By Vanessa Hampton
Have you achieved perfection in your life? Any part of your life?
Yeah, neither have I. This, of course, is practically impossible. So then why is it that many of us still try to hold ourselves to a standard of perfection every time we decide that we are going to start eating healthy?
I see it all the time.
Someone will decide that they are going to change their ways with their eating but, instead of implementing manageable changes that they have a chance of sticking with over time, they are all in. No room for error.
This quickly becomes overwhelming and, a week or two in when they binge on chocolate cake or have a double serving of fries with the pizza they just ordered,
they feel like a failure and throw their hands up … until the next time.
Why do we do that to ourselves? Why can’t we allow ourselves to be imperfect?
The goal is NOT to never have indulgences again. It’s NOT to never enjoy the food you eat or celebrate with a piece of cake. The goal is to strike a balance. The discipline of making small changes and implementing new habits one step at a time to help us towards our goals tends to be way more difficult for us than the fleeting “all or nothing” mentality.
We are a culture of instant fixes, so we want to find a magic solution or an instant mind set change that will allow us to never struggle with healthy eating choices again.
Well, it’s time to give all that up.
It’s time to practice a little patience with ourselves, learn to feel confident in our choices, and enjoy our meals all at the same time.
Balance! It is possible.
Here are some simple, manageable tips to set you on a path of healthy eating for life, not just for this week!
Begin with consistency. Start with 3 solid meals a day. No skipping meals, and try to avoid snacking.
For most of us this is a good rule of thumb and if you are eating well-rounded meals, you should not typically be getting hungry before your next one.
When you find consistency in 3 meals a day, your body will know what to expect and won’t feel the need to hold onto extra fat (in survival mode) because it doesn’t know when it’s next meal will be.
Address your portions. Just because it’s on your plate or served to you at a restaurant doesn’t mean you should or have to eat ALL of it.
Appropriate portion sizes go a long way in helping not only to get you at the calories that you need (instead of just want), they also help your stomach with digestion of your food.
Our gut doesn’t have to work near as hard if we aren’t making it work overtime with too much food.
Use your hand as a guide. Measure proteins with your palm and aim for 3-5 servings a day. Measure good carbs with a cupped hand and try to limit them to 3 or less each day (depending on your level of activity). Measure good fats with your thumb. You should be getting 3-5 servings of these a day and having a good fat with each meal will help you feel more satisfied longer. Measure veggies with your fist and try to get in 6 fists daily. Adding more veggies to your diet will provide fiber and vital nutrients but will also fill you up so you will be less likely to overindulge in areas you shouldn’t.
Listen to your body’s cues about when you are full.
Keeping in mind that it takes 20 minutes to recognize that you are full, SLOW DOWN your eating. Be mindful of chewing and try to only eat to 80% fullness.
It’s no fun when you are miserable and have a food baby poking out of your belly, so just don’t do it!
You can still enjoy your food when you just eat less of it and you will feel good later!
Follow the 90/10 rule. 90% of the time, make healthy choices in eating, and think of food as fuel for your body just like gas is for your car. Then 10% of the time, indulge.
Let go of trying to be perfect. Its not going to happen.
When you allow yourself that 10% margin for indulgent eating, it means you are much more likely to stick to the healthier decisions the other 90% of the time. Just remember during that indulgent eating to be smart and avoid the food babies!
Remember, there are no quick fixes. Let go of that mindset.
We didn’t create poor habits overnight and we are not likely to wake up one day and correct them all in 24 hours. Practice patience, be kind to yourself, and find your own balance with perfectly imperfect eating, one habit at a time.