By Marissa S. Costonis H.C.
What’s one thing you want to change about your eating habits and health in the new year? The answer may not be as complicated as we are often led to believe and isn’t found in the latest fad diet. The secret to making sustainable and positive changes to our health is simply achieved one bite at a time.
Here are 5 easy strategies or ‘bites’ to better health:
- Envision what ‘perfect’ health looks and feels like to you.
The definition of health is completely different from one person to the next. Think about health in terms of the specific short- and long-term health benefits you want to enjoy. For example, perhaps immediate relief from digestive issues, lack of energy, joint pain and frequent headaches are your first order of business. Think of long-term health benefits as a holiday wish list that may require a bit more time to achieve, such as repairing the gut lining, improving bloodwork results and avoiding a family history of heart disease.
Be specific and aggressive when setting health goals but make sure they are achievable. Picturing your version of “perfect” health and more importantly what you are able to enjoy with it is the first step to making it a reality.
- Go slow to go fast.
While a drastically new diet may provide short-term results, it’s best to use a “go slow to go fast” approach for long-lasting benefits. Compare your current eating style with your targeted food plan and start making a few changes each week. Gradual change, in support of a long-term goal, creates sustainable changes that last a lifetime. Instead of eliminating all carbs on day one, substitute a lentil pasta or zucchini noodles one night this week to kick-start your progress. Want to try a vegan life-style? Begin incorporating a few plant-based meals every week and practice using new protein-based ingredients to improve your cooking skills and assimilate into this new way of eating.
- Focus on Personal Best Foods.
When embarking on a new way of eating, most people focus on all the foods they need to give up such as processed foods or sweet snacks. Instead, highlight the positive aspects of making a food and health change. Identify all your favorite “personal best foods” or whole foods that you enjoy eating and are included in your new eating strategy. For example, if transitioning to a more plant-based eating style, brainstorm all the veggies, beans and nuts you enjoy. Create a list of these foods and identify a variety of ways to prepare and incorporate them into meals throughout the week. It’s common to fall into an eating slump and easily forget about all the many delicious and nutritious foods available.
- Create food flexibility.
Forget identifying a hundred specific dinner recipes on Pinterest that require hundreds of ingredients that will be used once. Rather, create a set of ten simple recipe techniques that incorporate of variety of your personal best veggies and proteins in your new food plan. This provides the skills and flexibility to make a variety of meals depending on what you have on-hand. For example, if a low-carb eating style is the plan, try perfecting a basic baked chicken and veggie recipe that can be changed by mixing up whatever veggies and spices in the house to create a Mexican-style, Italian-style or Moroccan-style dish!
- Celebrate success and raise the bar.
Especially when making gradual changes, it’s important to stop and reflect on the progress made along the way. People often don’t realize how bad they felt until they feel better! Changing eating habits one ‘bite’ at a time continues to get easier with practice. Use your new change skills to ‘raise the bar’ to make even more positive changes to your diet and health. Perhaps cutting down on sugar consumption was a success so now it’s time to try eating more leafy greens! Use your new skills to make positive changes to non-food areas of your life such as beauty products, household cleaning supplies and even your exercise routine.
While it may be tempting to try a drastic new diet in the hopes of obtaining a quick fix, results may be temporary. Make a commitment to make one change each day or each meal in the new year. Try a new vegetable or experiment with a new way to prepare a favorite such as steaming or stir-frying. Before long, the changes will add up over time produce big results that last a lifetime.
Marissa Costonis is a Health Change Guru. She works as a Certified Health Coach to help clients transform their own eating habits and health one bite at a time. Marissa is author of the new Amazon #1 bestseller, Change BITES, 5 Change Management Strategies to Transform Your Health.