Summer is almost over and I am desperately trying to feel comfortable in my own body. I would love to showcase an awesome bikini, but I don’t have that self-confidence to pull it off. Overall, I know that I’m not doing the best to lose weight, or more importantly, get the body that does make me proud, or at least not ashamed. Unfortunately, changing your eating habits can be downright difficult, but it is not impossible and is well worth the effort.
I’m going to start these seven simple steps to a healthier lifestyle.
Consider Your Goals
Before you start revamping your diet, think about what you are trying to achieve. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- Are you looking to improve your diet to support a new exercise program?
- Do you want to focus on decreasing sodium intake, or eating heart healthy foods, or cutting out gluten?
- Are you looking to cut calories in order to lose weight?
- Are you just trying to improve the overall quality of your diet?
Each of these goals will guide you in a different direction when it comes to planning meals.
My goal is to lose weight and tone up.
Once you have your dietary goals in mind, it is time to start hunting for recipes. Most libraries are a treasure trove of cookbooks catering to every dietary need, and the internet is also an invaluable recipe resource. As you find recipes that fit your needs, record them for the next step, menu planning. If you always have your tablet by your side in the kitchen, bookmark online recipes and take digital photos of cookbook recipes so you can look at them on your tablet. If you prefer paper directions, stick with flags on recipes of interest in cookbooks.
I prefer low carb and high protein recipes. They keep me full longer.
Plan Your Meals
With your recipes in hand, get to work planning out your meals and snacks for the week. Sit down with a list of recipes and a calendar. Fill in your plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day. If you have plans to go out to eat for any of those meals, fill that in also. Once you’ve got all of your meals filled in for the week, write out a grocery list for everything you need for those recipes, and head to the grocery store. Don’t forget to pick up your staples, too.
This is truly the hardest for me to do. But I’ve got my calendar and I’m ready to change.
Do Some Prepping
Set yourself up for success by preparing as much as you can ahead of time. Set aside a couple of hours to prep ingredients. Wash and chop vegetables, clean and marinate meats, and portion out snacks into individual servings. Or you can jump right in and prepare every meal for the entire week in one session, so all you have to do is pull a container out of the refrigerator when dinnertime comes around. The meal prepping phenomenon is huge; there are lots of great ideas for meals that are easy to prep ahead of time.
I prep as soon as I bring my groceries home before I put them away.
Execute Your Plan
You’ve got your first meal plan in place and your ingredients are prepped, now you just have to stick to the plan. Eat what you’ve planned to eat. Try to avoid temptation during that first week and eat your planned snacks, especially if you have planned out your calorie consumption for each day. Make a commitment to eat what you’ve prepared with the knowledge that you can adjust your meal plan for the next week. Pay attention to how you feel throughout the day and make notes on when you feel hungry or unsatisfied by your meals.
This is my next step, the hardest for me to follow. I really need to follow my plan.
Stick With It
After making it through the first week, reflect on how things went. If you cooked meals every day, is there anything you could do to make cooking even easier? Did you like the recipes you used? Do you need to incorporate another snack into your meal plan, or add more protein and complex carbs to keep you feeling satisfied longer? This is the time to make adjustments. Have faith that you can make this work for you, and know that the first week or two are the hardest while you adjust to a new way of eating.
So, today would be day 1. Well, actually Monday, since I’m going out of town and can’t follow any recipes.
Enjoy Your Newfound Health
After a few weeks, you may begin to notice a difference in your body. Perhaps you have more energy or fewer digestive issues. You may begin to lose a little weight, or notice that your skin is clearer. Maybe your workouts feel better because you are eating the right foods to fuel your body. Take a little time to celebrate your success and think about what’s next. Perhaps try going vegan for a day or two of the week – it’s not as hard as you may think, with companies like Hampton Creek providing vegan alternatives to common animal product-containing foods.
Congratulations on making it through the first difficult weeks of changing your diet. Once you start to build up a collection of healthy recipes you like and your new eating style becomes natural, you will be well on your way to a healthier you.
So, who’s with me? Are you in? Are you ready to change your lifestyle?