Making lifestyle changes isn’t always easy, and sticking with new habits can be a challenge. Here are a few steps to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and thrive.
Whether it’s a nutritionist, friend, or coworker, take advice with a grain of salt. When it comes to healthy living, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Find the kernel of truth in any advice you’re given and experiment with it — try to apply it in a way that works for your unique needs and life circumstances. If you’re trying to force yourself to stick with a plan that just isn’t right for you, you’re only setting yourself up to fail.
Remember why you’re doing it
Of course, if you’re cutting foods out of your diet — like gluten, for example — it can be both physically and emotionally challenging. You are likely to find yourself craving cupcakes and feeling emotional. But it’s your attitude that makes all the difference. If you think of your healthy lifestyle as something that deprives you of the foods you really want, you’re always going to feel unsatisfied. But if you approach it from the perspective of doing something good for yourself — and if you remember that you’re doing it because you respect and love yourself enough to nurture your body — you will be much more likely to stick with it. There will still be those awful moments as your body transitions to your new normal, but as you remember that it is worth the struggle, you’ll be happier and more satisfied along the way.
If you’re using diet to heal from a serious health condition, going off the diet for a treat may not be an option. But if you’re just shifting your diet to achieve better overall health, you may be able to treat yourself now and then. Indulge in a little chocolate or another treat that isn’t far off your new diet. You don’t have to overdo it, but the occasional treat is important psychologically because it prevents you from feeling deprived, and it reminds you that you’re allowed to enjoy food! What you’re likely to find is that, if you treat yourself now and then, you’ll be more inclined to stick with your new, healthy lifestyle. After a few months, as you notice that you feel better when you’re eating better, you may even find that you enjoy the foods that you are allowed even more than the foods you used to crave.
Maybe you felt great on a particular diet 10 years ago. That doesn’t mean it’s still the right fit for you today. Bodies change over time as the circumstances of your life and health evolve. Don’t be afraid to try something new — and don’t beat yourself up if you’re no longer able to stick perfectly to a particular diet. This kind of perfectionism can lead to an “all or nothing” kind of thinking. We feel like we must stick to a diet “perfectly,” otherwise it’s not worth doing — and that can cause us to boomerang back to unhealthy habits. Trust the wisdom of your body, and pay attention to how you feel on different diets. Do what works best for you at any given point in time.
Make it enjoyable
A healthy diet certainly doesn’t have to be a boring one. Find websites with healthy recipes and try some new dishes. There are so many ways to prepare food! Most of us who have grown up eating the standard American diet have an extremely limited exposure to the wide world of food. Be creative and mix it up. Experiment with healthier versions of your favorite meals. There’s a whole culinary world out there that so many of us just haven’t had a lot of experience with.
Lifestyle change is possible. It will be hard, but you can do it. Find people who can support and encourage you as you love and care for yourself. Listen to your body, acknowledging and embracing the many sensations and feelings you experience. Stop sabotaging your happiness and instead live life to the fullest!
Sarah Cooke, is a Certified Body Image and Eating Psychology Coach and writer who is passionate about organic food and helping others heal at the deepest level.