So you’ve decided to make healthy eating a daily habit. The benefits of eating more healthfully go far beyond the way your clothes fit. Healthy eating is better for your body and if you do it right, better for your mind as well!
If it were as simple as deciding to eat healthier, we would have no problem. The challenge with eating healthier is that it’s not a set-it-and-forget it deal. Instead, we have to weave it into our daily life at the same time. That can get tricky.
Below are some common mistakes and suggestions to make the transition a successful one.
6 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Trying to Eat Healthier (and what to do instead)
1. You go to the grocery store on a Saturday, fill your shopping cart with anything that looks “healthy,” and plan all of your meals for the next week.
The problem: If you develop a plan on a relaxed Saturday to carry you through the rest of your hectic workweek, it’s likely not going to get you past Tuesday.
What to do instead: Optimism is a wonderful thing but the bottom line is that your motivation is only as strong as it is at the hardest part of your day. While planning ahead is wise, you want to make sure your plan has flexibility. When you decide on a new eating routine, make sure the change is simple enough to get you through your most stressful times. Create your plan around it and build from there.
2. You do a complete overhaul of your meals in one day.
The problem: Eating has anchors in culture, relationships, self-care, stress management, and many other aspects of our lives. Change it all in one day and you’re tampering with more than just your nutrition.
What to do instead: Make slow and steady changes. You can’t quit one habit or coping strategy without replacing it with another. Your mind and more specifically, your emotions, have a harder time with food changes than your body!Make slow, steady changes so you have time to adjust both physically and emotionally.
3. You post your plan on social media. You’re super-excited and you want everyone to know!
The problem: This is dangerous because the first few days of changing your eating habits is usually…shaky. You’ll have wonderful, Pinterest-worthy days and then you’ll have days where you get your money’s worth at the all-you-can-eat buffet. While there is no shame in these very normal stops and starts, posting it on social media before you reach your goal can set you up for possibly feeling embarrassed when you have an off-day.
What to do instead: Be sure to post after you meet your daily goal.
4. You’re eating too much of a good thing.
The problem: We tend to overestimate the calorie burn of exercise and underestimate calories consumed. What this means is that you can eat your way through any workout. This is especially easy to do when you are eating healthier food—the cautionary voice in the back of your mind reminding you to be think about serving size isn’t as loud when you’re eating grapes as when you’re eating doughnuts.
What to do instead: The goal is to develop awareness of the amount of food that you eat. It would be nice if we could just naturally have this awareness, but that is rarely the case. The most efficient way to track what you eat is to use a food tracking app. There are many of these available, like the popular MyFitnessPal. Yes, it’s a tool that takes getting used to, but there is freedom and relaxation in this approach. Much like having a financial budget, using a food tracking app will give you a fresh, reloaded calorie budget every day that you get to spend any way you want. This alone provides a level of freedom that makes healthy eating doable in the long-term.
5. You require your family to join in.
The problem: Wait, whose goal is this anyway? While you may feel very strongly about your desire to eat better, your family may not share your enthusiasm. The difficulty is that you’re likely not living in a vacuum. As a result, when you make lifestyle changes, everyone feels it.
What to do instead: While it’s certainly more convenient if everyone is on board with you, it’s not necessary. If you cook a healthy meal and your kids are over it, allow them to make whatever they’d like. Or, if they’re old enough, challenge them to take over the cooking one night a week. Just be sure to give them nutritional parameters that you’re aiming for. Who knows? They might surprise you and you get a night off cooking. Win-Win! The other limitation here is regarding junk food—the cookies, chips, soda—pretty much anything that can stay on a shelf forever doesn’t need to be in your line of sight and it’s okay to ask for that.
6. Your eating style is all habit, no inspiration.
The problem: Are you hurrying through your meals? Do you grab a handful of cereal as you rush through the kitchen? That sort of mindless eating can leave you feeling both emotionally hungry and short on calories at the end of the day.
What to do instead: Make some visual changes in your eating space. Set out a bowl of fresh fruit on the table for everyone to have a healthy, convenient snack. Take the time to eat at the table instead of the T.V., and shut down your phone. Let’s be honest, potato chips taste better than broccoli, no matter how much we wish it weren’t so. When you take one comfort away, be sure to replace it with another even more comforting one. It’s not silly to light candles if it makes your eating experience more enjoyable.
Healthy eating is not just a nutritional change, but an overall lifestyle change that takes time to develop. By making the decision and then re-committing to your goal every day, you are well on your way to better health!