When someone decides that it is time to make a change, the first thing I recommend doing is evaluating their thoughts about food. Yes, many experts will tell you to clean out the kitchen and start making meal plans first, but in my years of working with clients I’ve learned that the foundation of assessing thoughts and feelings about food is critical to creating a new lifestyle that lasts. Here are some prompts to help you get started:
- Why do you eat? Physical hunger may be the primary reason, but you’ll probably find that there are other reasons – comfort, social situations, stress, joy, etc. Whatever it is for you, identify feelings and situations that encourage you to either eat or overeat.
- Where do you eat? Do you sit at the table with loved ones and enjoy the flavors in your food, or do you eat standing at a counter, in your car, or at your desk at work?
- What do you eat? Are you eating things that you truly enjoy the flavor of, or are you grabbing the quickest and easiest food available?
- How do you eat? Do you savor the flavor and enjoy each bite, or is it a race to finish the food so you can get back to work or the next thing on your to-do list?
- When do you eat? Do you have 3 meals a day, or are you snacking all day long? Do you skip meals and then overeat at the first opportunity? Does your schedule allow for eating at regular intervals or at least when you are experiencing physical hunger?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin to see the natural improvements that could be made to support your new healthy lifestyle. Affirmations are an incredibly powerful tool when trying to create healthy new habits, and the most effective affirmations are those that truly resonate with you. If you’ve identified an area of struggle, create an affirmation that counteracts that behavior. Here are some examples.
- If you’ve identified that your worst food choices happen when you are in a hurry, you could create an affirmation like, “I value my health and honor my body by setting aside time to nourish it with food. No matter how hectic my schedule may be, I make time to fuel my body. I deserve the extra minutes it takes to sit down and eat a nutritious meal instead of eating empty calories on the go.”
- If you’ve identified that eating too fast is an issue for you, your affirmations could be, “I eat slowly, savoring each bite of food. I set my fork down between bites and allow myself time to chew one bite before taking another. I honor my body by giving it time to digest the food I eat.”
Once you’ve identified some areas of struggle and created affirmations to counteract these issues, you can begin the practical steps of improving your diet. There’s no need to adopt a specific eating plan unless that is something that appeals to you. The basics are sufficient to help you begin feeling better, having more energy, and start losing some weight.
- Limit processed and packaged “convenience” foods. If you use these because you are limited on time, swap them out for pre-washed and chopped fruits and vegetables, bagged salads, and prepared meats such as rotisserie chicken.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. You’ll find all the fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, and dairy here. Ditch the packaged crackers, cookies, cereals, and other snacks and you’ll ditch a lot of extra calories in the process.
- Don’t drink your calories. Increase your water intake and skip the soda (this includes diet soda), milk, juice, and alcohol.
- Track your food via MyFitnessPal or a similar app. Most of us underestimate how many calories we are eating. Tracking is a great way to see what’s really happening and identify areas of improvement.
- Get moving. Walking 30 to 45 minutes a day most days of the week is a great place to start. If that’s more than you can handle, start with what you can do and build from there.
Remember, lasting change happens one small step at a time. You are worth it, and you can do it. And when you focus on changing your mind and your body at the same time, you’ll be astounded at the changes you can make.