Even if you are a seasoned yo-yo dieter, there are ways to permanently change your eating habits once and for all and get off of the dieting roller coaster. Even if you have tried to eat healthier over and over again and have sworn off unhealthy foods once and for all, don't give up, it's never too late to make some healthy, lasting changes. Healthy eating provides so many benefits for your body both on the inside and on the outside. Regardless of if you have tried and tried again, here are 11 ways to permanently change your eating habits for the better.
1. Determine if You Are Ready
One of the ways to permanently change your eating habits for the better is to first determine if you are ready. Just like you wouldn't start on a project until you were ready and fully prepared, don't try to change your diet until you are ready either. While you might not ever be ready to limit some of your favorite unhealthy foods, if you educate yourself on why you are making changes first, the changes will be more likely to stick. Start small and make only one change at a time, but only when you are ready for the changes.
2. Define Why
Before any changes can be made, you first have to define why you want to make these changes. Do you want to feel better? To decrease your blood pressure? To have more time with your grandchildren? Whatever your reasons may be, define why you want to change first. I've seen a lot of people try to go vegetarian or vegan long before they were ready and were eating meat only a few days later. This happens because unless you know and have a strong understanding of why you are making changes, you are more likely to go back to your old habits.
3. Define Limits and Barriers
Another important thing to do in order to permanently change your eating habits for the better is to set and define your limits and barriers. What is allowed in your new healthy eating lifestyle? What should be limited? What is moderation? What foods trigger other bad habits? How many nights a week will you allow yourself a sweet after dinner? Are there any factors that need to be considered before changes can be made? What might cause you to fall back into your old ways? It is important to come up with a well defined plan so that you know how to respond when any issues arise.
4. Set Goals
Just like with anything in life, you should set specific goals when it comes to your new healthy eating plans. If you are certain to ask yourself "why" before you embark on a new journey, then setting goals should follow suite. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to feel better? Do you want to improve a particular condition? How much time do you have? How will you know when you are successful? Whatever you reasons, set SMART goals: goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
After you have set SMART goals, you have to prepare for your new journey. You have your plans in place, now gather the tools that you need to get there. A few good ways to prepare for your healthy eating journey are keeping a well stocked pantry (with healthy foods!), plan your healthy meals in advance, pack your lunch the night before, research healthy recipes, etc. Just like you would prepare for any other task in life, prepare for healthy eating too!
6. Take Action
Now that everything is in place, it's time to take action! Take your plan, reasons why, limits, barriers, goals and tools and go for it! Healthy eating doesn't have to be challenging; when you are feeling better, looking better and enjoying delicious food in the mean time, the small amount of time that it takes to prepare is all worth it! Keep your reasons why and your goals very present in your mind (write them down and read them everyday if you need to!) and make one healthy decision after another!
7. Keep Track
Writing down your progress is a super powerful way to keep yourself accountable to...well, yourself. Record what you eat and how much and it'll be easy to see when you slip up. Maybe a stressful meeting sends you running to the vending machine or a tantrum from your toddler makes you want to eat everything in sight. A food journal can help you see those patterns so you can create a plan for next time.
8. Eat Slowly
As you work to make permanent eating changes, it's a good idea to consider the speed at which you shovel food into your mouth. By slowing it down, you'll be able to tune in to your hunger cues more easily and stop eating before you overdo it. Try taking a small sip of water between bites or setting your fork down while you chew.
9. Reward Yourself
Small rewards as you journey to better habits can be motivating. Maybe you buy yourself a concert ticket or take a day off work to go for a hike. No matter what the prize is, knowing the little treat is waiting for you will definitely get you moving. Just be sure you don't reward yourself with food which is sure fire way to derail all your best efforts.
10. Start Small
There's really no point in changing everything at one time because it'll be really hard to stick with it. Instead of overhauling your entire eating routine, start small and build on your progress as you go. For example, try a new fruit each day the first week, switch to whole wheat bread the second and add fish to your diet the next week, keeping each habit as you go. These small changes spur you on without making the process frustrating.
In order to ensure that this isn't another one of your previous yo-yo diets, it is very important to maintain your healthy eating behaviors by keeping barriers in place that prevent you from failing. Do what you need to do to ensure that one slip up will not lead to another and wreck your healthy eating plans. Whether it be a food journal, a scale, a friend to call or a rewards system for good choices, have something to hold yourself responsible when old habits begin to creep back in. Remember that just because you have one bad meal or one bad day, the entire week is not ruined. Tomorrow is a new day - get back on track and keep going!
When it comes to disease prevention, healthy eating is not a choice, rather it is a way of life. Even if you have tried and failed and tried again, never give up healthy eating - nutritious foods are key for a healthy life! How do you keep yourself on track when it comes to ensuring that your diet is as healthy as possible?
This article written in collaboration with editor, Eliza Martinez