Happy Anniversary! Reflections on a year of clean and healthy eating

August marks a year of clean and healthy eating for Kurt and me.  Happy One Year Anniversary to us! 
 When I asked him why he thinks we have been so successful, he said that we have each other to motivate us and keep us on track.  So true.  His words remind me of the biblical verse Ecclesiastes 4:9-10:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  

If you were to ask me what tips I could share with others on getting started with a healthier lifestyle, I’d say a few things.  And here they are in no particular order.

o   Make up your mind that this is a lifestyle and not a quick fix.
o   Make a commitment to clean eating by cleaning out your cupboard of junk and processed foods.
o   Make time to educate yourself on health and nutrition.  Ultimately the best diet is going to be one you will enjoy and maintain.  And that means making informed decisions about healthy food to incorporate into your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
o   Focus on nutrition and healthy eating first.  Healthy weight loss happens in the kitchen, not in the gym.  Healthy eating habits make up 70-80% of your weight loss while only 20-30% can be credited to exercise.  Surprised?  Refer back to tip #3 – educate yourself on health and nutrition.

o   Meal prepping is key to planning for success.  If you don’t plan for success then you’re setting yourself up for failure.  Make a list of your meals for the week.  Then make a grocery list for these meals.  Keep it simple.  If you choose 1 or 2 proteins per week like chicken and ground turkey, then it’s easier to prep and you still have plenty of variety by mixing your vegetables and complex carbs.  Allow for 2-3 hours on the weekend for meal prepping.  Take note of how much meal prepping feels right for you and your busy schedule.  Some people do pre-packed and pre-portioned lunch and dinner meals.   Others (like me) make big batches of prepared (chopped, cooked, washed, etc.) protein and vegetables ready in large containers.  Then the night before, it just takes 5 minutes to assemble lunch for the next work day.
o   Take baby steps and give yourself time to slowly develop healthy habits.  Start by drinking more water and less booze, soda, or whatever drink you want to replace with water.  Begin one healthy habit every 1-2 weeks.  Find out what you can do to encourage that habit to become an automatic routine.  Eat more fruits and vegetables and aim for 3-5 daily.  If you’ve never had that much, then try 1-3 at the beginning and slowly work your way up.
o   Avoid refined carbs as part of your healthy lifestyle.  What I did was clean out our cupboards of refined sugar, white flour, white rice, white pasta and potatoes.  I replaced them with Stevia, Erythritol, sprouted whole wheat flour, old fashioned oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, brown rice pasta and sweet potatoes as alternatives.
o   You will likely need to do a detox for the first week.  The detoxing is important to reset your metabolism, get rid of unhealthy cravings and clear out bad gut bacteria in your stomach.  When we did this, our heartburn went away completely.

o   Keep a journal of everything you eat at least for 2-3 weeks.  The reason you should do this is to build an awareness of everything you’re eating in a day.  It gives you a baseline to what works and doesn’t work.  Keep notes on when you’re hungry in between meals and what snacks work best to get you through the day.  Protein bars, roasted almonds, apple and celery slices with some peanut butter, string cheese, or a boiled egg all work really well for us.  Planning out your snacks along with your other meals will help you stay on track and keep your insulin levels steady.  Snacking can reduce your chances of binging or giving in to unhealthy cravings.
o   Get some sort of support system in place.  Find an exercise partner, a yoga buddy, a walking buddy at lunch, or an online group for support, encouragement and accountability.
o   Recognize that you have an unhealthy relationship with certain foods.  These are the foods that may trigger overeating.  Come up with a plan on how to deal with those trigger foods by keeping them completely out of your diet and cupboards, or if you can handle having them only on occasion, then build them into your diet.  But as soon as you’re done eating it, walk away.
o   Plan for your cheat meals and portion them out as well.  We have 1-2 cheat meals per week.  Sometimes we have an alcoholic beverage with our cheat meal.  Sometimes we have a dessert with our cheat meal.  It’s enough to keep us on track and eating healthy all week and allows for enough flexibility needed in real day to day living.

o   Celebrate your milestones.  Make a special occasion when you reach your weight loss goals.  It’s important to acknowledge your victories, so look for ways to celebrate and not just with food.  A reward can be a new pair of running shoes, or workout gear, a new outfit, a spa treatment, or a nice dinner and movie.  Rewards are psychologically powerful fuel to keep you on track with maintaining healthy habits.  It keeps the journey fun, exciting and encouraging.
o   Set time aside every day to get in the right mindset.  For some, it’s first thing in the morning with coffee and quiet time.  For others, mental preparation takes place during prayer, meditation, reading the Bible, confessing positive affirmations, reflection, or goal setting.  Remember that this is as much a mental, spiritual and psychological process as it is a physical process of incorporating change in your life.  Mental attitude and state of mind is important.  It’s a commitment to live healthy every day, and that takes time mentally to acknowledge and prepare.  It can be as simple as drinking coffee or brushing your teeth, but that daily routine needs to happen in the mind first.
o   Find out what works for you – foods, meals, snacks and exercise routines.  When are you most likely to exercise, what time of day and what days each week work best for you, your schedule and your body.  Take note of it and work with the routines that you are most likely to continue.  I recommend reading Charles Duhigg “The Power of Habit.”  It will give you profound insight on the power of routines, habits and the power of the mind to eventually operate on autopilot with minimal effort.
The journey toward wellness & nutrition should incorporate aspects of the mind, body and spirit.  It should be one that acknowledges and nurtures the person as a whole and not just focus on the physical transformation of the body.  If you look at some of the tips outlined above, you will take note that it’s not just diet and nutrition that is considered in this lifestyle.  It’s not just about  education on nutrition and establishing healthier eating habits.  There also needs to be support systems in the form of social and spiritual relationships, there’s psychological preparation as part of a daily routine.  I hope your personal journey toward a healthier lifestyle is underway, and I encourage you to make peace with your body and work with it.  And I encourage you to be the best person you can possibly be!


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