New year, new you right? While you might have a chart already tacked up to your fridge with healthy dinner recipes and lunch choices, chances are that in your heart of hearts you know the resolution won't last. While it feels good turning down the office birthday cake and going a solid week without ordering Chinese food, unless you see this new diet as a lifestyle change, you're just counting calories until something derails your journey. It doesn't have to be that way!
If you're ready to streamline your meals and feed your body with goodness, there are some easy ways to turn your diet into a lifestyle change. Rather than seeing this as a time where you deny yourself cupcakes and cheese and all things that make life worthwhile living, flip the actions and begin to see food for what it really is: Fuel. Healthy eating shouldn't feel like a punishment—below are tips on how to make yourself start believing that and turn it into a permanent frame of mind!
Imagine Food Like Fuel
You've probably heard this a million times to the point where it feels cheesy, but I'm going to make it a million and one times because it's true: While eating Nutella with a spoon is fun, food is energy. You want to be running on the best quality stuff you can get your hands on.
Your body is a tool and you need to treat it as such. For example, your legs aren't chubby—they're the limbs that get you to the awesome places you want to go. Your body isn't lumpy in that dress—it lets you do amazing things like building that impossible IKEA bookshelf, hugging your favorite people, and turning dreams in your head into reality. Your body is a powerful, strong machine, so don't jip yourself by flooding it with food that won't keep you going. While eating a salad doesn't hold a torch to the satisfaction of downing a bowl of guacamole and chips, you begin to appreciate the former when you realize what it contributes to your machine.
Open Your Idea As To What's "Healthy"
If you're a diet yo-yoer, chances are you have a stereotypical idea as to what counting calories looks like: It probably involves eating gray oatmeal for breakfast, nibbling on a cracker for lunch, and eating expensive salmon and rice for dinner. Keeping that kind of meal schedule in mind, it's no wonder that not many people want to commit to a lifestyle change.
Instead, do your research! Scour the web, Pinterest, and blogs to find new and exciting recipes that fit your lifestyle goals—chances are, a lot of the results will surprise you. From chicken and avocado burritos to spicy Thai chicken, there are thousands of recipes that are just as exciting to eat as that frozen pizza. You just need to be aware of them and box them out of their stereotypes. (And as always, you can check in with a trusted doctor to help you decide what's good for you.)
Put The Kale Down; aka Don't Eat The Things You Hate
There's no one way to "eat healthy," so if kale or cauliflower aren't your thing, skip right over them. Your diet is never going to turn into a lifestyle change if you dread the upcoming lunch hour. Hate salads? Skip the lettuce and instead whip something up like a cucumber, strawberry, and feta salad, where none of the green stuff is in sight. If lackluster chicken and broccoli make you think longingly back to your dreamy Big Mac days, ditch the measly slices of poultry and whip together a restaurant-level quinnoa bowl. Remember, healthy doesn't equal punishment. You just have to suss out your options.
Scrap Your Pinterest Board And Start Over
In order to not treat this resolution as a passing diet fad, clear your cookbooks and start over. You don't need the temptation of red velvet cupcake recipes or bacon wrapped dates hovering around you. Scrap your cookbook Pinterest board and fill it with recipes that are healthy, nutritious, and exciting to eat.
Indulge In One Fancy Food Item A Week
Just because you're cutting your sugar intake way down doesn't mean all the joy has to be sucked out of your life. Just like how you'd walk the aisles of the grocery store and indulge in a rub of guacamole or a wheel of brie, do the same with your healthy snacks. Let yourself put the expensive Greek yogurt in the cart, and spend the extra two dollars on that interesting fruit juice. Buying yourself fun (yet nutritious) snacks will make you feel like you're treating yourself.
Prepare Your Food Ahead Of Time
If you're the type of person that reaches for the takeout menus because you're too tired to cook in the evening or don't have time to make lunch in the morning, nip that excuse in the bud by preparing all your meals for the week beforehand. If you're into salads, pre-chop all your veggies and store them in Tupperware in your fridge. For dinner you can grill your meats and make your grains beforehand, or at the very least get all your ingredients chopped and waiting for you in containers for the day of, so all you have to do is pop them on the stove.
Or embrace the crockpot! All you have to do is throw a couple of ingredients together, turn it on, and come home eight hours later to an amazing dinner. Take the fuss out of eating healthy, and you'll have less hurdles you'll have to jump.
Find Healthy Replacements For your Guilty Indulgences
The important part of making a lifestyle change is to be realistic with how much you can handle. While ideally you'll be eating a nice mountain of veggies at every meal, some things a person just can't give up. And while that doughy cinnamon bagel with the strawberry jam and heavy cream cheese shmear might be your life source every morning, you don't have to cut ties with it completely. Instead, find a healthy replacement for it. Why don't you try an English muffin with low fat cheese and fresh cut strawberries instead? It's certainly a lighter option, but it'll be comfortingly similar to your usual indulgence.
Dieting shouldn't feel like some sort of punishment you do to fit in a particular pair of jeans. Look at it as a lifestyle change that will make your body stronger and more powerful, and focus on loving the skin you're in. You've got this.