5 Ways to Make Healthy Eating Sustainable

5 Ways to Make Healthy Eating Sustainable

Sustainable healthy eating.

Sounds like a bit of a magical unicorn, doesn’t it? I definitely used to think so.

But I’m here to tell you it is, in fact, not a magical unicorn. It’s a real possibility and attainable goal. You can find a way to make your eating habits become a way of life, foreverOf course this requires effort, diligence, and constant refinement, but if you put in the effort, it will happen! 

I typically recommend following an 80/20% split when it comes to eating healthy foods. What that means is prioritizing health for about 80% of your food choices and using the other 20% to enjoy your food in a way that will make it sustainable for you.

Many people get confused as to what this looks like exactly or how to apply this principle in real life, so below are a 5 easy-to-follow recommendations and examples on what this can look like. They are by no means requirements or hard-and-fast rules. They are merely guidelines to set you in the right direction to finding what sustainable healthy eating looks like for you. Because in the end, it looks quite differently for everyonei!

1. Don’t stress about the condiments.

Is it better to make your own olive oil and lemon juice dressing? Obviously, yes! BUT, what if you allowed yourself to have ranch with your salad, and that kept you satisfied and eating salads every day of the week? In the end, isn’t that better for you than creating your own salad dressing that you don’t really enjoy, resulting in you trying for about a week and then giving up salads all together? Getting your raw veggies in with a small amount of dressing that may be less than optimal will help you feel satisfied and get your healthy foods in for a lifetime.

This applies to sauces as well. Yes, there is always more optimal sauce or salsa you can buy, but sometimes stores offer a limited selection. Or your budget only allows for a limited selection. My recommendation? Do your best. Put the effort in to look at the ingredients and read the labels. Find the one with the least amount of ingredients and the least amount of inflammatory ingredients that your budget allows. Don’t sweat making your own from scratch or buying organic only.

Remember: it’s not all-or-nothing. BETTER IS BETTER!

2. Save your carbs for something you really enjoy.

This one is confusing for many people. We usually think that we should eat the “healthier” version of everything, at all times, when eating healthy. This is just simply not the case. Sometimes eating the less healthy version that contains approximately the same amount of macronturients will be enough to keep us satisfied but also not enough to derail us away from our goals.

The focus here is on carbohydrates because most of the “treats” or foods we enjoy that aren’t necessarily the best for us are higher in carbohydrates, which promote fat gain in many people. So to manage this, reserve your carbohydrate intake for something such as a piece of chocolate or a banana and almond butter with your protein shake or some ice cream. A small addition to your meal or food for the day that will keep you feeling satisfied.

For example, instead of eating a sweet potato with your meal just because it’s supposed to be “healthier”, replace the potato with something that has the same amount (or less) carbohydrates and is way higher on your personal satisfaction scale. Personally, I would rather have a small bowl of fruit. Or a chocolate chunk cookie. Or if we are out at a restuarant, I usually opt for regular french fries. The latter foods rate much higher on my satisfaction scale and help keep me from feeling overly restricted.

Make sure you are being smart about your carbohydrate intake, but use it to play around with what makes you feel the most satisfied. Sometimes the small switch in foods makes the biggest difference in your satisfaction level, warding off the feelings of the need to binge or “fall off the wagon”.

3. Ensure that each of your meals is at least a 7/10* on the satisfaction scale.

This is especially important for those of you like myself who have a difficult time with your relationship with food. My husband will eat almost anything, and as long as it filled his tummy, he’s satisfied- for the most part. I, on the other hand, am a little more high maintenance with how easily I feel satsfied. I used to give myself a hard time, but of course realized that was not productive. Instead, I use this to guide my meal selections. I purposefully plan majority of my meals around food I actually enjoy!

Also, just because a food or meal is healthy, doesn’t mean you have to eat it! There are healthy foods that I don’t really like. That’s perfectly okay. I still eat foods that are lower on my satisfaction scale if they are healthy, but they are counterbalanced with foods I love, like bacon.

*It obviously doesn’t need to be exactly 7/10, but they should definitely be above a 5. Life is too short to eat less than 5/10 meals :). 

4. Eat food you enjoy throughout the week. 

One of the biggest mistakes women often make when pursuing optimal health and happiness is restricting themselves all week, using willpower to make it through the week so that come Friday or Saturday they could start their weekend binge. In the end this restrict then binge habit is so hard on our bodies. Instead, normalize the food you’re eating on the weekends.

How do you do that? Start by eating pizza on a Tuesday. Or enjoying a burger on a Wednesday, instead of eating chicken and broccoli all week knowing  that you just have to make it to Friday because Friday is pizza day. And if you are working to avoid refined carbs, try a healthier pizza crust or skip the bun for big romaine lettuce leaves. Dissociating your more enjoyable meals with the weekends is one of the biggest steps to overcoming the restricting and binge eating cycle.

Plus, bingeing Friday-Sunday night is 30% of your week, more than enough to totally wreck your goals!

5. Set priorities for each meal.

First and foremost, priotize your protein source. Protein is what keeps us full and satisfied, which is the purpose of food, so wouldn’t it make sense to prioritize this part of your meals? Even in restaurants, one of the first questions I ask myself when looking at the options is, “What protein is in this meal?” OR “What protein can be added?”. If there isn’t enough protein in a meal, I know I will be hungry later, which can lead to poor food choices.

Secondly, prioritize vegetables for every single meal. Of course, this isn’t always possible. BUT it should still remain a priority.

Finally, add in something that will help you enjoy the meal. Sometimes this is something simple like butter on your vegetables. Sometimes it’s potatoes. Personally, this often looks like a glass of wine with a piece of chocolate or sweet treat to finish out my evening meals.

REMEMBER:

These are guidelines, not concrete rules. Everything should be adaptable when it comes to nutrition because we are rarely in a perfect routine with everything we need or want at our finger tips.  These are, however, great starting points making the transformation from yo-yo dieting to sustainable healthy eating for a lifetime.

Diets and routines of meal prepping may last a few weeks or months. BUT, working on the skills to put together your own meals no matter your resources or current situation? Those are skills that will help you eat healthy for a lifetime!

4 Less Obvious Benefits of Fasting

4 Less Obvious Benefits of Fasting

For the purpose of this article, let’s start with a brief synopsis on my background with fasting. I began fasting 4-5 years ago. It started with fasting in the morning, replacing breakfast with bulletproof coffee. Then it turned into pushing the first meal back to 1-2 pm. Now, I rarely eat before noon and have begun incorporating 1 or 2 24-hr fasts in my weekly diet.

*GASP* “THE HORROR! “ “How do you do that?” “I could never!” “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

First, in response to the last comment- breakfast literally comes from “breaking the fast”. It doesn’t matter when it is. The purpose of it is to break the fast from our last meal before bed.

If you are anything like I was about 5 years ago, you are cringing at the mere thought of going without food for any length of time. You have muttered at least 1 of the phrases above. And you are probably also thinking people who fast are insane because who would voluntarily do that? I get it, those were my thoughts at one point, too. But the bottom line is we overeat. We are run by food. We plan our entire lives around our feeding times, and we are more concerned with when our next meal is than people who rarely have enough to eat could even fathom. And we do all of this with an overabundance of food available at our fingertips! We have completely fucked up our relationship with food. The processed and fast foods out there have completely exploited our primal reward pathways and made us more obsessed with food than ever.

Ever been in a relationship with a needy significant other? The kind that constantly needs you for everything. Is always worried you’re cheating. Constantly checking up on you. Always asking for approval. That is how we have become with food. Needy. Obsessed. We have completely surrendered our control. How unempowering is that? Ugh. Now that is cringe-worthy.

The great news? Everything is temporary. And so is our current relationship with food. It’s possible to change it and take control again.  I’ve done it. It’s freeing. Empowering. No longer needing something that once controlled all of your decision-making power? One of the greatest transformations. Yes, it requires self-discipline and effort. Everything awesome does. But the benefits are at least tenfold to any hardship fasting comes with. There are numerous health benefits of fasting that can include things like increased insulin sensitivity, weight loss, anti-cancer benefits, etc. You can find many sciencey articles written by people far smarter than me about these benefits. But there’s more to it. Here are 4 less-obvious benefits of fasting that I’ve learned over the last 4-5 years.

 

1. More time.

Time. Eveyone’s favorite excuse for lacking in the health department. The irony? We spend an ABSURD amount of time obsessing over food. Why? Because we can. Because we have more TIME than we ever realize. And because we justify it with necessity- thinking we need to eat to survive. We do need food to survive, obviously, but not as much as we all lead ourselves to believe.

Take a minute to imagine if you only had to plan for and eat one meal a day. Or what if, for 1 or 2 days of the week, you didn’t need to prepare any food? Imagine how much time you’d free up! Less meal planning, less decisions to make, etc.

P.S. To those of you who are still thinking, “Yeah right, I could never!”, you’re way more capable than you would ever imagine. Stop limiting yourself with those thoughts. Stop it right now and open your mind! #growthmindset

2. More willpower.

Yes, this actually happens. Once you master fasting, your relationship with food changes. It no longer controls you. You gain the willpower to refrain from food that you think would taste amazing. You gain the freedom to make rational choices about your food. You gain an abundance mindset about food.

This means that when you see cookies brought in from a customer at work, you’ll have the power to refrain from eating them, knowing that if you really want a cookie, you can always have one later BECAUSE THERE ARE PLENTY OF COOKIES IN THE WORLD. No matter the type, you can always find one another time.  By the time “later” rolls around, you’ll have forgotten about it. Or if not, you’ll have a cookie because you really want one. Not just because it’s in front of you at the moment.

Does this mean you will never crave or “give-in” to any of those foods ever again? Hell no. Those foods tap into a primal reward pathway that will always be there. But you will be more likely to stop yourself and think about whether you actually want to eat them. You’ll have the ability to rationalize if eating that particular food or cookie at work is actually worth the negative effects within your body.

In a nutshell: you’ll be less inclined to opt-in every time an unhealthy food option presents itself.

3. Less stress.

This goes along with #1. Not only does food take up a ridiculous amount of our time, but we STRESS about it too. I’ve known that eating healthy is better all my life. My mom is a nurse and always instilled the idea that we need to eat veggies more than cookies. Then I entered the real world and moved out of my parent’s house.

As I began studying exercise science and health, I started learning more about healthy eating. This didn’t exactly help me make better decisions. It just made me stress about the decisions I was making about food. I would stress out every time I ate pizza, knowing that I hardly ate vegetables or anything that resembled real food. Perfect example that knowledge does not always equate with better decision-making.

We stress about when we will be able to eat next when we’re busy. We stress about what exactly we should eat. We stress about the food we eat when we know we should do better. That’s a lot of stress eliminated when you have a few less meals to worry about. Or when you gain the confidence in your ability to go without a meal no problem.

4. Empowerment.

When food no longer controls you, you will feel more in your power. By removing the emotional attachment from food, you are reclaiming your power to make rational decisions about what’s best for you, rather than what your gluttonous subconscious brain wants.

Imagine being the needy partner in that relationship I described above. Lacking in self-confidence. Unsure about yourself and what you are. Afraid every day that your partner is leaving you (#scarcitymindset). Every decision you make feeling like it’s out of your control. Made out of fear. Uncertainty about the future. 

Now imagine if you focused on improving your confidence. Decreasing your need for that other person. Realizing that you actually don’t need him or her after all. Finally coming to terms with the fact that they are actually not leaving you (hello, #abundancemindset!). That is empowerment!

That’s what can happen with your relationship with food by approaching fasting with an open mindset. When you begin fasting, you begin to mend this relationship. You learn self-discipline. You get a clear perspective on what hunger really means. And I firmly believe we all need to experience hunger more often. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Spoiler Alert: There Is No “Wagon”

Spoiler Alert: There Is No “Wagon”

Have you ever heard someone explain that they “fell off the wagon” after a weekend of indulging? Or that they “got back on the wagon” after joining a gym or eating a salad?

The concept of ” the wagon” is derived from a flawed mindset. This mindset assumes that being healthy is a finite thing; hence the invention of a tangible object {the wagon} that we are either on or off depending on our choices. However, like most things in life, it’s not quite as black and white. Instead, it is more of a spectrum, and it looks different for every person.

Understanding this concept is key for maintaining healthy behaviors, for sustainability.

Instead of thinking of yourself as on or off with healthy behaviors, try to turn that on-off switch to more of a dimmer. 

How in the world do you do that?

1.) Stop thinking of yourself as on or off the wagon {because again it doesn’texist}.

2.) Enjoy foods that are considered less healthy occasionally. Make sure these are foods that you really enjoy, not just foods that are available to you at the moment. It’s just food, and it is important to incorporate foods you really enjoy in your diet regularly in order to decrease the feeling of restriction. This is key for creating sustainability.

3.) Think more about the long term. Losing weight is a great goal for some people, but what happens once the weight is off? Once again, if you want to create these healthy behaviors for life, they must be sustainable. This means thinking beyond the achievement of whatever goal you decide is right for you. Why put all the effort and work in your health without intentions of maintaining it?!

So what does this look like IRL?

Here is a picture from one of my Saturday activities. I went kayaking with some friends, and we decided to stop for drinks after at this cute beach bar on the water.

I enjoyed this beer with beautiful scenery, wonderful people, and great conversation.

Would water have been a more healthy option? Duh.

But the beer was the right choice for me at the time. I enjoyed it, and I did not once feel guilty or feel like I “fell off the wagon”.

This is just one example, but it is a pretty accurate representation of how I live my life. I enjoy chocolate and glasses of wine throughout the week. Occasionally, I opt for beer when I go out. But none of this means I was “bad” during the week or fell off the proverbial wagon. They are just examples of my personal sustainable healthy lifestyle.

Some days you may just want to enjoy some pizza with friends. Or you may feel the need to skip the gym and take a long walk instead. Both are perfectly OK. Enjoy the sh*t out of that pizza and embrace every beautiful thing you see on that long walk. They are just decisions for one brief moment in your entire life. They do not define you or make you a bad person.

It is possible to live a healthy life that you love; you just have to create it.

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