Diets are temporary. “Lose 7 pounds in 7 days!” “Flat Belly Diet!” Many of us are all too familiar with these fad diets that promise you the world, but leave you completely unsatisfied, malnourished, and right back to square one. They fool you by creating a restrictive relationship with food and provide no accountability or maintenance plan to remain on track.
Lifestyle is forever. Research consistently shows that lifestyle has a significant influence on both physical and mental health. Lifestyle includes what you eat, how you manage stress, how much you sleep, and how often you move.
Here are some suggestions for how to reduce the emphasis on diet, and instead focus on lifestyle:
Set SMART goals. Before you can take action, you must first decide what you want to do. Often times, goals feel like dreams—they are big, far off, and easily overwhelm us to a point that we don’t do anything about them. Make sure these goals are specific, manageable, achievable, realistic/relative, and time-bound. Once you determine your goal to be SMART: you are on your way to achieving your greatest desire!
Drink more water. Whether we like to hear it or not, water is essential and we must replenish our bodies abundantly. If you’re the type of person who dislikes the taste of plain water, add some fruit to it and spice it up! If you don’t find yourself naturally thirsty throughout the day, set a reminder on your phone, smartwatch, or computer—whichever device you frequently use. Another sneaky way to take more water in your diet is to eat more water-rich foods—cucumbers (95% water), zucchini (94% water), tomatoes (94% water), watermelon (92% water), and bell peppers (92% water).
Move your body. A great place to start is to set an exercise goal and keep it in mind. After setting a goal, it helps to determine which exercises you want to do and which ones work best for your body. Another beneficial step is to make your goal public—let your family and friends know about your plan and welcome all the support that comes along with it! Last but not least, make an action plan to hold yourself accountable. Accountability is progress!
Create a sleep schedule. Different people require different amounts of sleep. While most people need 7 to 9 hours, some may only need 6 and others need ten. Some self-management techniques to develop a sleep routine include: going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, avoiding caffeine and/or alcohol late in the day, and doing the same things every night before going to sleep. Consistency is key!
Eat more nutrient-dense foods. Spend your calorie budget wisely and start eating foods that hold the greatest number of nutrients. Some examples of nutrient-dense foods include:
Wild-Caught Salmon: high in omega 3s
Garlic: high in vitamins C, B1 and B6, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, & selenium
Dark chocolate: high in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese
Avocado: high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C
Almonds: high in vitamin E, antioxidants, fiber, and magnesium
Quinoa: high in fiber and magnesium
Make maintenance your friend. The maintenance stage is one of the most important stages to lifestyle behavior change. It is the continued commitment to sustaining this new behavior and resisting the temptation to fall into our bad habits. Maintenance also involves self-reward and self-reminder of how far we’ve come since the very beginning of our journey.
The bottom line: If you start paying your body more attention to what it’s asking for, it will thank you later. It is very easy to get swept away by the newest fad diet because “everyone is doing it.” Just because it is trending, doesn’t mean it will work for you and your body. Making incremental changes to your daily routine could mean setting a monthly goal, getting up and going to sleep earlier, grabbing the seltzer water instead of the soda, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Lifestyle change is a marathon, not a sprint. Take it one step at a time and most importantly, have fun with it!