For a lot of my clients (and even myself) Mexican food happens to be our kryptonite meaning this healthy lifestyle works and would be easy to stick to if caso, chips and tortillas didn’t exist!!! Unfortunately, it does and we are left to fight off those cravings on empty stomachs and ‘willpower’. I put the quotations around the word willpower because willpower (long-term) doesn’t really exist! Healthy habits that you created are what works when willpower and beginning motivation fades away. What do I mean do that, you might ask… For example, think of your most favorite unhealthy foods (for the sake of the example we can use mine, homemade chocolate cake). If every single time I walked into my kitchen there was chocolate cake right next to a bowl of fruit 8/10 times I would chose the chocolate cake, (OMG a dietitian who eats chocolate over fruit?!!?)
and I absolutely LOVE fruit!! This is why willpower doesn’t exist, I am a dietitian, I have been eating healthy now for many years, the newness of a healthy lifestyle has worn off long ago and motivation isn’t something that drives my healthy choices anymore…. Habits are!!
The only reason why I can walk into a Mexican food restaurant and order a salad is because of good results that have fueled my healthy ways to become a habit! Below is the conversion my brain has long before we even get to the Mexican restaurant, it has already made the choice for me (another thing is can you see how everything mentioned below is positive?! My brain associates the healthy choice as being a positive empowering one, not one of deprivation and negativity))!!
- I KNOW I like salad.
- I KNOW salad fills me up.
- I KNOW from a long-term history of healthy eating that I will be happier with my choice of a salad long after we leave the restaurant.
- I KNOW a salad is in line with my long-term health goals.
- I KNOW based off of my own personal cost benefit or my reward vs. consequences analysis that the salad will be the better choice in the end.
- I KNOW I will not feel deprived and unhappy after choosing a salad!
are not based on willpower, they are based on habits I have created… So now the question is.. If you are just getting started with a healthy lifestyle and we are trying to break unhealthy habits and replace them with new ones how do we do that?!! Here are a few simple tips to getting started (that work with minimal willpower).
- For the first few weeks that you are getting started with changing your habits avoid going to restaurants that you KNOW will create food anxiety, stress and will really test your ‘willpower’. Why go to a Mexican food restaurant that is your absolute favorite indulgence and think you will avoid the chips, avoid the margaritas and order a salad?! Why would you even want to put yourself in that type of environment? Skipping out on unhealthy restaurants isn’t something you have to do permanently BUT while you are getting started for the first few weeks I highly recommend it!!! People will then tell me, ‘but then I can’t go out with my friends’… NO ONE needs that type of food, consider recommending a healthier alternative or cook and have everyone over at your house so then you can really control what is being served. This is not a long-term solution but this is an important part of creating a healthy lifestyle were you are able to build up confidence in yourself that you CAN make healthier choices without dangling tortilla chips in front of your face!!!
- Get rid of the unhealthy items in your home!!! This one should be a no brainer. Once again it is like dangling tortilla chips in front of your face. Why do you have to be ‘strong enough’ to say no?! What does that even mean?! For my husband and I we do not keep unhealthy items in our home, not to punish us but to help us!!! I am the type that if we had a chocolate cake or ice cream in our home on the daily, I would eat that for all meals and snacks through out the day (maybe not literally but I would definitely want to) and then at night when I am sitting down to catch up on my favorite shows, I would have some more sweets then too (because doesn’t tv + ice cream= best friends!?). In fact I find myself eating crappy food like chips, sweets and/or whatever WAY MORE than I normally would just because it is in the house!! These might even be items that I don’t even really care about or crave but if it is in the house… it is talking to me from the freezer, fridge or pantry and I can probably tell you the exact location ;) . The biggest tip here is to make your home your heaven. When we leave our homes and go out into the world we are overloaded with advertisements and unhealthy choices (even when purchasing our morning coffee) so why create the same type of environment at home?! Fill your pantry with healthy choices once so you don’t have to make that decision twice!! Also, I have people who tell me, ‘well I can’t get rid of it because it is my roommates, friends and/or families food'. Then create separate shelves!! I always give my husband the top shelf in our pantry because well I can’t see it!!! He can put all the bad foods up there he wants and I will never know because it takes extra effort for me to get up there (allow laziness to work to your advantage)! So put the unhealthy food somewhere that will keep it out of sight and out of mind! Lastly, when building your haven, keep all of your healthy foods at eye level, this will make the choosing process easier because the first thing you see when you look into your pantry is a healthy choice and don’t second guess it!!!
- If you are really creating a healthy haven and ridding your home of all the tempting foods you should find this to be a very reliving process!!! So then when a craving does hit for ice cream you actually have to put on human clothes, get in your car and drive to go get it! This is called: Creating a barrier. 9 out of 10 times if I have to make the extra effort to go out of my way to get unhealthy foods, I am just lazily enough that I won’t go. Use human laziness to your advantage and embrace it!! Then once or twice a week when you really DO want to go and get the ice cream… GO!! Go get a small or spilt something, eat it there, throw it away there and don’t bring home leftovers!!! No need to continue to make an unhealthy habit the morning after. Eat it, leave it and forget about it!!
- Create a healthy relationship with ‘treats’. If you over indulge one evening or have a little bit of wine, dessert, whatever! Do it and move on and don’t continue to carry that meal around with you for the rest of the week! My male clients are always better at losing weight, do you want to know their secret… NONE of them can recall what they eat, my women clients can replay down to the grape they ate 2 weeks ago. So what does this mean?! Women hold on to every.single.bite. they take!! Men can’t remember what they had for breakfast- they are able to eat it, leave it and forget about it!! They are not holding on to the bites they shouldn’t have taken because they can’t (for the most part) remember. If women could learn this tip, positive relationships with food would start to form and food anxiety could be a thing of the past!!
Pretty crazy to think that willpower doesn’t exist but it is also very freeing!! What if we could just take away some of the unhealthy choices we are faced with and just focus on creating a healthier environment around us, that MAKES us choose to be healthier?!!
Wouldn’t that be nice!!! If you could commit to focusing on these few little steps… avoiding unhealthy restaurants, creating a healthy haven at home and letting go of every.single.bite?!
The rewards will come back to you tenfold!!!
- To relieve stress
- To decrease choices
- To spend less at the grocery store
- To stop recalling every bite you take
- To stop spending crazy money to eat out
- To not have to pay for diabetes medications in the future
- To not be defined by food….
Wouldn’t that be such a better world?! Create a healthy environment that can create a healthy lifestyle.
I hope this article hit home for you! If you found any value in my words I encourage you to share this with your Facebook friends, pinterest, instagram and/or any other forms of social media. If this article made you excited about positive changes and encouraged you, it can probably encourage someone else too!! Thank you for reading and please leave any comments below that you would like, if you enjoyed this article, hated it or have some tips of your own that could help others!!
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If you can’t tell I have had Mexican food on the brain lately and came you blame me?!