Many of my wellness clients have expressed frustration at jumping into a fad diet only to discover that they lose the weight in the short term, but gain it all back (and, sometimes, more!) once they go back to their regular habits. Whether it’s eliminating a certain food group, only drinking shakes, or eating diet bars, the one common denominator of popular or fad diets is that they simply don’t work for most of the population.
Fortunately, having healthy dietary habits does not have to be all-or-nothing. We can have some healthy habits mixed with other habits and still maintain a relatively healthy lifestyle. However, for those who are striving for a healthier lifestyle – and maybe even hoping to see some weight loss – incorporating healthy habits one week at a time, while edging out unhealthy ones, is a great way to slowly, but steadily, reach your healthy dietary habit goals.
Get started by committing to adding one of the following dietary habits to your lifestyle routine for one week. Once you have successfully added in the habit, evaluate how you did, and consider adding another.
Track your food and drink intake. Use a journal or app, such as MyFitnessPal, to keep track of what you eat. This helps you to be accountable and identify behaviors that are inhibiting your from reaching your wellness goals.
Eat 4-5 servings of non-starchy vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day. Nutrient density is the amount of nutrients you get for the amount of calories in a food. Adding nutrient-dense foods – like non-starchy vegetables and fruit – to your diet will also give your body a boost of vitamins, minerals, and help support a healthy immune system. They also help you to feel fuller and you may find yourself edging out refined foods.
Close the kitchen after dinner. Practice time-restricted eating (also known as intermittent fasting) by going 13-15 hours between dinner and breakfast. Studies have shown this increases your metabolism and is effective for weight loss. For example, eat dinner at 7pm and breakfast at 8am. This can help discourage you from late night snacking when you are most prone to eating empty calories.
Drink 9 (or 13) glasses of water per day and eliminate sugary beverages. We don’t function at full capacity when we are dehydrated. Commit to keeping track of your water intake daily. Replace sugary beverages with water flavored by your favorite fruit or herb. The Institute of Medicine recommends roughly 13 cups of water per day for adult men and 9 cups per day for women.
Be a conscious consumer and read food labels. When you’re grocery shopping read the Nutrition Facts panel and the ingredients list of the foods that you are interested in purchasing. Keep in mind: The more ingredients, the more processed a food is; if you don’t know what an ingredient is, you don’t want to put it in your body.
Forgo fast food, fried food, and junk food. Heavily processed and refined foods often have ingredients that you should limit – such as added sugar, artificial sweeteners, additives, and preservatives – plus they are usually high in fat and calories.
After you’ve spent a week with your new habit, ask yourself:
- How do you feel?
- Was it challenging for you? Why?
- What have you noticed about yourself and current lifestyle routine?
Feeling good about your progress? Keep it up by adding another new habit for one week while maintaining the one you just finished. Be patient and be proud of yourself for taking steps to be healthier, happier, and maybe a few pounds lighter too!