How To Ditch Dieting For Good + Make Wellness A Sustainable Lifestyle
Many of us often have intentions of eating healthier, exercising more, and accomplishing new goals as. Unfortunately, fast forward a few months and many of our intentions fall by the wayside.
If you’re currently struggling to keep up with your healthy diet goals, don’t beat yourself up. It’s hard to break old habits and establish new ones — especially when those habits are food-related.
As a functional medicine practitioner, my job is to help people make health attainable, realistic, and easy to implement into your daily life. Here are 9 ways to reconnect with your healthy eating resolutions and make sure they last a lifetime.
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FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE CONSULTATIONS FOR PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD
1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Overhauling your entire diet is an unbelievably daunting task and requires us to drastically change our daily routine. For most of us, that’s totally unrealistic and sets us up for failure. My advice? Do a little bit at a time. For example, try adding in one new food a week; or, focus on establishing a healthy breakfast routine first, then move your focus to lunch and dinner once you feel like you’ve mastered the first meal of the day.
Starting out slow and easing into a change can make this a true lifestyle change rather than a one-and-done diet. As an added bonus, this allows you the time and space to find your favorite new recipes.
2. Make enough for two (or three!)
Making a different recipe for every single meal is overwhelming. I recommend batch cooking instead, which just means doubling or tripling a recipe and portitioning the leftovers into Pyrex dishes to be eaten later. This saves you time and a whole lot of stress and makes healthy eating a no brainer for the rest of the week. Just grab, reheat, and go!
3. Go for easy swaps
If you know you’re going to have trouble living without certain foods, it’s important to find a substitution. This way, you can enjoy healthier versions of the same meals that you love. These are some of my quickest, easiest swaps:
- Nut cheese instead of dairy cheese
- Nut or coconut milk instead of regular milk
- Cauliflower rice instead of rice
- Almond flour instead of bread flour
- Coconut aminos instead of soy sauce
- Coconut flakes instead of breadcrumbs
4. Don’t do it alone
Making a change is always easier when you have the support of those around you; and it’s even easier when you’re making the change with someone — or a group of people! This way, you can all offer each other support, encouragement, and of course: healthy recipe idea.
This is one of the big reasons why I created my Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum Facebook groups. Whether you are looking to go more plant-based, or discover your individual food triggers, both groups give you a space where you can receive additional encouragement, support, connect with others, and share your own tips.
5. Avoid blood sugar crashes
When you go too long without eating, you’re more likely to turn to unhealthy options like cookies or a soda. To avoid this, make sure you always have emergency snacks on hand for when healthy options aren’t available. I recommend mixed nuts, low-sugar packaged granola bars, hard-boiled eggs, and berries.
6. Focus on more than just food
One of the hardest parts about changing your diet is sticking with those changes when you’re with friends. Eating junk food or bonding over a pizza is one of the ways we socialize with others. To navigate this one, I recommend trying activities that don’t revolve around food. Instead of going to dinner or drinks, try bowling, biking, a pottery class, or go see a movie. At the end of it, you might realize that the food doesn’t matter nearly as much as you thought it did.
7. Say “no” when you need to
Let’s be honest: Friends, coworkers, and family members aren’t always the most supportive of our healthy lifestyle changes. It can be tempting to give in when someone pressures you or puts you on the spot. If you find yourself in this situation, remember that it’s OKAY to politely decline. Ultimately, no one’s day has ever been ruined because they turned down a dessert or other food item. They will forget, and you will feel good about your decision.
8. Vet the restaurant before you go
Being prepared is half the battle when it comes to making healthy decisions — and that’s especially true when it comes to eating out. If you’re trying to stick to your new eating plan, check the restaurant’s menu beforehand and decide what to order. This will help you make an intentional, healthy choice and reduce any possible peer pressure. You can even call the restaurant beforehand and see if they offer an allergy-friendly menu — and always ask what kind of substitutions they offer. You might be surprised with how accommodating they can be.
9. Forgive yourself and move on
Use all of these tips as best as you can, but if you don’t hit the nail on the head, don’t dwell on it. At the end of the day, making healthy changes should be done from a place of grace and lightness — not punishment, obsession, or restriction. You can’t control everything and chronic stress can be just as bad for your health as the foods you put into your body.
If you find yourself constantly focusing on being perfect — and tearing yourself down when you slip up — it’s a recipe for failure and it’s doing nothing to improve your health.
Remember: No one is perfect, and it is okay to slip up. What makes the difference is picking up wherever you left off and trying again!
I indulged a little too much - now what?
Despite our best efforts to eat healthy, chances are that at some point, we’re going to indulge a little too much.
Whether it was a few too many cocktails, or a full day of nothing but carbs that is making you feel bloated and sluggish, this 5-step plan will help you recover. It was specifically designed to support your blood sugar balance, gut microbiome, and energy levels to get you back to 100 percent, ASAP.
Water is nature’s best detoxer, so the first step in your recovery plan is to hydrate with at least two 8-ounce glasses of water. Stick to plain, room-temperature water or warm water with lemon or apple cider vinegar, which have additional detoxing and blood sugar-balancing properties.
But before you go using just any water, you should know that the type of water matters. And the water that’s coming from your tap might not be the healthiest option. In fact studies (1) have found 316 contaminants in the U.S. drinking water—and 202 of them had no safety standards.
The bottom line? We don’t always know what’s really in our water, which is why I always recommend drinking water that’s been filtered by National Science Foundation (NSF) standards. I recommend the Zero Water pitcher; or, if you’re able to really invest in a home system, try the The Ultimate Permeate Pumped Reverse-Osmosis Drinking-Water Home System.
2. Sweat it out
Step two in your recovery plan is to get your body moving. This could be in the form of a run, a HIIT workout, or a hot yoga class; basically, anything that will get your heart rate up. Exercise will help you burn off some of the excess calories you consumed and help balance your blood sugar (2). Studies have also shown that exercise is good for balancing the gut microbiome (3), so it will help support your body’s recovery in more ways than one.
If you’re really feeling sluggish or you’re not able to exercise for any reason, you can sweat it out by booking an infrared sauna session. Infrared saunas are one of my favorite health tools for combating inflammation, supporting detox, and decreasing pain.
3. Enjoy some fermented foods
Alcohol, sugar, and other simple carbs can affect your gut microbiome composition in a negative way (4), so a critical step in your recovery plan is exposing your gut to some beneficial bugs that will help restore a healthy balance. This can come in the form of fermented foods—like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and Kimchi—or a probiotic supplement.
4. Go low-carb for a day (or more)
If you ate a little too much yesterday, it was most likely in the form of carbs. Carbs are not only addictive, they’re less filling and nutrient-dense than protein and fats, so you can eat a LOT of them without feeling satiated. (Just think about it: You wouldn’t be able to eat a whole plate of turkey without feeling too full. But a plate of dinner rolls? Easy.)
That’s why, when you enter recovery mode, it’s good to give carbs—especially simple carbs like rice, corn, and wheat—a rest. Instead, follow a low-carb, high-fat Ketotarian diet for the day, which will help you calm inflammation and reset your metabolism. If you’re really looking for a reboot after the holidays, try entering the 28-day Ketotarian Challenge starting on January 6th.
5. Don’t dwell on the past
Did you have more glasses of wine than you can count last night? Did you eat gluten when you’ve been trying to eliminate it? Did you eat that whole plate of dinner rolls I mentioned before?
Whatever it was, it’s okay.
The holidays are about living in the moment and we all need to let go sometimes. The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up about the past. Toxic emotions like shame and guilt will only put more stress on your body and mind. In fact, research has established a clear link between stress and metabolism (5) and gut health (6).
Instead, focus on what you can do today to help show your body a little extra TLC. Doctor’s orders!
As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.
- Luntz, T. (2009, December 14). U.S. Drinking Water Widely Contaminated. Retrieved December 11, 2019, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tap-drinking-water-contaminants-pollutants/.
- Adams O. P. (2013). The impact of brief high-intensity exercise on blood glucose levels. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity : targets and therapy, 6, 113–122. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S29222
- Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., … Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2017, 3831972. doi:10.1155/2017/3831972
- Singh, R. K., Chang, H. W., Yan, D., Lee, K. M., Ucmak, D., Wong, K., … Liao, W. (2017). Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. Journal of translational medicine, 15(1), 73. doi:10.1186/s12967-017-1175-y
- Razzoli, M., & Bartolomucci, A. (2016). The Dichotomous Effect of Chronic Stress on Obesity. Trends in endocrinology and metabolism: TEM, 27(7), 504–515. doi:10.1016/j.tem.2016.04.007
- Karl, J. P., Hatch, A. M., Arcidiacono, S. M., Pearce, S. C., Pantoja-Feliciano, I. G., Doherty, L. A., & Soares, J. W. (2018). Effects of Psychological, Environmental and Physical Stressors on the Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in microbiology, 9, 2013. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.02013
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.
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