Eating a healthy diet is a cornerstone of good health. What we put into our bodies to fuel them significantly affects how our bodies and minds function. However, sticking to a healthy diet can sometimes be difficult, especially those who may be used to less-than-nutritious eating.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. You may just need to change how you think about the foods you are choosing.
A new study, performed by researchers at Baylor University and published in the journal Psychology & Marketing, analyzed the dieting success or failure of 542 participants over a total of three studies. They found, in a nutshell, that individuals who tended to have unsuccessful diets focused on restricting or eliminating foods they enjoyed. However, individuals who found success in sticking to a diet plan focused more on healthy foods that they enjoyed, rather than a regimen of restriction.
According to Meredith David, lead author of the study and assistant professor of marketing at Baylor University:
“Our research shows that instead of creating rules to avoid one’s favorite treats, dieters should focus on eating healthy foods that they enjoy. Dieters who restrict themselves from consuming the foods they love most may be setting themselves up for failure. Instead, they may be better off by allowing occasional ‘treats’ and focusing attention on healthy foods that they enjoy and making it a point to include those tasty, but healthy foods in their diet.”
“In coming up with plans to enhance one’s health and well-being, low self-control individuals tend to set themselves up for a harder pathway to success by focusing on avoiding the very foods they find most tempting… individuals who are generally more successful at reaching their goals tend to develop more motivating plans regarding the inclusion of healthy, well-liked items and the exclusion of unhealthy items that are not one’s favorites.”
Researchers found that study participants which were categorized as “low self control” pictured healthy eating as eating healthy foods that they did not like. Conversely, “high self control” participants pictured eating healthy as including lots of healthy foods that they enjoyed into their meals. Those who ate healthy foods that they enjoyed, and had a positive, inclusive mindset about their diets, were, unsurprisingly, more successful.
This study really paints a clear picture of how being positive about a healthy diet can help it to stick. It doesn’t need to be a deprival of the foods you love. Instead, it can be an embrace of nature’s nutritious bounty. If you focus your meals around a variety of healthy foods, it’s not going to derail you if you have a less-than-healthy snack now and then. Also, you don’t have to grudgingly eat foods you dislike — find ones that taste good to you, and base your meals around these.
Looking to begin a healthy diet plan? Most excellent! The following are a few ideas to get you started:
- Next time you go to the grocery store or farmer’s market, pick up a few new fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes that you’ve never tried. Look up some recipes on how to prepare them and experiment. You may find that your new favorite food is an ultra-healthy one.
- Get your family and a few friends together and have a healthy potluck. Have everyone bring a healthy dish, and make the theme a “rainbow” of nutritious foods. You may try foods you never considered before, and find them absolutely delicious.
- Ask your friends for their favorite healthy recipe recommendations.
- Pick up a healthy cookbook with photographs inside, and see which dishes look good to you. Bookmark these pages, and then try making them at home!
If you focus your meal plan on finding nutritious foods you love, you’ll find yourself coming back to these dishes over and over, and finding new ways to prepare your favorite ingredients. As far as those unhealthy snacks, don’t beat yourself up if you have one now and then. However, you may just find yourself craving them less and less once your body is getting awesome nutrition from your healthy meals!
— Tanya Rakhmilevich