3 foolproof ways to make healthy eating really work for you
by: Samantha Russell with LiveTheWhole.com
Healthy eating is hard to stick to. Sometimes it feels like the whole world is against you, with birthday parties, food-centered holidays, and potluck parties every second weekend.
I recently did a bunch of interviews with hard-working and accomplished women who all struggle to eat in a way that feels good to them. The number 1 thing they identified as getting in their way the most was consistency.
They all have so much knowledge about health, nutrition, and the way the want to be eating – but feel like life just constantly throws them curve balls and encourages them to eat more cake, buy more ice cream, and make exceptions to their plan all the time.
So, how can you make healthy eating actually work for you in a consistent way? Here are 3 foolproof ways to make healthy food choices your automatic ‘go to’ every day.
Step 1: Set SMART goals
Goals are great – you probably have them for your career, and maybe even your relationship, but have you stopped to formulate some great food and eating goals as well?
Just like any other goals in your life, healthy eating goals need to be SMART, or
Resonates with you, and
This means you have to think hard about exactly what you want to do, how you’ll measure your success, how to make the goal realistic for you and fit into your life, and when you’re going to pause and assess how things are going.
The problem with most healthy eating goals is that they go something like “I’m going to start eating better”, or “I’m going to cut down on carbs”, or even “I’m quitting sugar from now on”. There’s nothing wrong with trying any of these, but you’re going to need a better plan if you want to succeed.
For example, a SMART goal for “I’m quitting sugar” is:
“For the next 2 weeks (time managed), I am not going to eat or drink any sugar or added sweetener (specific + measurable). Instead, I’ll have a piece of fruit and drink green tea if I feel I need a little something extra (resonates + attainable).”
Step 2: Plan your meals the night before
Meal planning is the most helpful action step you can take to make healthy food choices easy – because you’ve already made them.
Simply sit down for 5 minutes before you go to bed and write down exactly what you’re going to eat the next day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks.
Yes, even if it involves looking up the menu of a restaurant. By making food decisions when you’re relaxed, not hungry, and can give them your full attention, you’ll make way better decisions that are more in-line with your goals.
Now, with the food decisions already made, all you have to do is stick with them. If you feel like you’re going to struggle with that, this is where step 3 comes in.
Step 3: Have an emergency recovery plan
No matter how SMART your goals are, or how much planning you do, there are definitely going to be times when it’s still hard to make healthy choices. Consistency is really key when you’re habit building, so I like to use the superpowers of
- The bigger picture,
- Meditation, and
- Switching gears
To help stay on track.
No matter how dedicated you are to changing your eating, stress, tiredness, and social pressure (to name just a couple of things!) can all make some really convincing sounding arguments as to why you should choose fast food tonight and “start eating healthy again in the morning”. Sometimes that’s ok, but when it’s happening multiple times a week, you’re not going to reach your goals.
So, when you can feel temptation or stress getting the better of you, take a moment to think about the bigger picture of why you want to eat healthier. Is it to be a good role model for you kids? Feel better in your body and be confident you trust yourself with food? Or to avoid carrying on the family history of type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure? Thinking about this bigger picture helps keep you motivated and on-track.
Some Lauri’s Lemonade Stand Podcast episodes that are great for this:
Interview with Katie Arms – take a moment out of your day to find out how Katie took a massive life-curveball and made it work for her on every level.
Interview with me – learn more about my struggle with change, eating, and consistency and how I personally made lasting change.
Interview with Makeda Pennycooke – learn how to transform you fear and make yourself feel safe.
The second secret weapon is meditation. You’re not going to want to do it – but trust me, put an app like headspace on your phone and when you feel yourself going off track in a way you don’t like, pop in your earphones and take a 5 minute timeout. Sometimes that’s all you need to refocus and get on with your day (and stick to the food plan you made the night before).
And finally, when you feel cravings creeping up on you, try mentally switching gears. Research shows that taking a break and doing something totally different with your brain reduces the intensity of cravings. In fact, the research was done using the game ‘Tetris’, which you can put on your phone right now. Fun, and helps you stay healthy.
The process of making healthy eating a habit is really all about practice, but it’s also about being prepared. Don’t expect (or even aim for) perfection, but you can definitely make healthy eating easy and automatic if you follow the 3 steps outlined above. Every great choice you make creates a positive cycle of self-trust, momentum, and motivation that can move your forward each day – towards a happier, healthier you.
About The Author:
Samantha runs Live the Whole and is certified by the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in the US, has a certificate in clinical and pastoral counseling from the University of Glasgow in the UK, and has a degree in psychology from Massey University in New Zealand.
Sam specializes in helping clients manage and heal their relationship with food, body, and self. She uses a blend of positive psychology and mind-body-nutrition connections, along with traditional coaching and counseling methodologies. She works together with clients to uncover the root causes of unwanted eating so they can feel happy, free, and in control.
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Wrenches in the Trenches are not your average, every day kind of hiccups in life. It’s when you’re on a streak of them that they become wrenches in the trenches. The last couple weeks of mine have been definite wrenches in the trenches and it’s not ready to stop just yet. I’m going to share some of this with you only as example, not to be hugely negative. (I promise to end on a positive note!)
My Wrenches This Last Week
My husband and I own a business and while I’ve stepped mostly away to build up Lauri’s Lemonade Stand, I’m still pretty involved. Nothing at that business happens at a convenient time. For example, let’s have our production manager quit without notice and then all of a sudden all of our clients need their orders yesterday. Then two days later your part-timer calls in sick and the day after that your other one does as well. Because this business pays ALL of our bills right now, that means that not only do my husband and I drop everything to keep it going, but my daughter as well. Talk about a family business! And it hasn’t stopped.
My daughter has finished high school, finished a vocational school and only has two mock state board finals to complete before graduating and then taking the state boards on April 3rd. She called the school admin and set up two dates, but that admin didn’t tell the other admin and her dates got taken. Even though we had set up everything with everyone to be there so now we are scrambling to get her a new model (thermolysis – permanent hair removal – have to bring your own model) on the only two dates they have left and one is the day before state boards meaning that if she doesn’t pass, can’t take state boards.
And then there’s the rain. I love rain! But not when it has the possibility of bringing flash floods to recent burn areas or cancels our mountain bike race for the weekend for our local high school mountain bike team and we are scrambling for practices or possible spin classes. That also means canceling hotels, changing plans, re-booking hotels for the next race, etc. I got most of my money back, but others refused a refund.
Last one…then there’s my dumb thyroid and the needle biopsy that hurt like the dickens and bruised my neck only to have the results come back inconclusive and being sent out for genetic testing that will take weeks to get those results. Not freaking out, but definitely a wrench psychologically to have to wait.
Combatting the Wrenches
When life throws more than little hiccups your direction and there seems to be a steady stream, those are your wrenches in the trenches moments. Here’s what I do to combat feeling despair during these crazy life wrenches:
- I do the best I can. I make a list and that list is filled with more stuff than I could ever accomplish in a day and I know it. I then write the numbers 1-3 of the things that are the most important and I start there. If I finish those three, I make another priority of the next 3. And then I let it go. Oh, I’ll get stressed, but I try to do my best and let the rest go.
- I find at least one thing to be grateful for daily. There is something in every day and I write mine in a 5-year journal I keep at my bedside every night. Focusing on something good, writing down, and then I get bonus points if I share it with my hubby cause talking about that good thing makes me happy.
- Look for the silver lining or the lesson learned. I truly believe that things happen for a reason. While our business is still struggling to get caught up, we are grateful to have hired a wonderful new production manager and am embracing the fact that we have lots of work to do which brings us monetary blessings like paying for our mortgage and eating. Kinda important things, right? My daughter was able to find a model for tomorrow and I firmly believe there’s a reason why her schedule got re-arranged. Maybe in finding the new model she’ll meet someone new. Maybe it will be good to do a mock final the day before her state boards so it will be fresh in her memory. I can’t always immediately see the blessing, but I’m on the look out for it! And the rain with the races? Turns out I only lost $6.84 cents for my hotel. I won’t be attending the re-scheduled race because my oldest daughter and my two grandbabies are coming for a visit and that fact alone will save me 6 hours of driving. That’s a blessing! I’m praying that we will not have flash floods, but I am grateful for the much-needed rain in California.
- Last, but certainly not least. If all else fails, give up. Oh, I don’t mean permanently, but sometimes you need to just set everything aside, grab your favorite food and chick flick and zone out. Those problems aren’t going anywhere. Tell them all to take a time-out, re-group yourself and come at it fresh tomorrow.
Wrenches in the Trenches are inevitable, but they do pass. If you’re in one now, I feel ya. The struggle is real. Take heart, this too shall pass.
Please leave your comments below on this article. I would love to hear from you!