Hi there, and welcome again to this “how to start eating healthy” series! Today we’re going to talk about the mindset we should strive to create to eating healthy in an intuitive, enjoyable and lasting way.
This is the third part of the “beginners’ guide to healthy eating” and you can find the other posts/videos right here:
Part 1: Nutrition 101 ~ beginners’ guide to healthy eating
Part 2: Make your healthy eating journey easier
Part 4: What’s in my plant-based kitchen
If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s the video for this post!
Know your why
Knowing why you want to eat healthier is so important. The likelihood of you doing something in the long run because someone tells you you have to do it is low, but if you know the reasons and benefits of doing it, it will be much easier to stick to long-term habits and resume them when you get off the track. So you have to think about your reasons to eat healthily – is it because you need to improve your energy levels? Prevent diseases? Simply to improve your health? Any reason is a valid reason, but I do recommend you to think about “whys” that last, and the more reasons you can find the better…
Let me give you some ideas… The best known are of course the reduction of the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, but here are some others:
- A complete diet gives you the necessary nutrients to avoid deficiencies, such as a lack of iron or vitamin B12.
- A diet based on less processed and packaged food is better for the environment. Less packaging equals less non-biodegradable waste.
- In regard to beauty – a nutritious diet is ideal for maintaining healthy nails, hair, and skin. It can help from curbing acne to reducing the formation of wrinkles.
- It improves dental health: sugars, refined carbohydrates, and some additives, for example, present in carbonated drinks, harm teeth and gum.
- And it gives you more energy and improves your general well-being – you are likely to feel more alert, motivated, with less gastrointestinal discomforts… and I could go on forever!
So, knowing all these benefits, ask yourself why you want to eat healthier: write down all the benefits of doing so and review them as many times as necessary. Whenever you feel unmotivated or “derailing”, review your “why” and it will be much easier to get back on track.
Fall in love with nourishing your body
This was something I was guilty of for some time… I would obligate myself to eat healthy because I had to, but that used to lead to cravings, difficulties, and frustration. Not anymore! Once I started paying attention to my “whys” and the cues my body gave me, I started eating healthy because I wanted to, and because nourishing my body had such a good impact on the way my body felt and my taste buds! On the contrary, eating processed foods made me feel sluggish, with a bad mood and heartburn. The clues to how different foods make you feel are there, you just have to listen to them.
Let’s try to avoid eating the “not-so-good” foods and eat lots of the “good” ones, in a natural and intuitive way and let the mentality “I will never eat this again!” or “I wanted it so badly but I can’t” aside. Let’s rephrase and say things like “I will give myself the freedom to eat this food when I really feel like it” or “today I choose not to eat this food because the way it makes me feel afterward isn’t worth it”.
This way, the mindset changes from I CAN’T to I DON’T WANT TO. It takes the power out of the rules imposed by who knows who and puts the power in what you want. This will be a major change, I promise.
Healthy eating is self care
Here’s another big mindset shift that can be challenging at first, but oh so rewarding. Keep in mind that making healthy choices is a way of practising self-care. Food is not a reward, and exercise is not a punishment. They are both ways of caring for your body and helping you feel your best. You deserve both. Forget the idea of rewarding yourself with a bowl of chips or making yourself train for an extra hour if you ate a slice of cake. Just eliminate any sort of reward and punishment around the conversation of food and exercise.
Respect your individuality
Something so important, respect that you’re you, and no one else is you! You might be tall, you might be short. You might be a yogi or a surfer. You might be a university student or a nurse, working in shifts and moving a lot during the day. We are all shaped so differently so why shouldn’t our diets? Everyone’s version of healthy is very different and it is normal if you feel more hungry than your friend, it is normal that you don’t feel that skipping breakfast or intermittent fasting is for you. You may prefer eating more or less frequently, in bigger or smaller quantities, with a diet heavier in carbs or in fat… and that’s ok if it works for you! You just have to make sure to listen to your body and your hunger cues and have a balanced and nutrient-rich diet.
Don’t compare your process with anyone else’s
I know it may not be easy not to compare our measurements, weight, restrictions, and diet with the people around us… Do any of these sentences look familiar to you?
“Am I doing enough?”
“Am I restricting too much?”
“Why can’t I lose that much weight?”
If you know you’re doing what feels right for you, if you have a diet adapted to your reality, don’t compare your progress with others. Give your body the time it needs to adjust itself to your new eating patterns… If by chance comparison thoughts appear, know that everyone is different. We all have different levels of activity, different metabolisms, different routines, tastes…
Also, question yourself whether what you’re comparing yourself to is realistic and that reflects what “healthy eating” is. You could be comparing your eating habits to “not so healthy” eating habits based on misinformation and a bad relationship with food. And if even after asking yourself those questions you still feel affected and doubtful, simply avoid those sources of comparison at all… Avoid the conversations or social media accounts that make you doubt yourself and the eating habits you know are right for you.
We all know that one person who manages to eat healthy 100% of the time (I am not that person and I don’t want to be!), who has the time and motivation to work out every day, who has had a major body transformation… and that can make other people envy, or question their own journey. But know that that one person isn’t the norm. They are an outlier. And for most of us healthy eating is more of a slightly wavy line than a perfectly straight line. A beautiful wavy line.
One day at a time
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking only about goals and the time it takes to get there… Often long paths, with some difficulties, right? Of course, it is good to look at our goals and know where we’re going… But focusing only on the long term and on how difficult it is getting to get there, can cause more harm than good. So I always strive to focus on the present, one meal at a time, one trip to the supermarket at a time, one workout at a time. Keep on doing it! Without thinking about the number of workouts or meals it takes to get to your goal.
Time will pass, whether they do what’s best for you or not! A year or two from now, you can look back and see how much you’ve done, even if it wasn’t 100% perfect 100% of the time… or look back and think about what you could have done.
Every meal, every day, brings new successes… Focus on those little successes the same as you care for your giant success, which takes much longer to arrive.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it helps you start eating healthy in an easy, sustainable and enjoyable way! In the next post & video of this series, I’ll cover the plant-based staples I have in my fridge and pantry, but meanwhile, you can dive deep into other articles I’ve shared on the blog:
- 20 Nutrition Hacks That Will Simplify Your Life
- Improve Your Relationship With Food ~ with a cheat sheet and video
- 10 Nutrition Myths Debunked
- 10 Ways to Improve Your Energy Without Coffee