Confused about what’s healthy and what’s not? You are not alone!
It’s a challenge to follow a healthy lifestyle in our anything-but-healthy culture. But for most of us, it’s worth the effort to be the most vibrant, healthy version of ourselves that we can.
No matter who you are – how old, how physically or financially limited – you can improve your life by making healthier food choices, moving more, and connecting with others. As a nutritionist for nearly 30 years, I’ve seen people transform their lives through modest lifestyle changes practiced over time.
Here are a few ideas for laying the groundwork for healthy eating.
- Don’t believe the hype. The idea of a pill, potion or diet that will magically excuse you from the reality of how our human bodies work can feel irresistible. But like low-payment mortgages and other investment schemes we’ve learned so much about in the past few years, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. The FDA recently warned that some diet aids can actually do serious physical damage.
The only way for the average person to stay healthy over the long haul is to eat a healthy diet that honors their needs (and for most, features plants) and to be adequately physically active. Within that guideline are limitless paths to get there. The pill or diet might help with a jump-start, but eventually, we all live within the laws of our human physiology.
- Take a positive, additive approach. Weight loss or getting healthy is best experienced as an exercise in getting to know yourself and how your body works. One key is to find some joy – some fun, in learning how to care for yourself well. In my decades of counseling people on lifestyle, I find it’s best to start by adding good things – like physical activity, and servings of fruits and vegetables. That way, the foods and activities that don’t serve you (like French fries, donuts and Law & Order marathons) tend to fall by the wayside with less sacrificial pain. There is a way to enjoy what you eat and follow a healthy diet.
Here’s an exercise: on a piece of paper, make a list of things that fuel your life force. List things large (vacation on the beach!) and small (get myself flowers!), expensive and free (call an old friend!) – everything from getting outside, taking a great bath, being active, reading – whatever fuels your passion, or is fun, or feels good. Here’s a tip: people who take excellent care of themselves give themselves things that fuel their life force. And taking excellent care of yourself makes a healthy lifestyle easier and more fun to stick with.
- Know where your journey begins. There is a slew of good (and free) web-based assessment tools to help you figure out what and how much you’re eating right now. That’s really the first step in finding out where you want to go. Step on the scale, find your BMI and see where you are on the sliding scale from underweight to obese. For most of these assessment numbers, see them then set them aside, and focus on the habits. It’s easy to get fixated on “I knew I struggled with weight but now I see I’m obese – I’m no good and it’s hopeless.” When those kinds of thoughts pop up, see if you can turn it around to a positive, like “I knew things were getting out of hand, and now I know the situation and can do something about it – I can do this.” So long as you are focused on positive change and positive habits your life is likely to get better. Everyone has difficulty with something in their life. It’s how you work it in your mind that makes the difference between success and spinning your wheels.
- Remember that with diet, “relapse” always happens. One of my wise teaching friends at Kripalu says “progress not perfection,” and with diet, there will always be a wedding or dinner with friends or just a day when you haven’t eaten well. Often, people feel like they’ve failed when they’re not perfect, and slide into the land of “it’s too hard” and “I can’t do this” and “it doesn’t really matter,” and they give up. It can be months before they try it again. If only they knew that it’s natural not to be perfect! If you ‘fall off the wagon’, dust yourself off, have a glass of water, forgive yourself and get back to practice as soon as you can – the same day, the next morning, but soon. Think about what made healthy eating too difficult – that can be an experiment for next time. That’s how real change happens.
Here’s to your practice of fun and good health.
- Food Is Everything: What Is It to You?
- The Politics of Protein
- 3 Big Lies Weighing You Down
- Easy Healthy Recipes
Want to stay connected and join others on this path to wholeness?
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You can also check out opportunities to study with me.