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Going on and off different diets is not a sustainable model in order to get healthy. In order to have long term health benefits, you must completely change to a healthy diet.
When I first started working out, and thinking about my health, I found that I could workout a bunch, and eat basically anything that I wanted. I was able to maintain my weight, and still binge on ice cream, pizza, cookies, and other sugary and unhealthy foods. At the time, I thought it was great.
However, I soon realized that while I was maintaining my weight, I wasn’t really seeing any health benefits from my lifestyle. The sweets and goods were tasty, but my blood pressure was still quite high, and I wasn’t necessarily feeling a lot better in my day to day life. I was just maintaining an average level of health.
While this was certainly better than being completely inactive on a day to day basis, it also wasn’t helping me to solve my problems. Putting whatever food I wanted into my body whenever I wanted wasn’t helping me to get where I truly wanted to be. I was going to have to change my eating habits.
For many, this is not what they want to hear. It’s so much easier to eat the really good stuff all the time whenever you want. The makers of these foods know they're addicting, and they are able to capitalize on our natural instincts to want more of that food. It’s actually really hard to stop eating unhealthy foods. These foods are addicting, and some have a true addiction to sugar which is not simple to kick.
Fortunately for me, I was not addicted to sweet food. If you do have an addiction to eating unhealthy food though, you’ll want to consult an expert. My thoughts here may be a starting point for you to realize that it’s time to make a change, but some people are going to need more than just my words to truly get over their addiction. Regardless of which side you fall into, you should start working on a plan to start eating healthier.
Eating healthy does not have to be a one and done thing. You can gradually move into it, and in fact, you probably should. Going cold turkey off of sweets is going to be practically impossible for most people.
The first step to eating healthier is to understand what you are currently eating. You need to track every piece of food that goes into your body, including anything you drink that is not plain water. All of these things contain calories, sugars, and other nutrients for your body. The most popular way to track this is with a phone app. MyFitnessPal is the most popular app to do this, but there are lots of other options if you’d prefer. In all cases, the idea is the same - you’ll enter what you eat everyday. The app will then help you to understand how many calories you’re eating, and what the composition of your food looks like.
As you are beginning tracking, you should start to get an idea of what foods you truly enjoy that are healthier. For example, chicken is healthier than a hot dog. Your goal isn’t to know every little detail, but just a basic idea of what foods you like that are healthy. If you’re unsure how healthy a food is, your app should be able to help you get an understanding.
Once you know what you’re eating, and what foods you like, the next step is to understand how much you should eat in a day. Figuring out your daily food intake can be done with the help of an app (MyFitnessPal again), or by manually calculating it. I’m not going to write out the entire formula here as it would take an entire article just on the subject. Just note that the number of calories you need will depend on your age, sex, weight, and how active you are.
Now that you know how many calories you should eat in a day, and you know how many calories you’re eating, your next goal is to figure out how to eat the correct number of calories to maintain your weight (if you want to lose weight then you should be eating less calories). Beyond just eating the correct number of calories, you should be eating foods that help you to meet your nutritional needs as well. Eating all of your calories in cookies for a day is not really ideal. Not only do you miss tons of important vitamins and nutrients that way, but you’re going to be extra hungry later in the day.
The great thing about healthy food is that it fills you up much more than unhealthy food. You can eat an entire plate of salad, and an entire bowl of fresh vegetables, and that will be less calories than a small french fry from your local fast food restaurant. Healthy food is generally less calorie dense than unhealthy food.
Additionally, healthy food is going to have a stronger impact on your health overall, You’ll feel more energized, and in many cases, you’ll see other health problems start to resolve themselves, simply by eating correctly.
The hard part of all of this is actually implementing it. You’re not going to wake up tomorrow and start eating healthy on a daily basis. It’s going to take consistent work every single day. At some point, after many years (yes, years) of work, eating healthy will finally feel more natural. But undoing years of work is not going to come overnight. And you’ll still be able to eat unhealthy foods, just not all the time. I still enjoy pizza or chips every now and then, but it’s a rare treat and not a common occurrence.
Building healthy eating habits will have excellent effects on your life, and allow you to more fully enjoy your time with your children. But it will take work to make it part of your life - that work is absolutely worth it though.
If you're in need of some tips on making simple meals easily, check out our article on the subject.