Do healthy eating habits make you feel like you’re ‘missing out’?

Growing up, I didn’t have a concept of healthy eating habits beyond the obligatory vegetable on my dinner plate. Like any child, I wished broccoli would taste like chocolate brownies. Then as I got older, I wished brownies were just 45 calories and contained the cancer-fighting properties of the cruciferous broccoli. 

Even up to a few years ago, healthy eating had a whiff of deprivation for me. But that changed when I started to look at all the foods I “get” to eat. Have you ever had those little orange tomatoes fresh from the farmers market? If I’d had those as a kid I may never have “needed” so much chocolate.

Of course you can think about all the energy you’ll have, and how great that pair of jeans will fit if you can just stick with your healthy eating habits. Creating a clear picture of how fit and strong you’re becoming, imagining yourself looking and feeling fantastic, is great motivation. 

But there’s that part of our brain that likes instant satisfaction, and thinking about those results can feel too vague and certainly not “instant.” So thinking about all of the delicious healthy foods we get to eat provides that spark of immediate enjoyment.

And I learned not to expect a sweet, juicy strawberry to give me the same feel-good dopamine spike as mint chocolate chip ice cream. It’s a different level of satisfaction. Like the difference between marriage and that initial dating phase.

Staying on track with healthy eating habits requires balancing brain chatter and temptation with your desire for losing weight, and this is one strategy that really helps me and my clients. When you not only focus on the healthy foods that you really like, but make sure to have them readily available and incorporate them regularly into your daily fare, you will feel more satisfied. And the more satisfied you feel, the less you feel deprived.

In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt like I was missing out.

Photo by Brenda Godinez on Unsplash

How to keep consistent with healthy habits when life throws you off track

How to keep consistent with healthy habits when life throws you off track

My dad likes to say that life is what happens when we’re making plans. My clients certainly find this to be true. They want to keep consistent with healthy habits but something always seems to block their best intentions.

You know what though? So much of life is more predictable than we pretend. That is, we know we’ll be disrupted at work. And sometimes need to work late. We know the weather won’t always “cooperate.” It’s really not a surprise when kids create a mess or need to be picked up from some activity at the last minute. 

How to keep consistent with healthy habits when life throws you off track
Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

So, why not plan for these things?

The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is thinking there shouldn’t be problems. Planning for – expecting – ideal circumstances sets you up to not keep consistent with healthy habits. It’s one of the biggest reasons I see for people getting stuck in the lose-regain-lose-regain weight cycle. 

To execute consistently on your plan I recommend having a backup plan. Here are three options to consider as you create yours:

  1. If not A, then B: This is about alternatives. “If it’s dark when I get home and I don’t feel safe going for my jog, I’ll ride my stationary bike. If my friend can’t make our weekly walk appointment, I’ll listen to my favorite podcast to keep me company.” 
  2. Minimum standard: Setting a baseline minimum prevents all-or-nothing from taking over, particularly when you have an extended situation that makes it easy to put your healthy habits on the back burner. “No matter what, I exercise for 5 minutes every day. Whatever’s going on, I have a piece of fruit every morning.”
  3. Have a plethora of options: Have a list of 10 different exercises (e.g. lunges, planks, jumping jacks, even stretches) that you can combine together for a 10-minute workout. Develop a list of go-to meals that you can throw together at a moment’s notice (I talk about this in my Back on Track Challenge that’s coming up next month – let me know if you want to be first to be notified when it’s starting). Then keep certain foods stocked that you know will fit the bill. 

These are ideas to get you going. Now brainstorm several in each category. (Even come up with your own category and share below!)  If you regularly take action on your healthy habits – or try to – this will be a significant boost to your consistency.  

Ultimately, you want to avoid being surprised by things you could readily predict. Be flexible and plan for contingencies. That’s how you create the lifestyle that “gets you there and keeps you there.”

What’s your surprising lesson?

It’s interesting. We’ve been talking about things as though “2020” is relegated to this calendar year.

But as best we can tell, next year likely holds more of the same.

I’m not trying to be a downer. But I don’t do fake optimism. I’m all for feeling everything that comes up and then deciding what to do with it. Because the alternative is to resist our reality (you know…head, meet wall). Circumstances are what they are – our lessons, our responses, are in our control.

My client said to me during our coaching session last month, “The lesson of COVID is increased flexibility. I haven’t been as hard on myself when I fall short.”

Do you know how big that is for her? How big it is for most women? Mind. Blowing. Big.

Don’t skip over that. We’re masters at telling ourselves we could/should be better.

That we really messed that one up.

That we’ll never get our act together and, you name it…

Stop overeating.

Actually lose weight.

Finally stop talking down to ourselves.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

That one lesson is incredibly valuable. But it can’t be just head knowledge. How many books have you read that you’ve long since forgotten the title of, let alone the premise? It’s got to be ingrained. Practiced. It must become part of your being.

What’s your lesson?

It need not be humungous. And maybe it’s several small ones.

Acknowledge them. Write them down. Take time to appreciate them, to notice the positive impact on your life (relationships, health, work) …there’s not one area of your life unaffected by the lessons.

If you find yourself resisting a lesson, even thinking there are none, pay attention. The lessons are there when you’re ready for them. If you’re resisting them, they affect you anyway. But not in the way you want.

My hope for you, for me, for all my clients, is that we keep learning the next lesson. That we let it make us better. Stronger. Whether 2021 brings catastrophes or victories, be ready for it. Don’t let the circumstances of the world determine the year you’re going to have. Decide how you will come to it. Decide what’s important to you. To live up to your values. To remain in integrity with yourself.

I said at the beginning that I don’t do fake optimism. That said, I’m incredibly optimistic. I see people making incredible strides to better themselves in spite of the circumstances. And that tells me, it will last.

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