Tips for Sticking to Your Healthy Eating Plan
Updated: May 3
How has your summer been? If you have children, grandchildren, or even just a lot going on in life, chances are you haven’t focused as much on YOU and improving your health.
School is in session, the holidays will be here before you know it, so why not take some time for yourself?
Have you said either of these?
“I know how to eat healthy. I just don’t know where to start.”
“I’m already trying to eat better but I have trouble sticking to it.”
These are the two most common statements I hear from clients and friends.
Part of the challenge of improving your health through nutrition is actually doing what you need to do. Nutrition isn’t the FULL picture, of course, but does play a major role in your overall health and your advancement toward meeting your goals.
So how do you stick to your plan?
Notice I didn’t call it a “diet”. While all that word really means is what a person eats, it seems limiting or temporary. Call it a lifestyle or way of eating. One step to sticking to your new plan is to establish it as something you will do indefinitely because it makes you FEEL better. Looking better is just a welcome side effect of all your hard work.
Here are 10 more suggestions to making a long-lasting change for the better.
1. Make it a non-negotiable and follow the plan long enough to decide if it’s truly working.
Question: How do you determine if your plan is working? Answer: Give it time!!
More drastic changes may yield more immediate results, but really consider if it's worth it in the long run. For example, extreme caloric restriction (aka less food calories) can bring about weight loss initially. In the long term it wrecks your metabolism as your body adjusts for the fewer calories you give it.
2. Find your why (vanity pounds? Diabetes? Health concern?) Really dig deep here. That brings me to tip #3...
3. Journal feelings surrounding food/meals (discover and eliminate triggers)
4. Make it a consistent effort. Every time you eat is a new opportunity to make great decisions. Consistently aim to make healthier choices.
5. Plan ahead. Failure to plan is planning to fail. Meal prep on your day off, especially if you have a busy schedule. Batch cook proteins and freeze for easier meals. Slow cookers and pressure cookers are your friend and lifesaver if you’re in a pinch. I'm especially loving my air fryer oven because it cooks food quickly!
6. Tell a friend…or not.
Letting people in on your goals can be a great idea if they’re supportive. It makes you more accountable because they’ll probably ask how it’s going and will definitely be the first to notice your progress. Better yet, they may decide to join in and make their own efforts to improve. This will increase your own motivation as well because you’re in it together.
On the other hand…it may not benefit you much if the people in your life are struggling and frustrated with their own health, really judgy, or just really don’t want to hear all about your exciting new lifestyle. In this case, find some supportive online groups to chat with and move forward. Some people just aren’t ready to commit to this kind of change and allowing yourself to fall behind on account of them isn’t serving you well.
7. Forgive yourself. So you got hungry at the event and ate a slice of pizza. Enjoy and move on. Every meal is a new opportunity to make the better option. One slice of pizza or one cookie didn’t make you fat. It was the cumulative effect of a number of poor choices over a long period of time. Similarly, don’t have “cheat days” or “cheat meals”. First off, you eat. No one “cheats” on or with food. This term makes it sound like you’re guilty of something. Secondly, a day like this tends to make people go seriously overboard on processed junk food thinking that they can just bounce back again. Be smart. Eat something less-than-ideal once in awhile if you can’t live without it but don’t make that a habit.
8. Be realistic about yourself, your body, your goals.
In my small group fitness training, we discuss this during the nutrition component. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Simply put, they make sense. If you’re looking to drop 3 sizes by the wedding next month, you’re gonna get frustrated and check out really quickly. Some people have to do REALLY DRASTIC things to have rapid weight loss and it’s usually via surgery. For most people, however, going under the knife is the last thing they want. Make small, smart goals and keep aiming to achieve them.
9. Praise yourself daily. Take a moment to validate your progress. Maybe you passed on eating cake at the birthday party. Or you brought your own healthy snack to the movies. These are small yet major steps in the right direction and recognizing them is important to feeling successful.
10. Small steps. Once the excitement of a new diet or major lifestyle change wanes, what’s left? The pursuit of perfection creates a tendency to abandon everything when the progress doesn’t happen immediately. The best way to ensure a long-term change is by making small steps toward your goals. Maybe you switch from white potatoes to sweet. Perhaps you cook at home more often. As you learn more about yourself and what works for you, continue to build upon that progress.