Trapped in a routine of fast food, ready meals and yo-yo dieting? Here’s how to get your healthy eating habits back on track
Long days, work deadlines and general stress and strain is a recipe for bad food choices and flash diets. If healthy habits have taken a backseat thanks to the convenience of fast food, ready meals and yo-yo dieting, don’t worry, it’s more common than you think. “Unhealthy boom and bust or yo-yo dieting eating cycles mean many of us have developed unhealthy relationships with food,” explains Libby Limon , nutritionist, yoga teacher and Get The Gloss Expert .
“This works on both subconscious and conscious levels. Consciously we try to eat less, feel stressed and no longer truly enjoy food as there is also guilt attached. Subconsciously our bodies are not designed to calorie restrict so our hunger mechanisms kick in, both hormonally and physically. This results in craving high calorie ‘unhealthy foods’ to make up the deficit. Also as we eat less, we don’t feel full and go on to associate fullness with failing at our goal instead of being our body's natural way of telling us that we have had enough to eat,” she explains.
Want to get your healthy living goals back on track but don’t know where to start? Here are 5 easy healthy eating tips for transforming your relationship with food and embracing a more balanced diet...
1. Embrace mindful eating
Cook, sit, eat, repeat - if meal times have you switching onto autopilot, then a dose of mindfulness could prove to be the perfect ingredient for climbing back aboard the healthy eating bandwagon. “Try to only eat when sitting at a table while not doing anything else,” recommends Libby. “Writing a food diary also brings constant awareness to food choices. It can be easily done by writing notes or diary entries in your phone. If you have a craving or are tempted by ‘junk’ foods, wait ten minutes, do another task and then ask yourself again whether you really want it.”
2. Count nutrients, not calories
When it comes to long and short-term changes, quality over quantity is the best mantra. “Creating a positive relationship with food should be all about what you are ‘putting into your body’ i.e. a nutrients/food counting mentality, not what you are ‘taking out of your body’ i.e. a calorie counting mentality,” says Libby. “Focusing on creating a healthy diet with as much ‘good’ stuff as possible will mean that you will be filling up and crowding out the not so healthy stuff.”
3. Employ the 80/20 rule
Being too strict with yourself can create the slipperiest of slopes for falling back into old eating habits. “Allow space to enjoy less healthy foods,” explains Libby. “It is unrealistic to be ‘healthy’ all the time and total abstinence is psychologically difficult to maintain.
“Employing the 80% healthy to 20% more relaxed mindset is a better balance and allows for ‘treat days’ as well as social and work occasions. If you do have a ‘cheat’ enjoy it - do not see it as ‘failure.’ Make a note of it in your diary to see how often you are doing it. Make eating a conscious and pleasurable action.”
4. Don’t eat just for the sake of it
Are you really hungry? When you start feeling like reaching for a sugary snack or dessert to ensure your meal feels ‘complete,’ take some time to consider whether you actually need to eat it. “Connect to your hunger mechanism,” recommends Libby. “It takes 15 minutes to feel satiation. Therefore, eat your food slowly, chew carefully to aid digestion and wait at least 15 minutes until deciding whether you have had enough to eat or if you are still hungry.
“A combination of complex carbohydrates with proteins and fibres will make you feel fuller for longer by balancing your blood sugar levels. Start listening to your body, note how and which foods and drinks make you feel good, light and energised and what foods make you feel sluggish and hungrier. Once you tune in, you will start to crave the foods that make you feel good.”
5. Make the most of your meals
This comes down again to the principle of quality over quantity. Wiser choices at mealtimes will ensure that you’re kept fuller for longer and less likely to become a victim to temptation. “Eat enough at your meals,” says Libby. “Vegetables and plant proteins are low in calories but dense in physical size, micronutrients, water and fibre. They will physically fill up your stomach much more than starchy carbohydrates, unhealthy fats or animal proteins. Having lots and lots of these healthy plant-based foods as the basis of your meals with smaller amounts of healthy fats, wholegrains and lean animal proteins will fill you up, thus reducing cravings and snacking.” When employed as part of a balanced diet, this small but effective change to the proportions of your plate could prove incredibly handy in your healthy eating plans.
Suddenly that second serving of greens became a lot more inviting...