1. Start Small and be consistent. Big and bold may be a statement you like to make from time to time in an attempt to get things moving, but how does that usually work out for you in the end? Starting a new gym routine or a new diet and announcing it to the word may seem like a great idea at the time but how often do they stick? Think about how do you feel when inevitably things go south? Instead of beating yourself up over it, why not start making your health a little less dramatic? Start with baby steps. The kind of steps that you can realistically achieve and that you can get right back into when things don't go quite as you planned? If you want to improve your eating habits look at what you are currently eating and see where you can make changes. Can you take a banana instead of a chocolate bar? Can you fit in a 10 minute walk in the sun at lunch time? Can you walk up the stairs at the station instead of getting the escalator? Can you get up 10 minutes earlier so you have more chance of getting a healthier breakfast? Take bite sized chunks and then improve on them and then look back in a few months and congratulate yourself on your progress.
2. Drink water. Ask yourself this question next time you are feeling hungry tired, irritated or headachy. Have I drunk enough water today? Water really does impact all these areas and often we are not even aware of it! Next time you are feeling particularly sluggish in the afternoon, think about it! We need to drink about 1 litre of water per 22kg of our body weight so if you are 75kg, aim to drink 3.5 litres per day. We are made up of about 80% water so it stands to reason that we need to keep ourselves replenished to function optimally.
3. Be realistic. Some people say that realism is for those who have no imagination and in most cases I am inclined to agree but when it comes to making changes for the sake of your health, realism can be the one thing that works for you. Make a small change and turn it into your new 'normal'. If you can't stop eating chips for example, try switching to 'plain' ones which are not heavily laden with MSG and other additives. Or, try changing the chips for nuts. Keep a food, thought and movement diary for a week and then look at your lifestyle and eating habits as if you were a teacher marking some homework. Circle areas which need work and highlight the good things. Do more of the good things and work on those areas which need attention. Assess it again in a month and see what works for you and what doesn't and tweak it appropriately.
4. Eat the whole thing. I like to think of eating whole foods as eating whole foods, so if you like apple juice, eat the whole apple. Mother nature meant us to eat foods in their natural states. Replace processed packaged foods with fruits, veg, nuts and seeds. Take fruit to school or work as a snack instead of something from a packet. Add nuts and seeds to your salad to give it a bit more substance. Add a salad or veggies to your lunch or dinner routine. The more you start to fill up on whole foods, the less you will crave for the packaged stuff. And remember, fruits and veggies don't just contain vitamins and minerals and all that other good stuff we are familiar with, they also host a secret army of phytochemicals and anti-oxidants which they use to fight off their own predators (such as mould or insects). These special weapons actually go on working in our bodies helping us to fight off all kinds of diseases including cancer.
5. Add - don't subtract. Instead of looking at your new way of eating as restrictive, think of it as abundant. Add a smoothie at breakfast, fruit mid morning, add a salad to your lunch, nuts and seeds to your afternoon snack, more veggies to your evening meal. Whilst fresh is best, don't be afraid to make use of frozen fruits and veggies if it means that you actually eat more of them. Just keep adding more of the good stuff and eventually you'll let that other stuff go!
6. Swap it up. Swap some of your old favourites with healthier versions. Swap table salt for Himalayan rock salt or Celtic sea salt which will provide your body with nutrients in the form of minerals which are missing from processed table salt. Swap white rice for brown, margarine for butter or white table sugar for honey. Make a note of certain food items which you are not entirely happy with and look for alternatives. You can always ask at your local health store if you are not entirely sure.
7. Love your label. No matter how hard you try, I'm guessing that some processed foods will still find their way into your pantry. It's a bit difficult to live on this planet and avoid them totally. But not all processed foods are created equally. Some really shouldn't be labelled as food at all whilst others are not too bad. Start to get smart about what you are eating. Look at the label. If it has more than four main ingredients and most are unpronounceable then it's probably best to leave it on the shelf. Food additives are responsible for a host of diseases and behavioural issues so it would be worth getting curious about what exactly they are and what they do once inside the body. Don't overwhelm yourself. Start with one of the processed foods you buy regularly and see if you can compare brands or swap it altogether with something you can make yourself. Educate yourself on some of the worst offenders (colours, MSG, etc) and go out of your way to avoid them.
8. Don't go soft. When I was growing up, I had lemonade at parties and that was about it. Now, soft drinks are very much a part of our every day culture and energy drinks have taken the world by storm. That ain't the kind of energy you want in your body! Don't be misled by thinking 'low sugar' or ''diet' drinks are OK. Often this just means 'high crap additives'. Restrict them where you can, (and you know you can). If you really can't live without them, try alternatives like Appletise which contain no added sugar or better still, opt for Kombucha, a fermented drink which will actually benefit your body. Of course the best drink you can possibly have is WATER. And lots of it!
9. Get back on the wagon: If you have a bad day and you end up eating more processed foods than a MacDonalds bin, don't beat yourself up. Accept you are human and not perfect (and don't be fooled that anyone else is either no matter how much good hype they put on Facebook) and move on. Not to the next bag of chips but back on track. Brush yourself off and start again. Don't adopt the 'Ah well, I may as well let it all go' approach which will only make you feel worse. Get some sleep and wake up the next day with your great intentions back in tact and start over.
10. Love it or Hate it? Don't try and force yourself to eat foods you know you don't like. if you don't like bananas don't make yourself slurp down banana based smoothies just because they are healthy. You'll just feel miserable and ultimately fail. Make a list of the healthy foods that you do like and the ones that you are happy to incorporate into your diet and go with those. Start adding what you love and get rid of the 'shoulds'. In other words forget thinking that you 'should' be eating a certain way and choose the healthy options that work for you.