If you’re trying to eat healthy, you’ve probably heard that you should cut out muffins, sweet breads and other baked-good favorites. And we hate have to tell you, but...
Do you ever deprive yourself of forbidden foods, beat yourself up for eating too much, or feel anxious when you see a higher number on the scale? If so, you may be stuck in a diet mindset. When you think this way, you’re focused more on strict rules and less on your own intuition. For instance, you might:
- Label food as either good or bad
- Call yourself either good (sticking to your diet) or bad (cheating)
- Deprive yourself completely of foods you love
- Adopt the latest fad diet
- Exercise to make up for overeating
- Obsess about numbers on a scale
An all-or-nothing mentality based on rigid rules can harm your dieting efforts and lead to a cycle of dieting, regaining weight, and then feelings of guilt or anxiety. Fortunately, with the right mindset, you can break this cycle and create healthy eating habits you can maintain for the long term — without all the stress.
Changing Your Mindset
Most importantly, ditch the diet mindset. Think about your healthy eating habits as a lifestyle choice that improves the way you feel. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Nix the all-or-nothing mentality. Don’t put foods in a category of good or bad. Think of not-so-healthy choices as pleasurable treats you can have in moderation. On that note, if you slip up, you’re not “bad.” Forgive yourself and pick up where you left off.
- Practice mindful eating. Try to avoid eating in your car, at your computer, or in front of your TV. Eat slowly and really focus on the sensations of what you’re eating — what does it taste like, what is the texture? You’ll feel more satisfied and more easily recognize when you’re full.
- Eat frequently. Never allow yourself to get to the point of feeling ravenous. Carry healthy snacks with you, like fruit, nuts, or multigrain crackers. By being prepared, you’re less likely to make the wrong choices out of desperation.
- Eat plenty of veggies, fruit, and whole grains. High-fiber foods help you feel full longer. Plus, they help decrease cholesterol, control your blood sugar, and reduce your risk of cancer.
- Substitute healthy alternatives. Even the simplest substitutions can make a big difference. Swap white rice for brown rice, sour cream for low-fat yogurt, or fresh fruit for sugary candy.
- Catch more Zzzs. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Research shows that getting less than six hours of sleep can affect hunger-regulating hormones, leading to weight gain.
- Make eating healthy a form of self-care. Just like a massage or a great workout are ways you take care of your body, think of eating as a form of self-care that’s not dictated by a number on a scale, but something that makes you feel energized and healthy.
Don’t try to make drastic changes overnight. Focus on one goal at a time — maybe it’s eating more fiber, increasing your fruit and veggie intake, or cutting down on sugar. And remember, there are a lot of different ways to eat healthy and everyone has unique needs. A registered dietitian can help design a personalized plan that works best for you.