With regards to our diet, saying we want to ‘eat clean’ or ‘eat healthier’ is futile, in my opinion. Using intentional words such as ‘every time I dish up a plate of food, I’ll start with the vegetables’ or ‘I’ll put all my electronics away when I eat’ is far more effective, because statements like these provide us with an action, something that we can measure and hold ourselves accountable to.
There’s certainly no shortage of information about the subject of nutrition, yet a lot of us are still not making good food choices. I believe, for the most part, that poor diet strategies are the main culprit, therefore, we need to bridge the gap between what we know and applying it in our lives.
Some people may have more willpower than others, but willpower alone will only get us so far. It’s our habits and routines that ultimately dictate our diet, and the rest of our lives for that matter. In addition, our environment is absolutely critical – if you’re surrounded by fit people, you’re more likely to consider working out. Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself, and you’re likely to rise together. The better our environment, the less willpower we’ll need to use.
Below I’m going to share a few strategies to improve our dietary habits and routines in various environments:
Strategies for home
- Don’t have the junk food in the house
- That’s the easiest way to say no. We need to be really disciplined when we go grocery shopping, therefore, I highly recommend having a shopping list, and not buying anything other than what is on the list.
- Another strategy for grocery shopping is to shop the perimeter, because that’s typically where all the fresh foods are; stay away from the aisles, because that’s typically where all the processed foods are; skip the bakery; and if you’re in the dairy aisle, pick up some eggs.
- Make the good choices as easy as possible
- If you don’t like to cook or don’t have the time to cook, buy the pre-sliced veg, buy the pre-cooked chicken, only buy single serving packages.
- If that still won’t work, then consider meal prep companies that will literally cook, package, and deliver meals to your home.
- Put as much distance between yourself and the bad habit
- Most people have a cupboard filled with crisps, cookies and chocolates ready to go should a craving arise. Yet, if we want something healthy, there’s a piece of uncooked steak in the fridge. Clear the sweets cupboard, make it incredibly difficult to get a hold of the junk food, and make the healthy choice incredibly easy.
- A simple example: when cooking dinner, simply make more than you need, put it in a tupperware in the fridge. You can have that as a snack, or for lunch or dinner the following day.
Strategies for the office
- Identify the cue and put a strategy in place to combat it
- Most people experience a dip in energy between 14:00 – 15:00, usually around 2-3 hours after eating lunch. We may have a habit of going to the vending machine to buy a bar of chocolate, or we may go to the cafeteria to buy a muffin. This is a habit of needing a pick-me-up at the same time every day.
- The key is to identify the cue, and then have a strategy to combat it. Is it boredom, is it hunger, is it your body used to getting sugar at that particular time of the day? If you’re bored, go for a walk or have a chat with a colleague. If you’re hungry, have a healthy snack that you brought with you to work. If you need sugar, have a piece of fruit. We need to pull ourselves off of autopilot and be able to figure out what are these habit loops I’m in that are causing me to get where I don’t want to be.
- Do something good before the bad habit
- If you absolutely must eat that chocolate bar from the vending machine, first take the stairs to the top or bottom of your building (whichever is furthest), or take a walk around the block, and only once you get back to your office, may you have the bar of chocolate. This simple strategy should reduce the temptation to have the chocolate. Not only that, but it breaks the habit loop, and we become more aware of what we’re doing.
- Bring lunch and always have a healthy snack
- This is simply about being prepared. I recommend being over prepared. For example, take 2 snacks instead of 1 because we could get caught up at work and need to stay later.
- Expect things to go according to plan, but prepare for things not going according to plan.
- Take a snack to office occasions
- There always seems to be a birthday or an anniversary, and usually there’s a cake or treat to celebrate. Simply take a piece of fruit and dig into it as soon as everyone else starts eating the cake. Again, it comes down to being prepared.
- Don’t be a slave to your environment, you should control your environment, not the other way around.
Strategies for eating out
- Don’t be afraid of eating out!
- Would the meal be as ‘clean’ and healthy as the meal you would have eaten at home? Probably not, but that shouldn’t stop us from eating out. Be human, be social, enjoy yourself, live your life.
- Double the vegetables, remove the starch
- Most meals are made up of 3 parts: protein, vegetables and starch. Simply order the protein, ask for double the vegetables, and no rice/potato or whatever the starch might be. That is already a much healthier meal.
- Skip appetizers
- Nowadays, appetizers can end up being a meal themselves. There’s no need to order them, wait a little bit longer for the main meal.
- If everyone else at the table is ordering an appetizer and you absolutely must order one or else the other appetizers would be too tempting, order a side salad.
- Say no to the bread basket
- As soon as the server attempts to put the bread basket down on the table, say ‘no, thank you’. If the server manages to put it on the table, it’s another temptation that will require more willpower that we can’t afford to waste.
- Say no to the dessert menu
- It’s the exact same scenario as the one above with the bread basket. It’s really simple, don’t look at the menu and you’re less likely to be tempted. Alternatively, as the server comes over with the dessert menu, ask them if they have any berries or another type of fruit, and more often than not they will.
Strategies for dealing peer pressure
- Have honest conversations
- We’ve got to ask ourselves how important our goals are to us? If they’re that important to us that it’s all we’re focusing on and pouring all our energy into, then we’ve got to have the honest conversations with family and friends that might be holding us back or derailing our efforts.
- We can literally say the following, “This is the new me. This is the new way that I’m going to be living my life, and I really hope that you will be there to support me, but if you are not, you are not going to be seeing as much of me.” I understand that is incredibly tough, incredibly scary, perhaps even intimidating, but it comes down to how important our goals are to us?
- Have the confidence to be the odd one out
- Others might respect us for standing up for something, and they may even be inspired by our actions. There’s no shame in being the odd one out; we can be the example; we can be the role model. We don’t have to explain ourselves; we don’t have to justify ourselves; we can simply ask others to respect our decision.
- I understand this is incredibly hard for a lot of people, but it comes down to our environment. We are not failing, it’s our environment failing us. We want to rely on willpower as little as possible.
As I said at the beginning of this post, we need to bridge the gap between what we know and applying it in our lives. The strategies above are practical steps that we can put into action. They are simple, but effective, and I’m confident these strategies will be very effective for anyone wanting to adopt a healthier diet.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I truly hope you found it valuable. Please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with me.
All the best