Healthy eating is a struggle sometimes. Nutrition is the sum total of everything we put into our bodies and how well it fuels the activities we do every day. Too often, we label foods and drinks as “good” or “bad,” then think of ourselves the same way when we eat them.
It’s time to simplify healthy eating habits to remove mental hurdles. It’s time to focus on long-term improvements, one smaller goal at a time. Here are eight ways to start today.
Instead of focusing on good and bad and beating yourself up about cravings or thoughts related to food, really dive into what’s motivating your food choices. Do it without judgement. Any change worth making is worth doing thoughtfully, and making healthy choices about food is no different.
Start with one thing
Again, without judgement, think of one thing you’d like to do differently. Most of us need to drink more water, so that’s an easy place to start. Replace one soda with a glass of water or add water to your meals. One step at a time is all it takes to make big changes happen.
Listen to your body
Before you eat, think about whether or not you’re actually hungry. We train ourselves to eat three, four, or even seven times a day without considering how much fuel our bodies really need. Are you hungry? If not, maybe the clock isn’t a good judge of when it’s time to eat.
Change how you talk about healthy eating
A big part of negative thoughts is how we talk about food choices. Instead of thinking or saying, “I shouldn’t eat that,” or, “I can’t eat that,” reframe your language in terms of your goals. Say to yourself, “that’s not the fuel I want to give my body right now.” Instead of using words that make you think you’ve failed and can start a ripple effect, realize that you have the power to make each choice.
Changing our words can help us change our own perception of success and failure, and can help reinforce the “why” behind our nutrition goals.
Use the power of choice to get back on track
Instead of feeling guilty about a sub-optimal food choice, give yourself a break. Think of it this way:
- At lunch, you chose something that wasn’t part of your healthy eating plan.
- You’re grown and that’s OK.
- Right now, today (not tomorrow), you’re choosing to eat healthier.
No judgement. No guilt. No emotions. Just right back on track. (You can do this!)
Redirect stress-induced eating choices
Hormones control our hunger cues, when we feel satisfied or full, and even our cravings. The stress hormone cortisol, when elevated, can cause cravings for high-fat foods or even a loss of appetite. Instead of turning to food when you’re stressed, get outside for fresh air and sunshine, or take a few minutes for some movement that can produce serotonin to combat the physical effects of stress.
Make mealtime a separate event
Instead of eating in front of the TV, focus on what you’re doing in the moment. Take your meals at a table while seated so you can fully focus on what you’re eating, and why. Chew. Drink water. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to hear your body say, “I’m full,” when you’re purposeful with mealtime.
Share meals with others
It’s no wonder that so much of our relationship with food is emotional and social. Humans have interacted with each other over food for millennia. Embrace that connection and community by sharing meals with family or friends whenever you can. It’s good for everyone to share a meal now and then, and it’s a healthy habit that you can sustain for a lifetime.