How To Make Healthy Changes That Will Stick
A few years ago, I read an incredible book called ‘Atomic Habits'. It's one of the best books I've ever read, and I coach women using many of its principles today.
In case you don’t want to run out to bookstore or order one up on Amazon, I’ll fill you in on why this book has been a game changer and sitting on my shelf for the past few years... especially when it comes to creating healthy habits that stick!
As you may have guessed, the premise of the book is that in order to create and sustain healthy habits, you must keep it simple and realistic. Start by changing one or two small things that feel doable: if you try to overhaul your life in a week, you will quickly become exhausted, overwhelmed and burnt out, and ultimately the changes won’t stick. By making small, 1% improvements, you give yourself a simple way to boost your health just a little bit each day. And it works.
I help my clients eat better, without cutting out entire food groups or asking them to sacrifice the foods they love. Because not only is that unhealthy, unnecessary and unsustainable, I simply won't ask my clients to do anything that I wouldn't do myself.
Let’s say the first thing you choose to improve is breakfast. If you’re used to grabbing a sugar filled protein bar or filling your bowl with cereal that totes a cartoon character, our first move is to help you obtain some quality carbohydrates and protein. These are two ingredients your body needs to feel and function its best. So, we start by ADDING, rather than subtracting. Can you ADD a banana, whole grain toast with nut butter, or hard boiled egg?
And guess what? A hard-boiled egg and a banana doesn’t take much longer to unwrap and eat. Plus it delivers greater nutrition, which means it will keep you feeling fuller longer and give you great energy too. Now don't get me wrong, a quality protein bar every now and then can be a helpful back-up on busy days when you're stuck in the car, sitting at the airport, or running errand after errand. But it's not a meal. It's a snack and typically won't offer quality enough nutrition to keep you going strong all on its own.
Don’t Give Up Your Popcorn
The great thing about making small changes is that you don’t have to give up your favorite foods. If you love snacking on popcorn (like I do), then don’t give it up! Just trade up for a healthier version.
About ten years ago I invested in an air popper. It was quick, easy, and tasty! Then two years ago I treated myself to a Pampered Chef microwave popper and it was one of the best purchases I've made. It takes me just 3 minutes to pop up a bowl of fresh hot popcorn and I save loads of calories, added salt and fat in the process. Plus, I can easily control the portion size. Sometimes I melt a bit of unsalted butter and drizzle it over the top, other times I just sprinkle on a bit of nutritional yeast or cinnamon. And it's SO GOOD!
There are also several varieties of healthier popcorns at the grocery store that make a great healthy snack. One of my favorite brands is SkinnyPop because there are just three ingredients: non-GMO popcorn, oil, and salt. That’s it! Perfect for grab-and-go and road trips.
The same goes for any of your favorite fun foods: if you don't want to give up the chips, try swapping for some slightly healthier ones, such as sweet potato chips or multigrain tortilla chips. And if it's chocolate that you crave, try leveling up your milk chocolate for a tasty dark variety.
The goal is not to make big sweeping changes and overhaul your daily diet.
Remember: keep it simple! Maybe you start by reducing a portion size, making a small level up for a slightly healthier option, or pairing a fun food with something more nutrient dense to leave you feeling energized, satiated and satisfied.
Embrace the Journey
The road to eating better and weight loss is truly a journey. You don’t have to be in an all out sprint, tackling everything at once, in order to make progress. In fact, this is where slow and steady really does win the race. When you make small and simple changes over time, you let your body and your taste buds adjust, which helps you build confidence in your abilities so you can continue to seek out those 1% improvements.
That might look like one less sausage link at breakfast, ordering a smaller size French fry at the drive thru, or swapping your usual vending machine snack for fresh fruit and nuts. Every 1% improvement adds up! And each of these small improvements will help you build a healthy foundation. Because it feels doable, even on your craziest, busiest days, it works! My most successful clients don't make grand sweeping changes, trying to change all of their food and fitness habits at once, they start with ONE small improvement at a time.
Try asking yourself, "What's one thing I can do just a little bit differently today?"
Maybe it's going for a walk on your lunch break, swapping white bread for whole grain, adding more color to your plate, or drinking more water. Keep it simple, make it realistic and you'll find it's that much easier to keep on doing it. Plus, you'll find yourself inspired to look for other simple ways you can score those small daily wins.
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