Lifestyle Changes: Making it Stick
Whether you’ve decided to embark on a new way of eating, or maybe your practitioner has prescribed an elimination diet; making any diet or lifestyle change can be intimidating and just plain hard! Health coaching can be a wonderful tool for you to get the 1 on 1 support you need to stick to your new health habit. In this post, I’ve shared my favorite tips for making your new habits stick.
Jump in for 21 days. Once you’ve committed mentally to a change, I highly encourage you to jump into your program for 3 weeks, a mini-commitment. There are at least two reasons for this. First, you will notice the physical benefits of the program within 3 weeks. Seeing positive changes will be rewarding and reinforces your efforts. Second, many processed foods simply ruin our tastebuds. Transitioning to a diet with more whole, nutrient-dense foods may initially seem bland if you are accustomed to more processed foods. As you remove these taste-ruining foods from your diet, it takes only a few short weeks for the taste buds to re-calibrate. You’ll crave less sugar and salt, and amounts you normally found acceptable will seem overpowering. Whole, plant-based foods and animal products seasoned with herbs, citrus, and small amounts of sea salt & black pepper will be tasty and satisfying. Commit to your program for 21 days. This trial period is short enough to use the psychological trick of telling yourself you can eat whatever you want on day 22, but long enough to appreciate the positive effects which will help you stick to your new way of life.
Meal prep. This cannot be overstated. Meal prepping will help you stay on track for the week, and give you a good excuse to avoid temptation during moments of stress or weakness. Pick 1-2 days of the week you will routinely go grocery shopping. Plan to batch cook one meal for lunches, and another for dinners. I like to make my lunches for the week on Sunday, so for the rest of the week I only have to focus on cooking dinner. Sometimes when I know I’m going to have a busy week, I’ll prepare both lunches and dinners using my pressure cooker and crock pot. Plan ahead for healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, nut butters, dried seaweed, grass fed or home made jerky, or cold cuts.
Some of you might still be staring at the first sentence in this paragraph asking “Shoot, this chick wants me to cook?” Yes, yes I do. I’m a strong believer in making time for cooking and meal-sharing. Even cooking for yourself can be incredibly fulfilling. I believe in the energy behind food. When a meal is prepared with my hands, or another’s hands, prepared with love and dedication, that love and energy is shared with everyone who consumes the food.
Stock up on staples.
Staples may be different from one person to the next. For example, I stock up every week on avocados, frozen fruit, lots of bagged greens (spinach, kale), bananas, coconut milk, and mixed nuts. These items account for my breakfast and my snack for each day. For someone who can tolerate some grains and legumes, you may stock up on quinoa, canned tomatoes, or garbanzo beans, to easily toss into salads or stews. Make sure you have a few non-perishable items in the house that would allow you to make dinner pinch. Purchase spices in bulk to save money, and to ensure you’ll always have what you need on hand.
Keep it simple.
Look for recipes with 10 ingredients or less. Flavor your meals with dried or fresh herbs, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic, coconut oil, and olive oil. Use citrus to brighten up sauces and salad dressings. Whole natural foods need very little doctoring. Experiment with various cooking techniques including roasting, steaming, sautéing, Instant-potting, slow-cooking, and boiling. My favorite techniques for cooking veggies are roasting and steaming. Steaming preserves the most nutrients, but roasting requires little attention so you can focus on the remainder of your meal prep.
Tell your friends.
Sharing your goals or new lifestyle habits with friends and loved ones is a simple, yet empowering technique. It affirms your commitment, and gives them the opportunity to support you when encountering temptation in social situations. You might even be a source of inspiration for others to begin their own journey. Don’t be afraid to ask for support!
Be kind to yourself.
Try to keep compassion at the core of any lifestyle change by practicing Ahimsa. Ahimsa is “non-violence” in thought, action, and words, and the first moral restraint practiced in the eight limb path of yoga. Whatever your goal, there is no requirement for perfection here. For many of us, the 80/20 rule can be applied to lifestyle, and specifically dietary changes. If resisting grandma’s pound cake is going to cause you grief and guilt, then eat the darn pound cake! You’ll be better off enjoying an occasional indulgence, rather than restricting something which may set you up for failure later on, potentially with a less meaningful food.