You’ve decided to make a change and start eating healthier. Congrats, that’s huge!
Maybe you gave up fast food, switched to brining your own lunch to work, swap the side of fries for a side of fruit, order regular coffee without the whipped cream/flavor shot/caramel, or any number of healthy choices. It’s exciting at first, isn’t it? You feel proud, you feel confident, and ready for your body to change immediately to reflect your choices.
Then, two weeks pass and you’re not noticing the drastic changes you expected. It doesn’t feel exciting to make these healthier choices, more that you feel bound to them. You don’t want to go back to your old ways, but this is feeling like a lot of work for little reward. What can you do?
I see this a lot in my clients. Maybe this is the first time they’ve done a diet overhaul, or maybe it’s the 25th time, either way, something is not working if they feel they can’t stick with the changes they’ve made.
Here are four ways to make healthy diet changes stick around for the long haul!
This is something I find myself working on every client with. It’s understandable to get excited about all the areas of your diet you could improve on – and the bigger your end goal, the more drastic the changes can be – so it’s easy to bite of more than you can chew (pun is always intended here).
The first week of implementing all of these changes is exciting because it’s new and doesn’t feel like too much. Then overwhelm can kick in when you realize it’s not new, it’s meant to be routine.
If you feel overwhelmed with all of the changes you’ve made and they feel more restrictive than empowering, scale back. Focus on the two changes that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Changes that don’t feel invasive and you’ve been wanting to do for a long time. This is different for everyone but here are some realistic examples:
Give up soda
Swap white for whole wheat bread and pasta
Limit dessert to once a week
Skip the drive-thru
Order a side salad instead of anything fried
Limit alcohol to weekends
Whatever you pick, keep it at two, give it at least two weeks, and let them feel easy before adjusting anything else.
Pinpoint your non-negotiables
Just as there is an easy thing for you to give up, there are things that if you try to give them up will haunt you. Figure out what you are not willing to give up, and see how you can make it part of your lifestyle that doesn’t sabotage you. For me, this is sugary cereal. It’s not good for me, but I look forward to it as a nighttime snack and if I tried to cut it out completely I would eat twice as many calories just trying to avoid it.
We all have that thing, and we’ve all tried to stop it cold turkey, but it rarely ends well. It could be peanut butter, chocolate, cheese, ice cream, etc., and you know exactly what it is right now. Instead of white-knuckling it to avoid it, allow it in within reason.
Let’s go back to my love of kids cereal. I recognized I wasn’t doing myself any favors by swallowing a sugar bomb before bed, but it was a non-negotiable I was not willing to give up, and that’s OK! I usually had it on weeknights so I limited myself to twice a week. I looked forward to whichever nights I had it, but I wasn’t on autopilot at 9pm grabbing my bowl and spoon. I had to stop and think, do I want this to be one of my cereal nights?
Connect with your core values
When you make dietary changes only to change your appearance, you’ll have many excuses to stop.
I haven’t lost any weight yet anyway…
I reached my goal so I can eat what I want now…
This is only one time so it won’t make a difference…
Sound familiar? Instead, think about how the changes you plan to make represent who you are not how you look. A great example are people who go vegetarian. Someone who decides to eat vegetarian to lose weight may easily be tempted when a friend orders chicken fingers. They could allow themselves just a bite, what difference would that make? Or they get to a party and there is only one vegetarian dish there so they take a pass for the night.
Now think of someone who went vegetarian because they don’t believe in eating animals. Do you think they’d take “just a bite”? Would they go back to eating animals because they wanted more variety at the party? No! They don’t believe in eating animals so they don’t even consider it.
You may not have a deep passion for not eating fast food, but if you start to see yourself as someone who values your health and takes seriously what you put in your body, it will be easier to turn down cavings for convenience foods.
Think of your Long Term Why
In my coaching sessions we go deep into the Why. Typically clients tell me they want to do health coaching to lose weight. I never stop there, though. We dig into why they want to lose weight, eat healthier, go to the gym more, etc. and get to the bigger Why. How do they see themselves in 10 years if they make the changes they say they want to make? If they don’t make any changes?
When making any big lifestyle change, there will be ups and downs. If it’s weight loss, you won’t lose weight steadily, but as long as you’re moving on a downward trend, you’re losing weight! Instead of focusing on the short term benchmarks of weight or measurements each week, think about the long term goal. Where do you want to be in six months? A year?
Connecting with your Long Term Why will help you see the little blips of unhealthy choices for what they are; occasional slips, not healthy habit ending barricades.
Changing to a healthier diet is something you want to sustain for a lifetime. Making drastic changes you can only stick with for two weeks before resorting back to exactly what you were doing before will never get you the change you’re seeking. It’s far better to eat 1/3 the amount of sweets you do now forever than to cut all sweets out for two weeks and go right back to it.
Put your energy into one choice at a time, one day at a time, and you’ll slowly build healthier habits you can maintain.
Working with a professional health coach will help you set meaningful and realistic goals, and help you get there by holding you accountable. I would love to talk with you about where you’re struggling and come up with an action plan to finally get the results you want! Click here to see how you can work with me, and here to start the conversation.