When faced with the realization that they have to find a healthy way to lose weight or eat a healthier diet, it is common for people to feel daunted.
Some people might envision strict, rigorous gym sessions and the possibility of never eating something enjoyable again. Others might give up even before they start, under the impression that adopting a healthier lifestyle is beyond their means and strength of conviction.
However, in most cases, such a radical change is not necessary. Furthermore, changes can and should be implemented gradually.
Taking small steps that involve a change to healthier foods and an increase in physical activity can thus gradually help you achieve your fitness goals, so do not give up on those jeans you have grown out of! Just remember, it takes time to see change, so don't give up — eventually, you will see results.
Here are some tips to help you implement small changes in your lifestyle:
Tip #1 — Moderate your intake of fat rather than cutting it completely
While an excess of fat intake is often a cause of obesity, by no means does this mean that you can eliminate fat completely from your diet. Fat is a good source of the energy that you need to function properly every day.
Additionally, fat is essential for every cell in your body and is involved in many processes, such as hormone synthesis, body temperature regulation, and vitamin absorption. A similar case stands for carbohydrates, proteins and sugars.
Rather than banning certain types of food completely from your diet, try reducing your consumption of these foods. Depriving yourself of them can often lead to an irresistible urge to eat them, which can lead to binges and feelings of guilt and failure. Eating smaller portions of chocolate, for example, will leave your tongue satisfied and your mind happy for having maintained the rules you have set for yourself.
On the topic of moderation, it is also important to keep in mind that a full-blown exercise regime may not last very long. Instead, incorporate simple activities such as climbing stairs into your schedule. You can gradually build on these to become healthier.
Tip #2 — Keep a look out for healthier alternatives
Eating healthy does not mean abandoning snacking altogether and going hungry. Instead, take a minute to think of healthier alternatives to the food you wish to eat. For example, if you're about to watch a movie at home, try air popping your own kernels of popcorn without butter instead of using a microwavable bag of popcorn. Or grab a handful of peanuts instead of a box of candy. Similarly for dessert, choose fruit or fat-free frozen yogurt instead of a cup of ice cream.
Choose a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your meals and snacks. Because different colors of fruits and vegetables indicate the presence of different vitamins and minerals, the variety will keep you healthy and you will not grow tired of eating the same food all of the time.
It is important to note that taking vitamins or other supplements does not replace the need for fruits and vegetables. It is always best to get your nutrients naturally from your diet, especially since research is not completely conclusive on how effective supplementary pills are compared to getting the nutrients from foods from your diet.
Another way you can gradually start making your diet healthier is by consuming healthier carbohydrates and whole grains.
Another useful way to create gradual change is to reduce the number of alcoholic drinks you consume at social gatherings, and replace them with low-calorie drinks or water. Alcoholic beverages often contain hidden calories and can make you feel hungrier and reduce your willpower to abstain from unhealthy food.
If you give it time, replacing unhealthy food with healthier choices gradually will benefit your body and mind.
Tip #3 — Pay attention to how you eat
If you notice that you tend to snack while reading a book, make sure you stay away from unhealthy snacks while you're reading, and consciously munch on some fruit instead. Similarly, if you realize that you tend to want something to chew on while you are working, ensure that your table holds only healthy snacks or try chewing on sugar-free gum.
As much as possible, pay attention to your food and what your body is trying to tell you. Oftentimes, you can mistake boredom for thirst or hunger, or engage in mindless eating. To overcome this, take your time to eat and really think about what you are eating and how it feels in your mouth — the texture, taste, temperature.
It can help to eat with others, but for some eating in a social setting can actually make you eat more than you would alone. So, if you do decide to eat with others, make sure you are still paying attention to your food and not mindlessly eating it while you talk.
Several other small changes you can incorporate into your lifestyle without major overhauls include storing junk food in inaccessible places, hopefully working toward avoiding junk food all together, and replacing sugary drinks with something like plain water and a twist of lime.
A dedicated practice of all of the new habits mentioned above will make them second-nature, and eventually, you will not even be conscious of them. You will definitely, however, be conscious of the changes they bring.
Do you have your own quirky tips and ideas for small changes? How about success stories of how you fit into clothes you thought you never would be able to wear? Share them with us in the comments below!
Edited by Registered Dietitian Arielle Kamps, M.S., R.D, L.D. via HealthMatters.sg, a Singapore Health and Fitness blog that aims to help you lose weight, keep fit, and live healthy. Click here to get our free guide "Eat Your Way to Health — Secrets of a Healthy Diet".