Most of us didn’t have to think much about our weight when we were young. No matter what we ate, we looked and felt great. At a certain point, the pounds suddenly started to accumulate – sometimes gradually enough that we didn’t at first notice, other times it was much more obvious. This change may have been a simple result of a slowing metabolism or a consequence of another lifestyle change, such as having a baby, taking birth control, or a career change that no longer leaves room for exercise. We tend to face these body shifts multiple times throughout our lives, and it may seem harder and harder to keep the weight off.
I have personally faced these metabolism slow-downs three times so far, at ages 26, 29, and 31. My favorite pair of jeans alerted me to the changes right away, and I’ve managed to bring my weight back down and maintain it each time. Limiting what I eat or making drastic diet changes never worked, and usually had the opposite effect because everything seemed like a forbidden temptation that I could not resist. A totally new eating paradigm is simply not realistic for most of us because our hectic lives don’t allow the necessary time to entirely relearn how to shop and eat.
What has been remarkably successful for me is making small mental shifts about eating. Sometimes new knowledge about a particular type of food is great inspiration to make a small but meaningful change in eating habits that can make a dramatic improvement in health and fitness. To offer some ideas, I will list out a few of these mental shifts that have worked well for me.
- Avoiding partially hydrogenated oils – Once described by a health professor as “like eating cancer,” partially hydrogenated oils are found in the worst kinds of processed foods. A similar alternative might be to avoid ingredients that you don’t recognize as food.
- Green smoothies – Adding a green smoothie to my morning routine, not only gave me abundant vitamins, minerals, and amino acids from fresh greens and fruits, but also left less room for less healthy breakfast choices, like frozen waffles and processed cereals.
- Going gluten-free – You may be allergic and not even realize it. Regardless, avoiding gluten will still allow for plenty of healthy and tasty alternative treats while eliminating the cheap, wheat-based junk foods.
- Kicking the sugar habit – Sugar, particularly refined sugar, is one of the most damaging, and addictive food substances around. A bad sugar habit will cause not only weight-gain, but also mood swings, tooth and gum disease, a weak immune system, and severe PMS symptoms, just to name a few. There are plenty of treats that use maple syrup, fruit juice, or other sweeteners.
- No more processed foods – This basically boils down to avoiding anything in a can or a box. Your refrigerator will look like the produce aisle of a natural food store, and you will find you are producing almost no trash anymore.
- Only raw desserts – For those of you still struggling to find a 100% raw food diet that suits you, you may consider at least committing to only eating raw desserts. With an ever increasing selection of gluten-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free sweets out there, it’s getting easier to gain weight and feel unhealthy even on a relatively disciplined diet.
Realistically assess your current eating habits and what kinds of diet changes you can stick to. What works well for me may not work at all for you. Think in baby steps. Give up just one thing but give it up 100%, without exception. Do some research first. Doing a Google search about the health consequences of partially hydrogenated oils or refined sugar will further discourage you from eating those foods. Bookmark helpful sites and reread them when you feel tempted to cheat on your diet commitment. In the beginning, have some healthy treats on hand that you turn to so that you don’t fall back on your old habits. Do everything you can to stick to your plan for the first 30 days. It will get much easier after you’ve had that time to adjust.
If you fail in your first attempt, there is no shame in that. It just wasn’t the right plan for you. Find an even smaller change that you can succeed at. Life is too short to feel bad physically or emotionally, so make a positive change right now.