Making any diet or lifestyle change can be intimidating and just plain hard! Here I will share some tips that I’ve learned, both from myself and from others over the years:
Jump in for 21 days. Once you’ve done some reading/research, I highly encourage you to jump into your diet & lifestyle program for 3 weeks, a mini-commitment. There are at least two reasons for this. First, you will notice the physical benefits of the diet within 3 weeks, and the more closely you follow the program, the more significant those effects will be (increased energy, better bowel function, less bloating/GI discomfort, weight loss, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar). Second, many foods are quick to give us pleasure or ignite sentiment (ex: sugars, excessive salt, sugar in combination with fat, dairy, etc). When we consume these foods, we want more, even when our brain tells us we are full. Many food substances act like opiates (yes, drugs) in the brain, binding to opioid receptors and causing us to feel pleasure or even emotional attachment to foods. These foods literally make us feel good, but only for a short time, and then our brain tells us to eat more. Sugar is one of these addictive substances. There is evidence that cheese may also be addictive. Do we tell a cigarette smoker or alcoholic to only use their addictive substance periodically? If we did, they would never succeed. When it comes to diet, food addictions (while not always as serious as drug/alcohol addictions) are strongly influenced by taste. The more we taste the sugar, fat, cheese, etc., the more we desire it. Further, these foods can desensitize our taste buds and make foods in their natural state seem bland and boring. As you remove these taste-ruining foods from your diet, it takes only a few short weeks for the taste buds to re-calibrate. You’ll crave less sugar and salt, and amounts you normally found acceptable will seem overpowering. Whole, plant-based foods seasoned with herbs, citrus, and small amounts of sea salt & black pepper will be tasty and satisfying. Your palate will also begin to notice more subtle flavors when you eliminate the taste-ruining foods. Commit to your program for 21 days. This trial period is short enough to use the psychological trick of telling yourself you can eat whatever you want on day 22, but long enough to begin getting acclimated to your new way of life.
Meal plan. This cannot be overstated. Meal planning will help you stay on track for the week, and give you a good excuse to avoid temptation during moments of stress or weakness. I shop for the week on Sundays. Pick your day, and stick to it. Find 1-2 recipes for lunches, and 1-2 recipes for dinners. Make sure that at least 2 of these recipes are “easy” to avoid feeling overwhelmed in the kitchen. I like to make my lunches for the week on Sunday, so for the rest of the week I only have to focus on cooking dinner.
Some of you might still be staring at the first sentence in this paragraph asking “Shoot, this chick wants me to cook?” Yes, yes I do. I’m a strong believer in making time for cooking and meal-sharing. Even cooking for yourself can become incredibly meditative and enjoyable. I also personally believe in the energy behind food. When a meal is prepared with my hands, or another’s hands, prepared with love and dedication, that love and energy is shared with everyone who consumes the food.
Stock up on staples.
Keep it simple.
Be kind to yourself.