Guest post written by Catherine Chen, Health Coach at catherinechenwellness.com
An accomplished consultant in Indonesia, Derek*, told me that he was struggling with weight loss. Even though he was doing great at exercising, he wanted some help with eating the right foods. The challenge for him was not so much knowing what to eat – he already knew the “how-to’s” of healthy eating – but to make healthy eating actually happen.
In an information age, most people already know what foods are good for them. We hear that we should eat more greens and whole grains, drink more water, the list goes on. But if knowing information alone could make us healthy, I wouldn’t have had this conversation with Derek and you wouldn’t be reading this article.
So how do you implement what you already know about healthy eating?
Set a system in place so that your automatic choice is healthy.
Increase your access to healthy food by making or purchasing it for several meals, ensuring that you have more of it around. On the weekends, I like to make a big pot of refried beans, quinoa and several bunches of swiss chard or kale that’ll last me a week. Because the healthy food is already there, I just heat it up for lunch or dinner and it saves me the energy of thinking about what to make and then settling for the easy option of going out. This doesn’t mean that you have to eat the same things every day, you can prepare or purchase several healthy dishes and combine them in different ways throughout the week for variety. The key is to make the healthy option your default.
Comedian Louis C.K. jokes that “the meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself…does that tell you about my eating habits?” Louis C.K. does not stick to a system. If you stick to your system, it will become a regular habit. And because healthy food is real, unprocessed, and contains real nutrients that your body hungers for, you’ll begin to notice that you are more consistent with how much you need to eat to feel full. If you do go out to eat, arrange portions of your food for lunch or dinner ahead of time. You could do this by asking the wait staff to box half of the food before bringing it to you so that you can have the rest for another meal. If you don’t see it ahead of time, you won’t even know what you’re missing, and you can feel good about yourself for not letting the restaurant dictate the amount you should eat. You could portion out your meal for the next day with your own home cooked meals. If you’re strapped for time and you live in the United States, I’ve read about people enjoying gourmet portion services such as Personal Chef To Go or Healthy Chef Creations, which design portioned meals for you and deliver them to your office. I’ve never tried these services and I am not endorsing them, but they may work for you. The key is to be consistent about the quality and quantity of what you are eating so that it becomes a habit.
Avoid “hungry shopping syndrome.”
You know you have this syndrome when you go food shopping while you’re hungry and end up with more groceries than usual.
Pay attention to how your body responds when you don’t follow your system. Your body compensates in a similar manner by eating more if it knows it skipped a meal. When you are aware of the consequences and subsequent emotions you may experience when you skip a meal or when you eat more than usual, just check in and be honest with yourself about whether you want to repeat that experience when it happens. And if it does, just remind yourself of how you felt the last time that it did that, so that it doesn’t happen again.
Have someone hold you accountable.
Having a supportive friend, family member, or health coach ask you about your progress ensures that you don’t slip through the system you set up for yourself. There’s something about telling your goals to someone on a regular basis that makes you more likely to follow through.
How do you like to implement your health knowledge? What systems worked for you and what have you struggled with? Tell me by leaving a comment below!
*Names have been changed
Catherine Chen is a certified Health Coach for busy professionals who want to eat and think in ways that give them more energy and time to do what they love. If you enjoyed this article, sign up to receive more tips from Catherine on healthy ways you can increase your energy so that you can reduce stress and enjoy a vibrant life at www.catherinechenwellness.com