When it comes to healthy eating and healthy living I know firsthand how challenging it can be. I was one of those people who spent an entire evening on the sofa with a tub of ice cream…and then hating myself afterwards. I hear so many people say that they could never be disciplined enough to switch to a healthier lifestyle, despite wanting to change, so here are eight pieces of advice I give to anyone and everyone in this mindset:
1) Self- belief
First off, before anything, you have to believe you can make a change and make a difference in your life, and most importantly, you have to love yourself enough to do it.
That's the biggest hurdle before anything.
I've often found that any deep-rooted emotional pain or a lack of self-esteem can cause us to not want to look after our bodies, or even lead us to crave specific junky foods.
Starting with your emotions is the first step in any change. Are there things you need to resolve? Is there something that’s causing you emotional pain? What’s stopping you from loving yourself?
I found an amazing article the other day about how a lot of diets start with us wanting to get thin because we hate how we look. This same article came out with one of the most poignant things I’ve ever read: “You can’t hate your way to loving yourself.” If we start a new eating habit because we hate ourselves, it’s unlikely we’ll continue, and that’s why so many times diets fail.
Love always comes first.
2) Ditch the junk
Ditching the junk has to be done. Sorry. It will be hard initially, there’s no denying it, but I don’t believe in calorie counting or allowing treat days. They're not 'treats' when they make us feel bad and they never help us to see what really constitutes healthy living. When we eat whole, fresh foods for a sustained period, our taste buds change so we find that everything natural becomes a lot sweeter, and we begin to easily detect synthetic foods. Also, after a while, the bacteria in our gut changes, and so not only will things like our immune and digestive systems function more effectively, but we won’t actually crave the things we used to, because the healthier bacteria won’t want it!
Junk food is addictive. Scientific evidence has shown it, not only because our bacteria like it, but even our brains get stimulated differently with ingredients like sugar. As long as it’s in your body, that addiction won’t go away. Sugar in particular can act on the chemical dopamine in the brain, which is used for signaling pleasure and is even involved in drug-seeking; it’s addictive and can give you “sugar highs,” helping you feel positive for a short time—and then you crash and almost suffer a withdrawal and crave it again.
That’s why step one is so important: love yourself enough to break the cycle!
3) Eat plants
I'm a big advocate of plant-based foods. Every day I eat tons of veggies, whole grains, and legumes. I have smoothies and raw desserts and use natural things like dates and fruits to get my sweet fix. Whole foods are loved by our bodies a lot more than refined foods like white breads and pasta. Meats and poultry are high in saturated fats too and together with dairy they can be acid forming in the body, as well as being more difficult than plants to digest. Studies have also found that animal products can contribute to many health problems, and there are some great books that you can read for more information.
Giving up all animal products initially may be a massive step, so take it slowly. Start with switching dairy to almond or rice milk, and maybe limit yourself to one piece of meat a day and see how that works. You may find you don’t need to eat it as much once you start.
Foods you can eat as much as you like of: whole grains like brown rice, millet, buckwheat; vegetables of all different colors and loads of leafy green vegetables; some fruit; and plant-based protein like lentils, beans, and tempeh.
4) Buy a good cookbook or follow some online blogs
There are endless amounts of delicious recipes out there with beautiful pictures that will fill you with inspiration. Having a guide is really helpful so that you won’t just be having brown rice and stir-fried vegetables! You’ll be amazed at the options out there and all the things you can do with plant-based foods; it really does get very exciting and you’ll never feel deprived. If you have some cash to spare and want to take it one step further, book yourself onto a veggie cooking class and get some passion for food. You might also meet some like- minded people who will help you on your journey. Make no doubt about it, once you start, it is a journey and a fun one at that!
5) Have fun!
If you have any health food shops near you, go play in them—that's where I have the most fun. You'll discover a whole new world, and it’s awesome! There will undoubtedly be ingredients you’ve never heard of and alternatives for everything you love, like raw chocolates, fruit-sweetened cereals, butters from every kind of nut and seed you can imagine, and superfoods from all areas of the globe.
Start looking for veggie restaurants in your area too and drag your friends along! Trying new things is part of life’s excitement, so don’t be afraid to order something you’ve never heard of before.
6) Change what you say
Never say, “I can’t eat this.” Instead start saying, “I don’t eat this.” It tells your brain you're in control and moves you from a position of helplessness into a position of power. Over time your brain will learn, and all your actions will become natural. When people say, “Oh, you can’t have this can you?” (Which they will inevitably do.) Just smile and say, “I can have it, I just don’t want to.” Don’t ever allow yourself to feel that you haven’t made the decisions.
If you don’t have time to cook up a storm, then don’t, simple as that! You don’t want the stress of healthy eating to put you off, so sometimes keep it quick and easy. Salads, soups, and stir-fries are great options, and you can find good quality veggie- ready meals too (just read the ingredients first!). If you can, invest in a good blender and start making yourself delicious smoothies too. They can be fab for breakfasts, snacks, or whenever you need something to grab and go.
8) Do some yoga
For some reason, yoga and healthy eating are one of those pairings that just work. They both compliment each other and pick each other up when one isn’t going so well. For example, if you’re not motivated to eat well, you can have a stretch and the movements will guide you back to self- love; if you eat well and feel good on the inside then you’ll want to get the physical energy flowing by bending into all different shapes. Yoga is one of the things I always recommend doing and it benefits so many different areas of life.
So there you have it, 8 fairly different things to help anyone wanting to change and adopt a healthier lifestyle. It’s not all easy, but at the same time it doesn’t have to be so hard or miserable. Life is there for the enjoyment and as far as I’m concerned, living healthily is serious fun!