Ready to create some excellent eating habits? Here’s your guide to finally conquering your unhealthy eating.
For far too many of us, a healthy, balanced and yummy diet seems like a pipe dream.
After all, we have tried countless times, with different plans, diets and tricks to master our nutrition, racking up defeat after defeat.
This string of disappointments builds a mindset that a super healthy diet is only for people who have super-duper amounts of willpower. Or we view those who eat consistently well simply as people who can better tolerate depriving themselves of snacks and treats.
And so we carry this baggage along with us, never really coming to grips with how to have better eating habits, seemingly content to half-ass try another diet and inevitably fall flat on our faces.
Now, I am not saying that developing better eating habits is going to be easy.
Certainly not as easy as going to Subway and eating a foot-long sub made of the same stuff that yoga mats are made with.
But there are certainly things that you can do to make it easier.
Just as importantly, your road to cleaner eating, and the King Kong-sized benefits that come along with it, require a particular change of mindset.
The key to developing better eating habits requires three things:
- Changing your mindset when it comes to food. Most of us eat for reward. Not performance. Mistake number one, as this justifies eating like a dumpster.
- Making better food choices routine. Eating like a champion requires putting as much of your eating and nutrition on auto-pilot. We’ll discuss a couple ways to make better eating habitual.
- Improving the likelihood of those new habits sticking. With a goal routine in mind, I’ll share a few proven ways to increase the stickiness of those new eating habits so that they last over those first few critical weeks, and then in the long-term.
Step #1: Rethinking our relationship with food
Developing a healthier relationship with food requires adjusting the way we view and treat our meals.
This means that you need to stop treating food as a reward.
The expectations that we have with our meals now is this:
- It needs to taste absolutely delicious and savory (otherwise it’s just eww);
- It needs to be cheap (because why spend money on something that can actually legitimately improve our lives), and;
- It needs to be ultra-convenient (because we have better things to do with our time).
These little lies are so pervasive because we are inundated with them everywhere we look.
Watch television for longer than 3 minutes and you will see an avalanche of convenient, “healthy” and super tasty foods being marketed at you in full HD. We are told over and over again that eating a particular type of meal or food is going to make us feel good, that it tastes good, and that we deserve it.
What they never talk about is how you are going to feel and perform on that food. Sure, it might taste good when you are biting into it, but what’s next? An almost immediate sense of sluggish shame.
How many times have you felt gross or shame after eating a well-balanced, nutritious meal?
Why wouldn’t you want to feel that way all the time when you eat?
That’s the reward you should be seeking when eating something, not the momentary sense of “I deserve this” when sinking your teeth into a Big Mac.
Spot question: When eating, stop yourself and ask–How am I going to feel after eating this? More energetic? Ready to take on the world? Or like I need to go looking for the nearest washroom?
To repeat: The way you feel after eating should be the reward.
Secondly, make your nutrition a priority.
Eating properly goes beyond looking good. In fact, it’s one of the very few things that you can do that will improve literally every area of your life.
Your mood will improve. You will get sick less. You will have more energy to work out and do the things you want to do in life. And you’ll be healthier and live a longer, more enjoyable life.
What the fuck else do you need?
Instead of trying to outsmart your body with supplements and quick-fix get-in-shape devices, give it what it needs.
This means scheduling time for your meals. Taking the time to prepare meals that will fuel you instead of just scratch the itches of your cravings.
Saying you don’t have enough time means that you are satisfied with running at half-speed and half-energy.
Step #2: Building better eating habits
Now that you (hopefully) grasp the importance of eating like a champion, here’s the fastest way to making smarter, healthier meals
First, plan your meals.
Where most of us get into trouble is eating according to cravings. The fact is, our cravings can largely not be trusted. They are like drunk little sugar goblins who want sustenance and don’t really care in what form. As a result, we reach for what is easiest.
Sit down with a nutritionist or dietitian with your food journal (more on that shortly), and put together a meal plan that matches your lifestyle, your activity level, and your goals. Most of you will scoff at this step, but if you want to change your eating habits having professional help will go a long way in helping you succeed.
(Surprise, surprise—accountability in the form of having others help has been shown to dramatically influence how well we adhere to our goals in the kitchen.)
Secondly, prep your meals.
The power of meal prepping is hard to overstate.
After literally decades of eating like an arsehole it’s been the thing to nearly completely overhaul my eating habits. As a result, much better workouts, higher overall energy, quicker recovery between sessions (especially on days where I have both AM and PM practices), and even better digestive, uh, moments.
Preparing your meals has a wealth of benefits, the most powerful of which is that it makes healthy meals the convenient option.
At the beginning of the week, or whenever, really, sit down and plan out your meals and prepare a bunch of them at once. Stocking a bunch of meal prep containers with healthy meals eliminates a lot of the willpower issues that we face when we are hungry and craving food.
So when the end of the day comes around, and you are feeling like you are running low on willpower, and those sugar goblins are picketing and screaming for goodies, you can nuke a healthy meal in less than a minute.
Step #3: Increase the stickiness of your new eating habits.
In this final step, we are going to look at a few different strategies
First, schedule stuff.
Making healthier eating habits habitual is a whole lot easier when you have a schedule.
For example, every Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night are when I do meal prep. “When I feel like it” is not a good enough scheduling option.
Set a time and a place.
Research in the form of implementation intentions has shown that when we set detailed appointments for ourselves we are far more likely to follow through with them.
Second, drop the crap. Today.
There are foods that you know are bad for you…and yet, you keep them around anyway. You don’t need it. And perhaps most critically, you don’t need the temptation, so throw it out. Today. Now.
As mentioned, you know they are bad for you. Sometimes it takes someone else telling you how unbelievably detrimental to your body, immune system, energy levels, and results in the gym that these foods are for you to shake you out of the belief that you can control yourself around the crappy food items you have in your house. Research has shown that if it’s in the vicinity, we will eat it. Doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, convenience trumps it all. Make eating poorly more difficult than eating well. That simple.
Third, write out your meals.
For most of us, we are going at this whole “eating good” thing on our own, which means that we don’t really have anyone to answer to if we fall off the rails and face-plant a large pizza on a Wednesday afternoon.
Writing out your meals in a food journal will force a level of accountability and self-awareness on you that will help you stay on track over the long term.
Taking the next step
As you work towards eating better remember that everyone’s path to eating well is different. For some, it will take a few days and they’ve got the hang of it. For others, it’s a lifelong process.
There’ll be hiccups, there’ll be moments where you fall off, and periods where you want to quit because you aren’t seeing progress fast enough. This is natural.
And as better eating becomes more habitual, it will get easier.
You just need to stick it out for a few weeks and months and let those new habits start to sink in and take root.
Rethink your relationship with food. Focus on how it makes you feel after you eat.
Plan and prep for success.
Do what you can to make those new habits as stick as possible.
Questions? Thoughts? Sign up for my motivational newsletter below and let me hear them. I’d be more than happy to help you out any way that I can.
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