You can run dozens of miles each week, knock out hundreds of pushups and do sit ups until your abs are on fire, but if your nutrition habits are garbage, you’re never going to see the health and fitness results you want.
There’s no shortcut around good nutrition. And, unfortunately, eating healthy is extra challenging in our society, where we have such easy access to tasty, but unhealthy, often sugary, processed foods. It doesn’t help that food, diet and drug companies often work to confuse consumers with marketing that bends the truth (to put it kindly) about what is and what isn’t healthy.
While lots of advertisements for diet and fitness products and programs would like you to believe they can offer you an easy fix to your problems, the truth is there’s no simple, quick fix. Getting your nutrition on point after a lifetime of often poor dietary decisions takes time and patience. You need to build new habits. That’s never easy. But by paying attention to the small decisions you make each day, and taking time to little by little change how you approach nutrition, you can eventually find success.
Here are five tips on how you can create a habit of healthy eating.
- Eat Real Food. Pay more attention to ingredients lists than nutrition facts, which can often be skewed. Most of the time, the fewer ingredients, the better. Just one ingredient is best. (Avocado. Ingredients: Avocado.) It’s also a good idea to shop the outskirts of your grocery store where you’ll find fresh food, rather than the processed, boxed food you’ll find in the aisles. Additionally, forget about fast food. Don’t give youself that option, even in a pinch. Be strict about that, and you’ll soon learn how to live without the drive-thru.
- Pay Attention To The Process. Chances are you won’t find success immediately. It will be a struggle at first. That’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself should you fail on occasion. Focus on changing your habits little by little. Start with small changes. Swap out the chips or crackers during the day for healthy snacks. Commit to eating a healthy breakfast. Small victories ultimately lead to healthy habits.
- Drink Water. When you stay hydrated, research indicates it helps regulate your ghrelin and leptin, the hormones that govern when you feel hungry and full. Water also has no calories. For most people struggling with weight, liquid calories are among the biggest villains. You shouldn’t be drinking your calories. And forget those diet sodas. Not only do they not offer any health benefits, lots of health problems are associated with diet soda. It’s like the beverage version of cigarettes. Stay away from that garbage.
- Forget Counting Calories. For decades the health and fitness industry has been obsessed with counting calories. Now, the industry is finally starting to come around to the idea that doesn’t work. The science behind calorie counting isn’t nearly as accurate as most people think. Additionally, research indicates that calorie counting generally overestimates the effects of exercise and underestimates the impact of food. Personally, I have yet to meet the person who became morbidly obese by eating too many fruits and vegetables. It’s the quality of your food — not the calories in your food — that matter most. Plus, spending your time meticulously counting every calorie in everything you eat is just no way to live. Focus on clean eating and you’ll do fine.
- Don’t Become Obsessed. Food should be enjoyed. And, believe it or not, healthy food can actually be delicious. Honest. Still, that doesn’t mean you can never again have another bite of unhealthy (or, at least, less-than-healthy) food. If you suddenly force yourself to live off just kale and nuts, chances are you’ll be binging on Kit Kats and Big Macs by the end of Day Two. Avoid that disastrous trip off the rails by being reasonable and realistic with your goals. A good rule to follow is the 80/20 Rule. Have at least 80 percent of your food be good, clean foods. Then the other 20 percent can be a little more sinful. Of course, the less sinful, the better.