Author, Nesrine Cheikh, RD
Often times it can be difficult to make lifestyle changes and stay on track with healthy lifestyle habits. Many people tend to go on diets for a particular purpose, such as weight loss. You are probably familiar with the idea “I need to lose weight for a special event”. But why is it so short-term and not healthy eating habits for the rest of your life? I’ve also heard the popular “I need to lose this vacation/holiday weight”. The concern with this mentality is that you may find yourself doing unrealistic or unhealthy things to help you lose weight in a short period of time. Then, maintaining your new weight becomes challenging to manage and many people revert back to unhealthy behaviours. Healthy habits should be ongoing, so here are 7 tips to help you stay on track to living a healthy lifestyle for life!
1. Set SMART goals on a weekly basis
Setting a SMART goal means that it should be: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. You are much more likely to follow something if you make it customizable for YOU! Something I like to tell my clients is to set things in your calendar or set an alarm to constantly remind you to do something productive for your health. An example can be to set an alarm on your phone at least 3 times a day to remind you to drink water! Or, make a SMART exercise goal. For example, “yoga at home, Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 6-7 pm for 30 minutes.
2. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is about balance! Eat healthy most of the time and have your favourite unhealthy foods as a treat-There is no such thing as a cheat day! Listen to your body- whether it’s weight loss or just becoming healthier, never push your body over the edge to the point where you are likely to revert back to unhealthy habits. Mindful eating means maintaining a positive relationship with food and listening to your body’s hunger and satiety cues.
3. Stock up on healthy foods
Stick to a grocery list when food shopping and always stock your kitchen with healthy foods. Most of the time, we tend to snack on foods that aren’t so healthy, leading to unnecessary calories your body may not need. The trick is, if you don’t buy it you won’t eat it! Therefore, buy healthier foods such as vegetables and fruit (frozen or fresh), whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and lean proteins. Avoid purchasing processed foods such as chips, chocolates, candies, packaged soups and prepared dinners. These foods are usually high in fat, sugar and salt and can make staying on track a lot more difficult.
4. Make sure all your meals are balanced
It is very important to ensure that your meals are well balanced so that you can feel full and satisfied as well as have all the nutrients you need to fulfill your body’s needs. Try and have half your plate as vegetables (at least two different kinds). Vegetables don’t always have to be boring. Experiment with different flavours or maybe try new vegetables you have never had before. The other half of your plate should consist of protein and starch (1/4 each). Try and aim for whole grains or starches with more fibre. For example, leave the skin on potatoes for added fibre (just make sure you rinse them really well!). When it comes to protein, look for leaner meats or remove the skin off of chicken. You can also try more vegetarian sources of protein like legumes, lentils, nuts and meat substitutes made from soybeans.
5. Ignore fad diets
There is ALWAYS a new fad diet out there and it can be very confusing to follow what’s best for you. What most of these fad diets have in common is the fact that they are very calorie-restrictive. Although weight loss can be achieved, these diets tend to result in short-term outcomes, be very difficult to sustain, lack important nutrients and have the potential to lead to very restrictive and unhealthy eating habits. There is no “one size fits all” and it is important to understand that making small lifestyle changes can lead to better long-term outcomes.
6. Keep active with something you LOVE
There is nothing worse than hating something that is important for your health. Some of my clients dread having to exercise and use it as a form of “punishment” for “eating too many calories”. That should NEVER be the case! Find an activity or sport that you actually enjoy doing. Don’t just go to the gym because you feel like you have to. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, as long as you are active! You are more likely to stick to it if it’s something you love. Whether it’s walking, biking, swimming, yoga, at-home exercises, group classes, etc-make sure it is fun, engaging and makes you feel GOOD!
7. Get back on the wagon ASAP!
We often hear ‘I’ll get back to my diet after the long weekend’ or ‘I can’t follow a diet this week because we’re on vacation.’ This often leads to ‘well, I may as wait to start my diet until the Fall.’ If you continue to procrastinate, you will never make the changes necessary for your health. The best time to eat healthy is now! Every day, every meal, every bite is a new opportunity to choose health. It is also unhealthy to think that you need to “diet” to accomplish a small goal like “fit into a pair of pants”. If you consistently think that way, you will continue to yo-yo. This is a very unhealthy habit and only leads to worsened relationships with food and poor self-image. A healthy lifestyle is about sustainability, love for your body and enjoyment. It should never be about punishment and negativity. Make small, specific and realistic changes in your life and surround yourself with people that help you achieve your health goals in a positive way. Start making changes that will help you succeed in the long term and stop waiting, start today!
Unsure where to start? Book an appointment with a Registered Dietitian and start making the appropriate changes to help you succeed! Contact [email protected] for your free 20-minute phone consult!