Changing your lifestyle can be difficult, to say the least. The very idea of it can be overwhelming enough to make you procrastinate, saying “I’ll start Monday” on every Tuesday. Where do you start? How do you know if something is good to eat? If it says “low fat” or “low calorie”, does that mean it’s good for your body? I hope to clear a few of these questions up, or at least give you a place to start.
Go back to the basics.
The wonderful thing about nature is that it provides us with tons of options that are great for our bodies, definitely outweighing those that are not. The easiest way to decide if something is clean eating is asking yourself, is this what this would look like in nature? Aim for whole foods and fill your plate with lots of fruits and vegetables, grilled meats, nuts, seeds, and good carbohydrates such as brown rice and quinoa.
If the label has to give a reason you should buy it, you probably shouldn’t.
We live in a world where the food companies are trying really hard to convince us that they are on our side. It’s an unfortunate fact that “Now with 50% less fat!” is really saying “We added a bunch of chemicals and a ton of sugar to bring the fat calories down but still make it taste good!” Sure, maybe lowering your calories will help you lose that few pounds you’ve been upset about. But the reality is, health is not just weight. Filling your body with toxins just to keep those potato chips you like within your calorie goals is not worth it. Do it the right way and I promise it will be worth it in the end, and those few pounds will never come back.
Always have healthy food available.
This is a game-changer for me. The hardest time for us to stay on track with our goals is when we are suddenly stuck somewhere craving that cheeseburger joint next door, or at midnight when that pint of ice cream is looking REALLY tasty. Having clean foods pre-cooked and on hand gets rid of your excuses. “I don’t feel like cooking” and “I don’t have time to make that” are suddenly forced to disappear from your vocabulary. This doesn’t mean you have to go meal-prep crazy, just keep a stock of fruits (for my fellow sweets addicts, berries have been a life-saver for me), vegetables, and meat already cooked in your fridge. Keep an apple in your bag for when you catch yourself hungry away from home. Leave some carrots and hummus in your work refrigerator in case you get stuck there a little late. Figure out when you tend to cheat most often, and plan ways to avoid letting yourself do it.
Eat every few hours.
Now I will start off by saying there is controversy between experts about what this does for your metabolism. But I can confidently tell you this made a big difference for me personally. By having 5-6 meals per day, I can keep my portions in check much easier and I love having so many different kinds of foods each day. It keeps my energy levels much more constant throughout the day, and keeps me from getting too hungry and eating way more than I need to. But never skip meals. This puts your body into minor starvation mode and causes your body to stop burning fat stores. By constantly eating food, you keep your body working at its prime all day.
WATER WATER WATER.
In my experiences with new clients, the number one most common dietary problem I see is not drinking enough water. The official minimum recommendation for water intake is 8 cups a day, and I stress this is a MINIMUM. The more hydrated you keep your body, the less water it will store and the less water weight you will hold. Staying hydrated is also good for your immune system, and will also help control your hunger. Hunger signals and thirst signals from the brain feel very similar to the body. Often times we eat when we are actually just thirsty. Being properly hydrated all the time eliminates this confusion, and you will most likely find yourself feeling full longer.
Eating out doesn’t have to be a cheat meal.
It is definitely more difficult to maintain your clean eating plan when you go out, but not impossible. Many people go straight for the salad option thinking it’s the healthiest, which can be true, but only if you do it right. Ask for the dressing on the side, and dip each bite in just a little of the dressing. It may seem silly the first time you do it, but it allows you to control how much dressing on there and to be more mindful of how much you’re having. Plus, you get the bonus of never getting a soggy salad! Also look for meals with grilled meats, steamed vegetables, brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc. If you are having trouble finding something that you like that fits your plan, ask your server. They are there to give you suggestions, and you can always ask if you can get something without the sauce or substitutions. Just make the effort!
And finally, pick foods you actually like.
Just because that girl with the perfect abs on Instagram is eating tilapia and asparagus 5 times a day, does not mean that is what you have to do to eat clean. Pick foods you know you like, and try adding one new food a week to expand your tastes. The amazing part of eating less foods loaded with sugar and chemicals is that everything actually starts to taste better. This might sound crazy, but we tend to over-saturate our taste buds with chemically flavored foods, and become less sensitive to subtle natural flavors. But this can be changed surprisingly quickly. Be patient and you will soon find that you are enjoying the clean foods much more than you expected, and I can promise you will love the way you feel.
If you have been trying to figure out how to make healthy changes to your diet, I hope this gives you a starting point. Contact me if you have any questions or requests for another topic. Just be patient and stay committed, and you can reach any goal you want to.