How to eat healthier – part 2

As you know, I haven’t been eating very healthily over the winter and am feeling very bad-tempered and exhausted as a result.  This is the continuation of ‘how to eat healthier – part 1’.

Here are some more of the things that I have done recently to eat healthier.

1.  Don’t keep unhealthy food in the house.
One way to put the brakes on eating unhealthy food is to not keep any unhealthy food in the house.

Many articles written about this topic will say to put the unhealthy food at the back of the cupboard with healthier options in front of it.  I don’t know about you, but even when the unhealthy food is out of my sight, I still know that it’s there. I may not be able to see the salt and vinegar chips, but I still feel their presence and it just takes a moment of distraction to cave in and open the packet.

I prefer not to have any unhealthy food in the house.  This way, if my willpower starts to soften, it takes a lot longer for me to get access to what I’m craving as I have to leave the house to go and buy it.  This tip is another spin on waiting 30 minutes before eating unhealthy food to see if it’s something that you really want.

2.  Watch your language.
Have you noticed how people label and relate to food?

    ‘I worked really hard in the gym today.  I deserve some cake as a treat.’

    ‘I brought a salad for lunch today. I’m trying to be good.’

    ‘I’m going to be a bit naughty and eat some cheese and biscuits.’

Labelling food as good or bad influences how we behave towards it.  Anything that our minds label as a treat will be seen as positive and something we increasingly crave.  And when we think about ourselves as being ‘naughty’ because we’ve eaten a certain food, we’re going to feel bad about ourselves.  For some people, eating ‘bad’ food will trigger them towards a change.  However many people will spiral into more unhealthy behaviour.

Food is just food.  It’s not good or bad.  How our body reacts to food is more important and should be the determining factor for whether we choose to eat it or not.

Observe how you label and relate to food.  Do you label food as good, bad or a treat?  Try changing how you categorise food and see if this alters how you feel about certain types of food.

3.  The word ‘diet’.
Whilst I’m talking about language, could we please stop using the word ‘diet’ to describe how we are going to starve ourselves temporarily for the express purpose of looking thinner for a future event?

For example:
‘I’ve got a wedding/holiday/party/reunion to go to in a couple of weeks.  I’m going to go on a diet to lose some weight.’

I have a friend who has been practically starving herself for the last couple of months for an upcoming event and she is miserable as a result.  This self-imposed ‘diet’ has done nothing to improve her attitude towards healthier food and has made her crave less healthy food even more.   The odds are that she will revert back to old behaviours and eat less healthy food after the event (although I hope that she adopts a more balanced and sustainable attitude towards food).

This fleeting attention to our ‘diet’ does not do anything to improve our attitude towards food and actually reinforces our ‘good’ and ‘naughty’ behaviour towards it.

4.  Reconsider portion sizes.
Most of us know that portion sizes have grown exponentially over the years and we are eating far greater amounts of food than we did in the past.  We’ve grown accustomed to eating a lot more food than our bodies actually need – particularly as we are physically using our bodies less than ever before.

I don’t count calories (more from laziness than from anything else) but I do think that it’s worthwhile getting to know what a serving size actually looks like.  I particularly like those visual clues that some dietary guidelines provide.  For example, a serving of cheese is about the size of your thumb and a serving of meat is the size of your palm.  Check out this for a handy visual guide to portion control.

If your servings are WAY bigger than they need to be, gradually reduce your portion sizes.  Remember – start small.

5.  Find healthier alternatives.
Is there a particular part of unhealthy food that you just love?  Is it the crunch of chips or the way chocolate melts in your mouth?

See if you can find a healthier alternative to this aspect of processed food.  I sometimes paint flat bread pieces with some taco seasoning powder and olive oil and bake it in the oven until it’s crispy.  This meets my desire for some crunch with a bit of a kick and is much healthier than the corn chips I might be craving.

I’m not a great fan of chocolate (crazy, I know – particularly as I was eating chocolate when I started writing this post) so I can’t suggest any healthier alternatives to the wonder of melted chocolate.  But I’m sure Dr Google would have plenty of suggestions.

6.  Be kind to yourself.
As I’ve already mentioned, no one can eat healthily 100% of the time and no one is perfect.  People slip up –  that’s ok.  If you forget that you are trying to eat healthier and eat some cake, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Forgive yourself and try again.

Tell those people close to you that you are trying to eat a bit healthier and ask them to support you with this change.  Maybe put a few cues around to remind yourself of the new direction you are taking with your nutrition.  Learn from your slip up and try to work out why it happened so you can put some steps in place to minimise the chance of it happening again.

What about you?  Have you recently changed your eating habits?  Do you have any tips to add?

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