Last I sat down for dinner, said my mealtime mantra: “I love my food; my food loves me” and reflected on how drastically my plate has changed. It wasn’t too long ago that typical dinners for me were cereal (the more sugar, the better!), frozen pizza, and nachos. I could go a whole day – who am I kidding – DAYS without drinking water (all Starbucks, all the time) or eating a vegetable. When I think about it now I get a stomach ache. And I wondered why I couldn’t sleep, had full-time acne, was irritable, and defined lethargic.
I thought I was making healthy choices. Cereal doesn’t have a ton of calories, right? And I used low-fat cheese, drank skim milk and diet coke, got the turkey bacon/egg white breakfast sandwich from Starbucks every morning instead of the sausage, and ate baked chips and reduced fat oreos. Totally healthy.
I finally got to a place where I knew that there had to be a better – healthier – way. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I wanted to prepare healthy meals for Andrew and fuel our bodies with nutrient-dense foods. And I wanted to feel my best. So I got to work.
Here’s what I’ve learned about making lasting change
You need to truly want it.
How many times have you sworn off sugar, junk food, or booze on a Sunday night and by Monday at lunch you’re back to your usual ways? In order for change to stick, you need to truly want it. Down to your core want it. Won’t settle for anything less want it. Your intention to change is what is going to open the doors for you. So get honest with yourself, do you really want to change?
When I committed to change I assumed the “go big or go home” mentality. I lived and breathed health and wellness. And I learned how to say no to my trigger foods. Because my desire to change was stronger than my desire to eat the pizza.
Be prepared to forgive yourself.
You are going to be dropping the F-word like a full-time job. Forgiveness is everything when you are working to make change. Will you eat the chocolate cake, down the triple latte, and inhale the cheeseburger and fries. Yes. Will it derail you? No, not this time because you are going to practice radical self-forgiveness. You are going to let yourself off the hook and recommit to your change. And move on – immediately.
I have very strong perfectionist tendencies. My default reaction when I “fail” at something (fail being anything less than 100% perfect) is frustration, anger, and I want to quit. I had to learn radical self-forgiveness and I continue to work at it daily. But the more I practice it, the more it becomes my default.
Start small and keep it within the day.
Okay, you truly want it, you’re ready to throw down the F-word, and you’re excited to get started. Now is the time to pause, breathe, and start small. You don’t need to change everything right this second. Rapid, massive changes can easily overwhelm you. You don’t need to cut out the dairy, gluten, caffeine, sugar, and grains all at once. Choose one area to focus on and master that. Then add in something else. Maybe you want to start adding more vegetables into your meals. Great – set the goal to have veggies with every meal a few times a week. And keep your goal in the day. Don’t let yourself future-trip by saying things like: What am I going to do on vacation this summer? How I am going to maintain this when I go out to dinner with the girls? Today, in this moment, is where your focus needs to be.
Future-tripping was my middle name! I would tell myself all the ways that I was going to fail at being healthier. And all that did was take me out of the game in that moment. I’ve stopped saying things like “I’m never eating grains again.” Instead I say, “I’m not eating grains today.” It feels so much more manageable when all I need to think about it right now.
Do you know who made me eat pizza on an almost daily basis? ME! Okay, this one seems obvious but it’s important to remember that you are in charge. You have the power to have a green smoothie for breakfast. YOU! Knowing that you are in control is liberating and terrifying at the same time. If you are in charge, that means you are also responsible. That’s where forgiveness comes in.
When I shifted my mindset and took ownership I felt a huge sense of relief and empowerment. If I was the boss, consider my health handled.
Ask for help.
You may be the CEO of your health but that doesn’t mean you are a solo operation. Everyone needs a little help from time to time. Let your friends, family, and coworkers know what you’re doing and ask them to be your support system. Maybe a friend wants to join in and you can plan healthy meals and hit up Whole Foods together. Even just letting people know that you are making different food choices will make a difference. This will take some of the pressure off when you are in a staff meeting and the cookie tray is going around the room. Your coworkers will know to also bring fruit for you or to simply not offer you a cookie. Also, once you’ve told other people you will feel more accountable for your decisions.
For me, I enlisted the help of Andrew, our families, my friends, coworkers, and you! I also decided that I needed an extra layer of support and began working with a health coach. This was a great resource for me because it wasn’t just about what I was eating. After years of neglecting my body, I’ve had a lot of healing to do and couldn’t have done it alone.
This step is HUGE! We are all too eager to punish ourselves for being “bad” but we rarely celebrate our successes. Bust a move in the kitchen while your green smoothie is blending to celebrate a healthy start to the day. Post pics of your healthy meals on social media. This is a great way to acknowledge your wins and also inspire your friends and family. Be proud when you are able to forgive yourself and move on in challenging moments. You’re awesome and you’re doing great!
This is the best part of making change for me. It really taught me to slow down, relax, and have more fun. I love sharing recipes and pictures of all of my healthy eats, passing on interesting articles I find, and being grateful for the changes I’ve made. When I walk away from the meal and don’t need to curl up in a ball with stomach pain, I am a happy lady!
The proof is on the plate. Here’s what a typical dinner looks like these days:
Let’s help each other! I’d love to hear what change you want to make in the comments below.