Had I made any New Year’s resolutions, they’d already be broken. I was invited to brunch on New Year’s day, and there was chocolate (among other things). In addition, a friend brought me a loaf of delicious, freshly baked homemade bread. I typically don’t eat grains at all, let alone wheat, but just couldn’t resist. I try to at least limit my consumption to post-workout time, which diminishes the negative effects for me. And after the delicious loaf of bread is gone, I probably won’t eat any bread for weeks, if not months. But trying to maintain a puritanical attitude towards my own diet hasn’t been effective for me. I simply cannot maintain 100% consistency for more than, say, 30 days–and even then there is a backlash.
It’s important, I feel, to break out of the either/or cycle, 100% or 0%. I’m not trying to de-emphasize the importance of having goals and tracking progress, but setting realistic goals or even working towards something slowly–or looking at the big picture instead of expecting yourself to follow a very strict protocol simply because the calendar year has changed doesn’t seem to be the best strategy.
Here are some simple steps for creating lasting change in your diet. As always, this can be applied towards any other goal you have that is too much of a shift to just jump into wholeheartedly.
- Make sure you have an abundance of “good” food around. This gives you multiple options to choose from, and can only help you on your quest.
- Push “bad” foods to post-workout. Not ready to give up some foods completely? At least shift the timing of them to right after a workout, so that your body can use some of the empty calories to help build your muscles and aid in your recovery. There are clean post-workout foods that may have a more favorable effect, but we’re talking baby steps.
- Cut your junk food servings in half. Not ready to quit cold turkey? No problem. Just eat half of the amount you normally would. Over time, you can decrease it in half again… Get where we’re going?
- Focus on one meal or one habit at a time. Make sure you’re eating healthy, nutritious breakfasts (or whatever meal of your choice.) Make sure you’re staying hydrated or taking your fish oil. Pick just one habit (or one meal) and let it become habit. After a month or two, add another.
- Set action-based goals. It’s easy to decide you want to lose X amount of pounds or lift X amount of pounds, and those are great long-term goals to keep an eye on your progress towards. But what’s even more effective is setting goals based on your activity. You can’t force your body to lose a certain amount of poundage a week, but you can certainly decide to lift 3 days a week and do 2 days of cardio. Focusing on your own actions is a lot more empowering, especially when results are slower than you’d like.
Anything else? Feel free to share your favorite strategy.