In a recent overhaul of my eating habits, I've totally taken to the "healthy food" commitment and turned my diet around 100%. (Joking, I made a giant plate of nachos last night and I just finished a handful of Skittles.) In all honesty - no, I do not eat healthy food 24/7. I won't bullshit you. But here's the secret - you don't have to! I'm not saying that you can eat pizza and chips all day and still be healthy and get that 6 pack you always dream about as you scroll through Tumblr while eating ice cream. But I AM saying that it's okay to have treats and even a total lapse every once in awhile. The main thing is that the majority of my meals ARE healthy ones, and as a reformed pasta and cheese addict, I'm shocked at how easy it's been. Here are my "guidelines" I set for myself in order to stay healthy AND sane - because seriously, if I had to cut out chocolate, I'd go crazy (it's creme egg season!!).
**disclaimer - I am not in any way a health or fitness professional. These are guidelines I use for myself and they may not be right for everyone, but that's okay! Figure out what works for you! And if you're changing your diet or fitness routine drastically, always consult with a professional first to make sure you aren't overdoing it and causing your body more stress than good.
- the 80/20 rule -
Basically, 80% of the time, ish, or more if I'm on a good week, I try to eat super healthy. This means green juice, protein smoothies, tons of eggs and chicken, and every veggie I've convinced myself is yummy and not weird and gross (it's about 6. I'm still picky). This also means limited snacking, strategically placed meals, and TONS of water. The other 20%, which generally falls on the weekends, I eat what I want - within reason. I don't go out and gorge on McDonalds and eat a full pizza - but I do succumb to the odd chicken mcnugget happy meal after I get off work (at 2 am, it's hard to resist!) and I definitely enjoy my creme eggs or glass of Coca-Cola. The key is not to have 3 completely unhealthy meals a day on your "cheat times", and not to load up on unnecessary sugar and processed food, but also not to feel guilty if you slip up. If I tried to cut sweets out of my diet entirely, I'd be cranky, because I love chocolate, and I'd be in a constant cycle of beating myself up for messing up, which just increases unhealthy choices and unhealthy self image. So allow the treats - but remember they are treats. They are not staples. They are not feeding your body anything for fuel. But they also are not going to ruin all your good effort, as long as you are reasonable about what you're consuming. One cookie will not set you back in your progress, and does not mean that you have failed. If you really want a cookie, have it, and enjoy it, and be happy about it. But don't eat the whole box of cookies. Just be reasonable! And really, once you stick to healthy food for so long and see and feel the reaction your body has to bad food - sluggish, tired, bloating, acne, etc - you won't want to eat it as much! Not to mention the longer you go without something, the easier it gets to resist your cravings. I'm not joking. It's science.
- the "mix and match" rule -
There are a millllllllion different "diets" and eating plans out there. I don't subscribe to any, for much of the same reason as I don't cut out treats entirely - when I mess up, I get mad for failing, then I continue failing, and then I quit entirely. Plus some of them are just plain foolish and unhealthy - even if they work, they only work while you're on them, or they work for the wrong reasons and don't build a strong and healthy foundation - so as soon as you slip up, you bounce right back to worse off then you were before. So in order to stay sane and stay on track and most importantly stay healthy, I take the things that are doable for my lifestyle from different places, and make my own "plan". (Again - I am not a professional! Do NOT take super extreme components of diets and mix them together, ALWAYS make sure you are giving your body what it needs.) What I mean is that for example, I can't stick to a 100% paleo diet, but I like the idea of it - so I try to incorporate mostly meat and non-starchy vegetables into my major meals, and limit my grain, dairy, and sugar consumption. However, I'm a huge fan of sweet fruits, so I don't restrict myself too much on them - I'm so picky that any fruit or veggie I like, I make a regular part of my choices - or else I'd be stuck eating only 2 or 3 different things. And I LOVE milk, way too much, so when I tried to cut out dairy it wasn't long before I was sad. But I did notice I had less bloating when I wasn't having milk or cheese - so now I selectively only have it a few days a week, instead of with every meal. Once you get used to eating differently, your body reacts totally differently - where before a huge hot chocolate with whip cream and a brownie would be a treat (and still is, every once in awhile), now a glass of chocolate milk feels indulgent - and is still really healthy! This makes it SO much easier to stay on track. I haven't gone totally gluten free because I didn't see a huge difference when I tried it, and honestly it's expensive and I like bread, but I have cut way back on my "empty carbs" and found a ton of new recipes I would never have thought of before - like using way more brown rice and quinoa and way less pasta, which used to be one of my staples. The idea is to find out what works for you by trying things - maybe removing dairy totally gets rid of your bloating and stomach problems, or maybe it doesn't affect you at all! As long as you are informed as to how to properly change and remove items in your diet and are careful to still get all your nutrients, play around and find out what works best for your body and your lifestyle.
- the "add in" rule
This ones easy. If you can add something to a dish to get extra benefit, DO IT. I put basically the same combo veggies in everything I make, from stir fry, to quinoa or rice, to salad, to nachos, etc, unless I'm following a specific recipe, because I know I like them and they each have their own benefits. Adding 6 veggies to a serving of rice is way better than none or just one! Duh. Plus it's a super easy way to get all of your servings in a day. This also goes for smoothies - spinach, kale, chia seeds, flaxseed, avocado, cucumber, celery and more are all super easy to throw in with a bunch of fruit for a juice or smoothie, and don't add a lot of taste but do significantly increase the "healthy" factor. A morning drink of strawberry and peach and rice milk is delicious, but one with that plus kale, chia, flax, and cucumber is way more beneficial and tastes basically identical!
- the "be informed" rule -
This one goes without saying. (I hope.) KNOW what you are putting in your body and what it does! The internet is not only for cat gifs, people. Be aware of what your body needs and what food has what benefits, as well as why bad foods are bad, so you can eat accordingly. Know what a serving of cooked broccoli looks like compared to a serving of raw broccoli. Know how much healthy oil is good for you in a day and then go stock up coconut oil. Know 18 ways to cook chicken so you don't get bored with your meals in a week. Know how to make ice cream from bananas from those days your reeeeeeally need some ben and jerrys but whoops, you only have healthy groceries in the house. Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr all have entire communities dedicated to fitness - find them! Find new things! Take everything you read with a grain of salt and be smart about it, but have fun with health food - it is possible, I promise.
- the "8 glasses a day" rule -
This is an oldie but a goodie. No matter what my eating habits are like or what I have day to day, I never feel as good if I don't have enough water. Generally, 8 glasses a day is a great place to start - but more specifically, you should be consuming half of your body weight in pounds in ounces per day. (Eg. I weight 115 pounds so I need 57 ounces per day, which is actually less than 8 glasses at 64 ounces, but if you weigh more than 130 lbs you will actually need more than 8 glasses.) This is not including what water you consume when you're exercising, because that is immediately sweat out. And more is always better! I actually drink about 2L of water every day, which is about 68 ounces, plus what I drink while working out (at least half a litre), plus what I consume in tea (usually 2 glasses of green tea). And yes - I have to pee all the time. But I also have more energy, clearer skin, less food cravings, and eat less overall than when I'm thirsty. Plus I generally add some detox benefits to my water, like citrus fruit, cinnamon, mint leaves, or berries, which can help with digestion, bloating, and at the very least make it yummy. :)
That's it! 5 very simple, very common sense guidelines to follow for an overall improved diet and state of mind. In the coming weeks I'll post some food-related posts to show how I bring these all into action, especially on time and cash restraints, and where I get the majority of my recipes and ideas from!
Happy eating! :)