5 Tips to Create a Real Life Healthy Diet
I don’t know about you, but I am so fed up with fad diets. I’m fed up of hearing about the latest fad diet, that I can “lose 7 pounds in 7 days” and I’m fed up of arguing over which diet is better. The reality is, there is no better diet, there is no best diet, and there is no perfect diet. It just doesn’t exist. Humans are all different, biochemically unique, and have different needs. We are different ages and genders, with different heights, weights, and backgrounds. We have different interests, activity levels, and health goals. So, to think that there is one “perfect” diet that will work for everyone is simplistic at best. In truth, the perfect diet is simply the one that you enjoy, makes you feel your best, and that you can maintain for the long-term.
The truth is, anyone can follow a 2-week detox or complete a 4-week challenge, that’s easy, but keeping healthy habits for the long-term is the hard part. It’s easy to swing the pendulum from one extreme to the other, eating nothing but leafy greens only to fall face first into a tub of ice cream, but what is hard is keeping healthy habits going for the days, weeks, months and years to come long afterwards. To me, it’s more important to look at the big picture and there is a big difference between what a healthy diet looks like on paper vs. what it looks like in real life. If you want to keep things going for the long-term you’ve got to be adaptable, you’ve got to be resourceful, and most importantly, you’ve got to be kind to yourself.
1. Drop the Idea of “Perfect”
When it comes to real life, there is no perfect. There is no perfect job, perfect family, perfect body or perfect diet. You will not eat perfectly every day, you will not eat perfectly balanced meals every day, at the perfect time of day, with the perfect person, or in the perfect setting. Not only is “perfect” not a thing, but it’s not even realistic to think that you could do things perfectly if it was. Some days you will make a homemade dinner from scratch and other days you will eat a bowl of cereal for dinner. Some days you will eat at the dinner table with family and other days you will eat alone in your car rushing to get to your next meeting. Some days you will eat a perfectly balanced meal and other days you will eat a spoonful of peanut butter, whatever you can find in the fridge and just call it a day. Look, it happens, it’s not bad, it’s real, and the reality is that you can do ALL of these things and still be eating a healthy diet. It’s not about one isolated meal, one isolated dish or one isolated incident, it is about the cumulative things that you do throughout the days, weeks, months and years.
2. Be Open to Failure
Regardless of where you are in your health journey, or what you are looking to accomplish, you need to be open to the idea that things are not always going to go the way you want them to. The only way to learn is by doing. You likely didn’t nail walking the first time you tried or riding a bike or your favourite hobby, you likely learned from trying and failing and trying again. Unfortunately, so many people are afraid to fail that it stops them from even trying in the first place. You may have to make 10 recipes before one turns out, you may have to try different eating styles before you find one that works for you, and that is ok, in fact, it’s necessary. The only way to figure out what works best for you is to try different things, there are no shortcuts, and there is no shame in it. Anyone who has experienced success in any way, shape, or form knows that there are bumps in the road along the way, but without the bumps, success does not exist. Success is a slow road, not a quick fix, and the actual journey is a far more valuable lesson than reaching the goal.
3. Have a Handful of Real Food Recipes
I truly believe that one of the biggest secrets to eating well for the long-term is the ability to cook. I certainly don’t think that people need to be the next Masterchef in order to eat well (I am certainly not), but a few basic skills in the kitchen will make things a whole lot easier. A baked chicken breast and steamed broccoli is certainly a healthy option, but how long can you eat that before it gets boring? With only a handful of basic recipes, you can take something really simple and make it taste really good, which makes the process of eating well so much more enjoyable. You don’t need all the tools in your toolkit to get started, you just need a few.
4. Learn to Differentiate Hunger from Craving
Ouff, this one is a lot easier said than done, but it needs to be said. We all intuitively know what to eat; we know that vegetables are healthy, we know to drink water, and we know to limit junk food. So, if we already know this, why do we still make the decisions that we do? Feelings. Food is SO powerful. Food not only causes a physical response in our body, but it causes an emotional response too. We seek comfort in food, so we often reach for it in time of need, stress, sadness, fear and happiness, and although there is certainly a time and a place for eating during those moments, too much of a good thing can also be a bad thing. One of the most difficult parts of eating well consistently is identifying these triggers, patterns and connections in ourselves. Are you eating because you are actually hungry, or are you just bored? Are you snacking because you need to, or because you are stressed out? Humans are wired to eat and when food is around all of the time (the way it is now), we often end up eating out of habit, ritual, boredom and feeling. It is important to understand that there is a big difference between being truly hungry and emotional hunger, however, if you can learn to identify the difference it’s a complete game changer. This takes time, and practice, and more time, and more practice, but it is worth it. You need to pay attention, take a look at yourself and ask some hard hitting questions. Am I actually hungry? What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this? How else can I resolve it? It’s rough, honestly, but if you do the work it pays off tenfold. Keep a food journal, track what you eat, track how you feel, and try to make the connections, because once you do you can take control.
5. Create Habits that YOU Enjoy
If you want to create a healthy lifestyle that works for real life and lasts for the long-term you need to create habits that you actually enjoy. I want people to find what works for them, not what I or someone else tells them works for them. If you hate kale, don’t eat it. If you can’t stand smoothies, don’t drink them. Like broccoli? Cool, eat more of that. Like soup for lunch? Cool, do more of that. Sure, I share recipes and meals plans on my website and in my programs, but they are provided for ideas and inspiration, not for people to follow blindly. Changing your eating habits is hard, requires consistency and takes time, so if you want them to stick, you need to create ones that you actually enjoy.
The Bottom Line
People who have success with their eating habits have found a plan that works for them, not someone else. You need to be kind to yourself, realize that you won’t do things “perfectly” all of the time, and realize that is important to experience bumps in the road and learn the lessons from them. Creating a healthy diet that works in the real world actually involves treats and indulgences and highs and lows. It is a continual journey that doesn’t end, you need to keep working at things, keep learning, and keep trying new things. In truth, learning to eat a healthy diet is not an end goal, the goal is the journey.