I think for the most part, people realize that better health doesn’t happen overnight. Many of us may have already tried the various diets, cleanses and detoxes that claim to help us lose weight, but the road to being comfortable in our skin and in great health is not a magic pill. It’s about making consistently healthy choices most of the time.
Consistency isn’t sexy, and it’s not as easy it often sounds in theory. It’s not about making the right choices 100% of the time, it’s about making the best choices you can at a particular moment in time, about 80% of the time.
I’ve been talking to so many women lately who have been telling me that consistency is one of the biggest issues that they struggle with, and it was a problem for me for many years as well. I would eat in an all-or-nothing kind of way, switching between polishing off that whole bag of chips by myself to feeling guilty about my food choices the day before and then trying to exist off of way too little food until I would wind up feeling so deprived that I would overeat again and feel awful, both physically and emotionally.
Finally, I was so tired of this cycle I knew I had to find a better way. Consistency didn’t happen suddenly for me. It was, and continues to be, something I practice every day. Like anything we practice, if we try it for long enough and find what works for us, it will improve. Eating consistently for me means that I purposefully avoid aiming for a day of “perfect” eating. You know, eating nothing but vegetables and protein and not straying from some sort of ideal meal plan. Instead to stay consistent, I focus on making the best choices I can, along with building in a few treats along the way (like this peanut butter brownie I had the other day when I went out for dessert).
This is only one way to build consistency into the way we eat and our relationship with food. Along with some #SimpleSuccessStrategies I like to use, I’ve listed some of the ways I have found most helpful to build healthy eating into your lifestyle in a realistic and fun way, rather than having it be some sort of chore.
8 Tools to Stay Consistent with Your Meals
Factor in the treats
The crucial key is to not deprive yourself. When we constantly restrict ourselves and limit what we consume without allowing for anything “extra” it restricts those types of foods in our minds that make us want them even more, and therefore more likely to binge if the opportunity presents itself to eat it.
Instead, I like to use an #IntentionalEdible each day. This is a small treat or indulgence that can be eaten on a daily basis to normalize those types of indulgences, reducing any feeling of deprivation.
When factoring in and #IntentionalEdible that doesn’t fall into any particular food group, make sure it’s something you truly enjoy. For me, it’s dark chocolate and the occasional brownie or piece of cake ;-). I usually eat a little bit of dark chocolate just about every day, and that’s by design. When I only allowed myself chocolate as a treat, I could eat a couple of full bars in one sitting and barely taste or appreciate it! This way, you can have a little something that you love every single day.
Know your likes and dislikes. What do you enjoy eating? Is there a recipe out there for one of your favourite meals that would be a little bit healthier without trading on flavour? Could you do a simple swap for an ingredient or two that would up the veggie content?
My biggest concern is to always ensure that I truly enjoy what I eat, and I want the same for clients as well. Food should be a pleasurable experience, and without that enjoyment it becomes very difficult to eat well consistently. If I eat an unsatisfying meal, I’m much more likely to want to follow it up with unhealthy foods to ‘reward’ myself for eating the meal that didn’t satisfy my taste buds.
Try something new
Bored with the same old recipes? Try a new cookbook or type in a quick search online for a recipe that uses ingredients you like in new ways. If you prefer videos to walk you through from start to finish, YouTube is a great place to start. You can watch people cooking up some delicious food in their homes to get some new ideas, or spend some time with famous chefs like Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay as they guide you through a new recipe. The options are endless these days!
Many people find meal planning in advance to be incredibly helpful, especially if cooking isn’t your strongest area of expertise, or if cooking on the fly isn’t your thing. This can also help to reduce grocery costs. By preparing a list of meals and breaking this down into the ingredients that will be needed to have on hand when you pick up groceries, multiple time-wasting trips to the grocery store will be eliminated and you may feel less like eating out or reaching for treat that won’t make you feel your best. This is also why I suggest keeping things super simple, because no one gets turned off a recipe faster than I do if there are more than 5 or 6 ingredients in a recipe! And yes, that includes spices, ha!
Keep it super simple
I’m a huge fan of making things as simple and easy-to-follow as possible. Adding in new habits and consistent behaviours are hard enough to start without making it so challenging it seems un-doable. If something is difficult to implement or if it feels too complicated, it makes that new habit pretty hard to keep up.
If you aim for perfection, failure is only a matter of time. Sometimes you need to look at what is good enough, not the perfect version, and not only accept but embrace that you aren’t going to eat perfectly. This might mean purchasing already prepped foods at the grocery store, like pre-chopped veggies or a rotisserie chicken. Sure, store-cooked chickens are higher in sodium and whole veggies keep their nutrients better than if they have been cut, but if that small convenience is going to mean the difference between making a healthy meal or eating junk, choose convenience. It’s also about your happiness. Maybe you aren’t a big fan of cooking to begin with. These days there are lots of options that can offer more convenience without sacrificing taste or even much nutrition, and it’s a win-win situation.
Show kindness to YOU
Overindulge at your last meal or have a snack attack that ended with you eating half a jar of peanut butter in one sitting? Been there. Wasting time feeling guilty and beating yourself up over a meal choice that you’re not too happy about can raise cortisol (one of the stress hormones) and this can actually contribute to weight gain. Most importantly, your self esteem can take a hit and that’s the last thing we want.
If I start beating myself up over eating too much of a good thing, I try to turn it around and ask myself if I would berate a friend or even a stranger the same way I’m having an internal dialogue with myself. The answer is always a resounding no. Show kindness to yourself the same way you would show kindness to others. Hydrate and move on to your next meal.
Focus on the positives
When making changes in your diet, look at adding foods in as opposed to taking other foods out. When you’re starting to make changes to build consistency, the key is to make them sustainable. We want to look at what we want to be eating as opposed to what we want to remove and this can help refocus our options. If we always thought about everything that we felt we could NOT eat, it would make us want those things even more because we would be moving back towards the restriction/deprivation/binge cycle. The other benefit is that adding more great foods in will leave less room for too much of the stuff that won’t support our goals.
Support to stay accountable
Creating a network of social support, such as a partner, a girlfriend or a coworker can be one of the biggest factors that influences the way we eat. Yes, of course we are all responsible for our own choices, but having a support group in place not only improves the chances that we will maintain consistent healthy decisions when it comes to food. With this kind of network, you can cook with your partner or family to make it a fun activity, share recipes with each other, or have potlucks where you can try each other’s dishes. Involve your kids in making healthy recipes, because kids are usually more likely to eat foods that they can take responsibility for helping to make and they will love being helpful in the kitchen to you!
The other biggest way to stay accountable is to hire a coach. This way, the information is specific to you and tailored to your needs, and regular check-ins that allow for custom adjustments to your program are made as needed.
Want to chat about this more? Email me to book a free consultation coaching call and we can discuss some more solutions that are specific to you.