The thought of making big changes to your diet is often a daunting task. Especially this time of year, given the gluttony and indulgences of the holidays. I am still trying to figure out what to do with all of the chocolate overflowing from my pantry. I know I don’t want it there taunting me, but I certainly don’t want to waste it!
To set yourself up for success you must first remove temptation. “Bye-bye chocolate”. Oh, and also the snack foods that are just too easy to grab a handful of (or two…or five) like chips or anything else that you will be tempted to eat. I’m not going to ask HOW you got rid of them, just do it.
There…temptation removed. Now we can focus the other forms of temptation we need to remove, like friends who are a bad influence. “Peace out, Bartender Bob and Waitress Wendy!” I’m kidding, but seriously, we do need to make sure our friends and family are aware and supportive of what we are doing. If you are choosing not to eat out at all, plan to have your friends over for a healthy dinner and a movie or game night. You still need have a social life, find your new normal when eating cleaner and maintaining friendships and relationships. Your support system is vital and it’s important that the people closest to you are on board. Maybe you can be a good influence and encourage them to join you in your new lifestyle!
Wait what? Lifestyle? Yep, that’s right. I don’t like to use the word “diet”. It makes me think of Slim Fast or Special K. Eating clean is a lifestyle. It is the foundation for good health and the root system out of which flows improvement in all areas of your life. Your improved health will show from the inside out. Other people will start to notice, sometimes before you do. That is where the work put in becomes worth it. Once you start seeing results and see the hard work is paying off, you’ll hopefully increase your motivation to push on. You will feel better, look better, sleep better, heck maybe even smell better! As you change your habits, you are changing your life, for the better.
Be prepared for success not failure. If you think you won’t get the results you want, you probably won’t stick to your meal plan as faithfully as you should. If you believe that you will be successful, it will encourage and convince you to stick with your clean eating. You need to give it a fair shot and allow your body to experience the benefits of the changes you are making. That being said, don’t plan out cheat meals. Don’t reward yourself with food. If the results are not enough of a reward for you (which they should be!) find something else. Anything but food! A pedicure or massage, a new (insert coveted item) or a movie with friends. Prepare for success and it will happen.
On the subject of preparation, meal prep is ESSENTIAL. Cook in bulk to avoid being unprepared for meal or snack time. Pick a day each week where you prep all of your lunches for the week. Overcook for dinner so that you have leftovers for lunch or snacks. Keep quick meal items in the house like eggs, which is a staple in my home. Plan your meals out each week and stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. You know, the part that’s always freezing and you start wishing you had worn a sweater? That part. That’s where all the healthy, unprocessed foods are kept and it’s where you should be getting the bulk of your groceries.
You should not feel completely deprived on a clean eating regimen. If you are constantly feeling a lack of energy, there is something wrong. A healthy diet includes carbohydrates. Don’t think you are doing your body any favors by eating only protein. Listen to your body and your nutrition coach. Find ways to cook clean, and eat healthier versions of the foods you love by using lettuce for tacos or burgers.
Throughout this journey you will sometimes be hard on yourself, maybe too hard. There are things we cannot change about our bodies. I have been there folks. I have been at 9% body fat the day before an NPC Bikini competition, scrutinizing myself in the mirror, wondering “how do I still have saddlebags and a mommy gut!?” I was probably the only person who could actually see my saddlebags and mommy gut but I knew at that point that I could not change those parts of my body. Do not let your goal be aesthetic perfectionism, because that road does not lead to good health and wellness. Accept the things you cannot change about your body and focus on being the healthiest version of yourself.
I hope that your lifestyle change continues well after the conclusion of your challenge. If you stick to your program, your body will definitely retaliate after a “cheat meal” and remind you that it’s NOT WORTH IT! Have fun trying out new clean recipes, check out Pintrest and other websites, but beware of deceptive recipes that use words like “lean”, “skinny” or “high protein.” Look at the ingredients and the macronutrient ratio (Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat) to make sure it is appropriate for your body. Always remember that it is much easier to gain body fat than lose it. My general rule of thumb is that I don’t buy things I shouldn’t eat at the grocery store. That way, when the opportunity arises for me to grab tacos with a girlfriend or have a date night with the hubs, I have the freedom to indulge a little and not undo my entire week. Love your body and take good care of it. Enjoy your journey to a healthier version of yourself!