Over the years, I have tried many different diets on my journey to healthier living. You name it, I’ve tried it. Vegan, Low Carb, Raw, Paleo. I even dipped my toe into the Master Cleanse diet for a day. I do believe that every body is different, and different strategies are going to maximize results based on the individual person. However, I also think that there are some general do’s and don’ts to live by.
1. DO eat after 8 PM. We’ve all heard of those diets that give deadlines for when we should stop eating in our day. I get it. If you are in a resting state and eating mindlessly in front of a screen, this is not a healthy habit to have. However, if you have been running errands all evening and don’t get in the door until 8:30 PM… eat something! If you ate at 5, but you’ve been scrubbing the house up and down for your in-laws arrival tomorrow… eat something! Eat when you are hungry. Who cares what time it is. My personal experience with this one led me starved and actually worked against me. I would get home from a long day at 8 or 9 PM and not eat anything because I didn’t want to ingest those extra calories before bed. But because I was soooo hungry, my body said “we’re starving!” and went into survival mode. Survival mode meant holding onto all of the fat resources in my body; my bodies way of preparing for limited food resources should I continue to go hungry. The opposite of what you want. This “do” relates closely with number 2.
2. DO eat breakfast. Every day, within half an hour of getting up. I cannot stress this enough! Think of your body as a machine, and your metabolism is the engine. You wan’t to get that engine fired up! Get it fired up as soon as you can after waking, and continue with small meals throughout the day to keep it burning. More specifically, please note that carbs are a super important component of a healthy breakfast. Carbs are your body’s “go-to” resource for energy, so you want to make sure you get some HEALTHY carbs in you for breakfast (I’m sorry to say that donuts don’t count). Oats are always my favorite choice.
3. DON’T drink diet pop (I drive my sister crazy with this one). If you really need to have a sugary beverage, just take it all the way and get the regular stuff. The artificial sweeteners in diet soda may actually be just as bad for you as regular soda. In fact, they could be even worse given that we don’t yet know the long-term effects of them. Some studies have shown that artificial sweeteners may disrupt our bodies abilities to metabolize other more natural sugars. Get the real thing and enjoy – in moderation of course!
4. DO prepare your meals a day or days in advance! One of the main reasons that I have been successful in eating well and maintaining my goal body weight is because I do meal prep every single week. Bringing lunch, dinner, and/or snacks out with you everyday IS the recipe for success. By doing this, you don’t even give yourself the option to slip up on your break at work. If you have healthy snacks with you, you have a reason to skip the drive through when you start to get hungry. Also, you have more control and knowledge about what exactly is going into your body.
5. DON’T punish yourself for eating a crappy meal. There is no purpose for doing this. One bad meal, or even one bad day, is not going to make or break it for you. Your health and well-being is a cultivation of the effort you put in day-to-day consistently, so half a pizza on a Friday night during a movie marathon isn’t going to kill you. But if you punish yourself, you are going to make yourself feel bad. And if you make yourself feel bad, you will bring about negative emotions. And those negative emotions may drive you to eat more junk food to comfort yourself.
Everyone in my life always comments to me “Jen, you eat so healthy!”. And I do – about 80% of the time. I’m a big believer in 80/20 eating because for me, eating healthy is all about balance. I don’t put crazy restrictions on myself, so there is no “deep end” to fall off of. Knowing that I can have that piece of cake allows me to have a choice, and when given the freedom to actually choose I find I am still able to make the healthier decision for myself, and say “maybe next time”.