aim to look like a certain actress or singer or whoever. Aim to be the best version of YOU! The best body for you is your body at its best. You won’t get that through starvation or by depriving yourself. You won’t get that by pushing yourself until it hurts. And you certainly won’t get that by hating yourself.