5 ways to stick to your healthy eating resolution
One of the most common resolutions each year is eating healthier. Hooray! I can definitely get behind this resolution since diet is a significant contributor to health – in either a positive or negative direction, depending on what you are eating. The foods we eat are broken down into simple building blocks which are used to build, fuel, and repair each of our cells. The foods you eat influence your energy, mood, focus, weight, hormones, and sleep. Few other lifestyle factors play into how we feel so strongly. The great news is that diet is completely modifiable!
It’s no surprise that we crave more veggies and less sugar after an indulgent season. But why do the same resolutions crop up year after year? Good intentions are a great start but turning the resolution into a daily habit is the important part. How do you make it stick?
Here are my top 5 tips to turn your healthy eating resolution into healthy eating habits that will become part of your daily routine:
Most resolution setters start out gung-ho and jump straight in, soon to become overwhelmed and give up. I believe lasting change happens slowly. I encourage anyone looking to change their eating to do so slowly at first.
First, clean out your fridge and pantry by using up anything you don’t plan on eating regularly in the future. This reduces both food waste and future temptations.
Experiment to find new staples. For example, if you want to go dairy-free, try a few dairy-free milks to find one you love in your morning coffee. Similarly, try out some new recipes to find new go-to’s for busy weeknights when you might otherwise revert to your old comfort zone.
Once you’ve found your new staples during the slower preparation stage, it’s time to commit fully. Early on, you’ll need to be strict with your new eating plan. Later, once you’ve successfully implemented new habits, you can sink into more relaxed moderation without fear of falling off the wagon. If you’re in it for the long-term, moderation is key. Think of it as building a lifestyle, not following a diet.
2. Choose your optimal time.
Just because January 1st marks the beginning of the New Year doesn’t mean it’s the ideal time for you to implement change. Before you jump in, check your calendar. If you have a vacation or family celebration in the near future it may be wise to wait. This can also apply to times where you anticipate heavy stress. Since you need to adhere strictly in the beginning, take moments of temptation out of the equation and set yourself up for success!
3. Frame your new eating positively.
You’ll have a much easier time adhering to your new healthier eating plan if you focus on what you get to include, not what you have to go without.
Experiment with new, simple recipes that make you excited about what you’re eating.
Seek out some new “treats” that fit your eating plan and brighten your day. Dark chocolate (70% or greater) is a favourite of mine!
If you need some extra motivation, try jotting down how you feel each day before starting your healthier eating and repeat daily – rating energy, mood, sleep, occurrence of bloating/gas/acne/etc. so you’ll be more aware of the positive changes happening in your body. We tend to forget about problems when they’re not bothering us anymore, so writing things down can help.
4. Be kind to yourself.
Progress, especially with respect to health, isn’t linear. Ups and downs are to be expected; they’re completely normal. When you do fall off the plan, give yourself some extra grace. Then remember why you pursued this lifestyle change and get back to it!
5. Find your balance.
Healthy eating goals are often accompanied by guilt and can become all-consuming. Food is a requirement for life and can be an excellent tool for improving your wellbeing. It is also meant to be enjoyed and should not be a stressor. We’ve got enough of those already! Although I encourage strict adherence to your eating plan in the beginning, to turn intentions into habits, I’m all about balance after the first couple months. I like to frame this in ratios – 80/20 or 90/10. If you adhere to your healthier eating 80% or 90% of the time, you can indulge the other 20% or 10%. Our bodies are well-equipped to deal with periodic indulgences so feasting at a wedding or holiday meal shouldn’t be a problem, especially if we’ve been eating well the rest of the time.
If you’re looking to eat healthier this year, here are my main guidelines that fit into any eating plan:
Eat real food – either make it yourself from whole food ingredients or eat packaged foods containing only listed ingredients that you can pronounce and recognize as whole foods
Explore new vegetables – eat a variety of veggies and lots of them
Avoid added sugar – drinks are the biggest culprit for hidden sugars (pop, specialty coffees, fruit juices)
I often help my patients develop, fine-tune, and adhere to healthy eating plans. I’d love to help you implement your 2019 resolutions – healthier eating or otherwise – and I’m now available for consultations.
Happy 2019, everyone!
Written by Dr. Annie Gibson