Like so many women around New Year’s, you’ve probably sworn to yourself to “eat healthier,” “lose weight,” and “take better care of yourself” over the next 12 months. Many of you have probably turned to popular diets circulating the internet to accomplish that, whether it’s the raw diet, Paleo, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, or – well, the list goes on. While there are many great ideas in a lot of those diets, there is always a challenge when starting something new. Here are some tips in making your 2015 health goals a reality using your chosen diet style:
Transitioning to a new diet is not an all or nothing ordeal. Believe it or not, the nail in the coffin for so many so-called “failed diets” for most women is that they dove headfirst into a fad diet without testing the waters first. The whole idea behind any diet is to integrate it into your everyday routine. Eating healthy isn’t a fad or a hobby. It’s a complete change in lifestyle. Just like quitting smoking cold turkey, for most people it’s almost impossible to make a snap change, and expect it to stick. So for example, going dairy free? Try limiting your milk or cheese intake to a few days a week, and keep whittling it down week after week until you’ve worked it out. Developing healthy habits is always a work in progress! Some diets can be labor intensive at first, and can be off-putting. So going slow and learning your way around will help you build a better, stronger base for your change.
So many of us who decide to embark on trying a new diet fall into the trap of dropping highly processed, high salt and high fat foods for highly processed vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free/Paleo (or what-have-you) foods. Just because a package has the name of your chosen eating style does not make it healthy for you. So get into the kitchen! I’m not talking about taking a can of something and putting it into the microwave, and presto, you’ve got dinner. Really COOK. Believe me, you’ll be doing yourself a favor. So either take a cooking class if you’re unfamiliar with the kitchen region of your house, or choose simple recipes that match your skills until you get more comfortable. And when choosing recipes, make sure you recognize everything in the ingredients list: Picking recipes where you have to Google every other ingredient is a recipe for disaster. Stay in familiar waters, and you’ll eventually get your sea legs.
Share with someone
Whether you are experimenting with a new diet for you and your siblings or parents, significant other or roommates…make it a family affair! This is also an especially wonderful way to involve your kids. Get them excited about choosing recipes that sound good to them, and perhaps give them basic little jobs (can they clean the potatoes or cut up the broccoli?) that they can handle to help out. Not only will this make the transition easier and get them on board with the diet lifestyle change, but it will also teach them invaluable skills and instill great eating habits that they will use throughout their lives. And it becomes less of a hassle to have everyone in the household eating similar things, rather than you feeling like the odd one out having your own “special” plate. Sharing your dietary changes may mean you can meet everyone else in the middle.
Be honest with yourself
Every person is different, from their genetic makeup to their personal preferences. There is no perfect diet for every human. If there were, there wouldn’t be so many stylized diets out there for us to shop from. Did you try going raw, but just couldn’t get the hang of eating everything at 118 degrees or below? Did you just not have enough time to dedicate to dehydrating all of your snacks? Did you go vegan, but found it too hard to be social and find vegan-friendly meals when out with friends? Decide to try going gluten-free, but you don’t find any of the alternatives palatable? Sometimes a diet choice is not for everyone. And that’s okay. For example, a friend of mine once went completely vegetarian, but discovered over time that she simply felt better physically when she had meat in her diet. Did she learn a lot from her stint as a vegetarian? Sure! She has a much bigger percentage of her diet that now involves fruits and veggies. But meat is no longer completely off the menu – just in smaller quantities. Another reason to go slow and be honest with yourself is so that as you dabble in a new diet system and realize it isn’t for you, you haven’t invested too much time, nor money into all the equipment or foods that are associated with it. Nothing’s worse than buying $500 in new kitchen gadgets or strange foods, only for them to collect dust.
Feel okay with being flexible
Become a vegetarian, but you’re just hunkering for a hamburger? Sometimes we women put too much pressure on ourselves to follow dietary creeds to a fault that we ignore very real physical needs, or cravings, that are trying to tell us something. Our culture also tends to use diets as an all-or-nothing religion, all vying for the limelight as the “ultimate healthy alternative” that if we eat off the approved menu, we feel like we’ve been “bad” or have “sinned.” But sometimes a hamburger is just a hamburger. Who’s watching, anyway? Restricting ourselves from our favorite foods or from something we are craving can only increase our desire for it. So why are we surprised when we finally give in to “temptation?” And feeling bad about indulging in those little off-menu items often leads a woman down the rabbit hole of guilt. Sometimes a doughnut or a French fry can be the downfall of a healthy diet altogether, with the woman admonishing herself for having “no self control” and reverting back to old habits. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Essentially no “junk” food or “restricted” food is going to kill you, so long as you eat it in moderation. Just because I’m a nutritionist doesn’t mean I don’t indulge now and again. But “cheating” by having a rendezvous once in a while with a food on your chosen diet’s “no-no” list can be a reward rather than a sin. You enjoy it so much more when you don’t have it as often. My advice is listen to your body. I don’t remember hearing about a ring of hell set aside for Paleo dieters who have beans and rice once in a while, or vegans who decide to have scrambled eggs for breakfast one Sunday morning – so why put yourself there?
So be open, be honest, and be okay with a slower pace. You will be more successful in the long run. Be well, everyone!