By far the most common challenge for keeping up a healthy diet is giving up food addictions. If you could break free from your cravings, healthy habits would take over and your new lifestyle would become a breeze. Wouldn't that be nice?
Easier said than done. Stimulating foods are among the most addictive pleasures on earth. Your brain is wired to seek out high-calorie energy sources like sugars and fats.
The problem is that these energy sources are no longer scarce, as they've been throughout our evolution. Food manufacturers are experts at exploiting our natural desires by bombarding us with overly-stimulating food products, not to mention how convenient and cheap they're making them.
Battling such influences takes careful planning.
Think about the situations when you're most vulnerable to eat something you would regret. Most likely, this is happening when you're out for a celebration or family gathering, or when you're so hungry that your good sense becomes hijacked. Having a clear picture of each of these situations will help you prepare and avoid losing control when the time comes.
You might be thinking, is it really that bad to indulge on occasion? True, there is room in a healthy lifestyle for the occasional indulgence. But when you're taking on food addictions, a slight venture off the clear path could leave you blistered and drained of energy.
That's why it's crucial to do everything you can to maximize your chances for success when starting off.
Here are 5 steps you can take to get going on the right track:
1. Ditch the junk
The essential first step.
The idea here is to cut off the option of having any foods that don't fit in with your goals. Not only does this help you make better choices, but it also helps you to avoid feeling deprived, since those foods won't be there to tempt you.
Start by donating any non-perishable foods to your local food drives. You might think it'll be tough to cut everything cold turkey, but do it anyway. You'll be much better off not having those options from the start instead of fighting with yourself over how much you can have.
If there are any foods that your family won't let you get rid of, you might arrange to have these stocked as single servings, pre-planned for the week. You're less likely to cheat when it's coming out of your kid's lunch box!
2. Tame the beast
The next step is to make sure you have healthy, ready-made foods available at all times. It's crucial that little or no preparation is needed.
Think about the days when you lose track of time or get home from a long stretch at work. Having enough control to make a healthy choice in these situations is a skill that you'll only master with time.
Naturally, there's the desire to grab the most satisfying and calorie dense option available. When breaking food addictions, you need an easy option that will tame hunger as it strikes.
Go for a portion of veggies, fruit, nuts or seeds before making any other food choices when you're hungry. This is effective because it's foolproof, and once the initial hunger has been tamed, you'll be able to make a much more rational decision about what to eat.
3. Beware of temptation
No matter how much control you might have at home, the situation gets a lot tougher with all the outside influences you have to deal with.
The important point here is never to rely on willpower for beating temptations. There's a much higher chance you'll reach your goal if you avoid putting yourself in a position where your willpower might break down.
On the days when your co-worker decides to bring in a fresh box of donuts to the office, make sure you're full or have healthy foods with you. Hunger is your worst enemy in the face of temptation, and you'll find it much easier to stay strong without the hungry devil on your shoulder.
4. Team up
There's no better way to ease your transition to a healthy diet than to surround yourself with like-minded people. You don't have to change your friends, but knowing there are people with the same passion and beliefs as you will reinforce your confidence and help to keep you motivated.
It's also effective to have others hold you accountable for your goals. That way, you can challenge each other and get a healthy competition going for extra motivation.
You can network at meet-ups, events and trade shows, but joining online communities is also a great option. You can easily share your journey, ask questions and find support through blogs and forums.
5. Dream on!
Keep a strong vision of your goals in mind. Write them down. Stick them on your walls. Meditate on them.
This is a powerful technique because the desire to achieve your goals is what will drive you to make the decisions that will get you there.
You may have been in a motivated state when you decided to make the change, but that drive can quickly wear out if your results are slow or once you hit your first plateau. It's by visualizing your dreams on a daily basis that you'll develop lasting habits.
These steps may seem simple, but they shouldn't be overlooked. Food addictions are just as serious as any other addiction, and should be handled with the same level of attention.
A bit of extra effort at the start is the best way to gain momentum and be on your way to achieving your goals as quickly and easily as possible.
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