– How to Get Into the Healthy Eating Mindset

How to Get Into the Healthy Eating Mindset

In the 21st century, we all know that health begins with healthy eating habits. Why then is it so hard to figure out how to stick to healthy eating? The aisles of the grocery store, the posters in the doctor’s office and even certain commercials on TV use bright colors and bold lettering to advertise the healthy living mindset.american sodium study

Yet, despite these campaigns, American eating habit statistics can be shocking. The Presidents Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition notes that the typical American diet exceeds the intake of the recommended amount of calories from fats, sugars, refined grains, salts and saturated fat. Simultaneously, Americans do not consume enough dairy, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy oils. Specifically, around 90% of Americans eat a diet that contains too much sodium.

So why aren’t Americans making the changes they need to when confronted with these statistics?American diets

According to ABC News, many Americans are trying, but they are not succeeding. They report that 108 million Americans tried to diet in 2012. However, each of those dieters started and stopped their diet four or five times in a year.

The problem isn’t that people don’t want to change their eating habits — it’s that they don’t really know how to do it. They jump on board with the latest weight-loss craze, and because these diets are often unreasonable when combined with normal lifestyles, they are quickly abandoned.

This is not the right way to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Instead, you want to make a lasting, positive change.

So that’s why we wanted to put together this guide on how to adopt healthy habits. We want to help you learn how to get into the mindset to eat healthy. By setting reasonable goals while also being consistent, you can find that healthy eating habits are actually well within your reach — even if they have been elusive in the past. And instead of giving up if you do stumble, we want to equip you with the tools to jump right back into eating well.

We believe that with a little preparation, some determination and the right set of expectations, you will quickly be on your way to a healthier and more active you!

Start With Your Mindset

The problem with many trendy diets is they don’t expect you to think differently. They just demand you to make a radical change in your eating habits. This isn’t healthy. If you are trying to change your eating habits permanently, then you need to first address the ways you think about food.

Many people who struggle to eat healthy have what psychologists call a “fixed mindset.” People who think like this tend to assume, before they try anything new, that nothing will ever really change. They assume that their health issues are purely the cause of bad genetics, or that the shame of addressing the problem will offset any gains.

For many people with a fixed mindset, a diet change is doomed even before it starts. In fact, many will choose to remain unhealthy simply because it feels easier and less risky than trying to make a lifestyle change.

But even those who attempt switching to a healthy lifestyle without first changing their mindset will quickly become frustrated. That’s because long-term health doesn’t happen overnight. No matter what the magazine says or what some celebrity did in order to lose baby weight or prepare for a new role, there aren’t miracle diets.

However, if you have a fixed mindset and you start a miracle diet, you will likely come to believe the diet failed when you don’t see immediate results — thus confirming your initial fears. In fact, each failed diet will only make it harder to start a new plan for eating healthy in the future.

So what is the opposite of a fixed mindset? Psychologists call this a “growth mindset.” While the fixed mindset assumes that nothing will ever change, the growth mindset assumes that things are always changing.

People with a growth mindset don’t frame their thoughts negatively. Instead, they realize small failures are just a part of change. They understand risk is just the small cost of doing something big. Therefore, instead of resigning themselves to the inevitable, people with a growth mindset know that change requires baby steps in the right direction.

What kind of mindset do you have? If you do have a fixed mindset, how do you finally make the necessary change?

One of the best ways to start making a change is to collect information about the process. We recommend keeping a journal. That way, when you see small changes that are building to a big transformation, the details aren’t lost. Start by writing down your goals and record whether you’ve actually accomplished them or not.

Speaking of goals, a growth mindset is not a wild dreamer mindset. Writing down your goals also helps you ensure they are reasonable. Keep track of how many meals you eat that are healthy versus how many might not be. Work on increasing the number of healthy meals you eat every week. That will help you put your significant lifestyle changes into the proper perspective.

You also want to surround yourself with other people with the correct mindset. That’s why organizations like the YMCA are so important for making a lasting transformation. The YMCA is a community of support, where you can get the exercise you need while connecting with a network of people experiencing the successes you want while also sharing your struggles.

More than anything, you have to recognize that your mindset may be what is holding you back. The good news is that once you realize your mindset is part of the problem, you are well on your way to making a positive change!

Changing Your Specific Approach to Food

Changing from a fixed to a growth mindset is important for anyone making any kind of significant change, but what are some concrete things you can do to change your approach to food specifically? There are a number of small changes and insights that can combine to become powerful catalysts for transformation. Consider each one of the following carefully and try to fit them into your action plan:don't forget to snack

  • Don’t be afraid to snack. People often assume that excessive snacking is what is keeping them from getting healthy. Now, if you are eating unhealthy snacks or junk food, then yes, snacking is probably holding you back. However, letting yourself get too hungry between meals can also encourage unhealthy eating. So don’t be afraid to eat every couple of hours — just make sure your snacks are healthy! Carrots, a banana, or Greek yogurt will help prevent you from becoming ravenous and overeating come meal time. You also want to make sure you pack yourself plenty of snacks ahead of time. Most vending machines don’t have too many healthy options, so you don’t want to be searching down a snack at work. Something like homemade trail mix or a cheese stick will keep you from giving into temptation and just grabbing a donut from the break room.
  • Fresh is best. Obviously there are some instances when fresh or raw food isn’t an option, but fresh fruit and vegetables are a great way to curb your appetite while getting vital nutrients and avoiding fats.Fresh produce contains plenty of fiber. Because fiber is technically an indigestible but healthy material, it fills you up and helps you stay full for a long time. Plus, it will help you control your cholesterol and blood sugar. Although they are fine in a pinch, juices, shakes and energy bars are not as good as fresh foods. They can contain plenty of good nutrients and are designed to be filling while still being low in calories, but processing food removes many of the antioxidants and fiber that make fresh food so powerful. If you want to also stock up on shelf stable energy bars in case of a hunger emergency, go ahead, but fresh food should always be your first option.breakfast and metabolism
  • Do not skip breakfast. The problem with many diets is that they are all about counting calories. But the goal of healthy eating is to boost your metabolism and increase your energy level. When you skip breakfast, that likely won’t happen as effectively.Think of it this way. If you skip breakfast, maybe you will consume less in a day, but your body’s metabolism will simultaneously slow down. Breakfast signals your body to get out of fasting mode, where it conserves energy and your metabolism slows. When you eat a healthy breakfast, full of fiber and fresh produce, your body kicks itself into high gear! This will give you the power to get through your work day, make it to the gym, and still be the dynamic person you want to be when you get home!
  • Carbs are not the problem. People who are scared of carbs are confusing good carbohydrates with processed carbs. Fresh fruit is full of carbs! Whole grains are, too. The difference is these are good carbs — the kind that give you the energy you need to get through the day. If you totally skip out on carbohydrates, you are robbing your body of the energy it needs to be active, meaning your metabolism will slow. Don’t think about it in terms of eliminating carbs. Think instead about eliminating processed carbs.
  • Allow yourself to cheat, occasionally. The problem with so many diets is that they ask you to give up your favorite foods completely — forever. When you see the dessert tray moving by your table stacked with cheesecake, brownies, and other goodies, you give in, and then you feel like a failure. Don’t sweat it. It’s ok to give yourself a cheat day. Do you and your partner have a date night? Don’t ruin it with anxiety over what you’re going to eat. Just order what you want. Is it your birthday? Then by all means, eat some cake! Just be sure you are assigning a specific day as your cheat day. By setting a day ahead of time, it is easy to return to healthy eating when the day is over. If you let yourself cheat unplanned, you will slowly start to allow yourself to make an exception “just this once” almost every day of the week. Set a day and stick with it.
  • Eat enough. If you are only concerned about losing weight, you aren’t focusing on being healthy. You are instead pursuing an image of what you want to look like, regardless of whether it is good for you or not. Instead, make a plan for eating enough and eating well. Eating healthy is about giving yourself the energy you need to tackle the day. It is about creating a lifestyle that can sustain you well into your golden years. Eating too little doesn’t make you healthy, even if it does shrink your waistline. So look at what you are eating throughout the day and write it down. Keep a food journal. Are you getting enough calories? Are you balancing the types of food you eat? This will ensure you are making healthy lifestyle choices, rather than an unhealthy quick fix.
  • Drop the sugar. You can get all of the sugar you need from fresh foods. Apples, bananas and citrus have plenty of sugar for a healthy diet. It is the processed sugar that will start to bring you down. It gives you a quick boost of energy, often called a sugar high, and then it lets you crash. Rather than simply going cold turkey with sugar, though, start to eliminate it from your diet in steps. For example, if you put sugar in your morning coffee, consider trying to drink it black. If you have a sugary drink with your lunch, switch to water. By reducing sugar intake where you can, you will be able to afford a little sweet satisfaction every once in a while.
  • Talk to your doctor. Any lifestyle change should be made with input from your primary care physician. A lot of websites will advertise the perfect diet. The truth is, however, that all of our bodies are different, so we all have different needs. For the best results in your quest to begin a healthy lifestyle, make sure you are talking with a professional who is aware of your medical history. That way, they can guide you into making choices that are good for you. If you have high cholesterol, your doctor might recommend a heart-healthy diet. If you are extremely active, they might recommend a higher calorie intake instead to support your exercise. Regardless, you should never make a change to your eating habits without first conferring with your primary care physician.

Other Lifestyle Changes That Support Healthy Eating

So far we have focused on healthy eating habits, but there are other lifestyle changes that can support your diet as well. With that in mind here are some additional tips for changing your eating patterns:sleep and energy

  • Get enough sleep. The correct amount of sleep is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle. In fact, simply getting 30 minutes less of sleep than your body demands can decrease your energy and drive to exercise. At the same time, getting too much sleep is also linked to a slower metabolism since it potentially limits the amount of calories you burn in a day. So find a happy medium, like the recommended seven to nine hours, and commit to it. You will quickly find sticking to a healthy lifestyle is easier when you are full of good energy.
  • Don’t over rely on exercise. The old wisdom said that the more you exercise, the more you can eat. This isn’t necessarily true. Studies have shown that health is influenced much more by what you eat rather than how much you exercise. So while you want to make sure you are eating enough to support your exercise routine, regular workouts don’t give your carte blanche to eat whatever you want. That also doesn’t mean exercise isn’t important, though. A good, active lifestyle which includes at least an hour of activity every day is the best way to ensure your lifestyle changes are going to have the kind of effects you are looking for.

How You Can Tell Change Is Actually Happening

While you should approach a lifestyle change with the knowledge that real lasting transformation takes time, you do want to see results at some point. So how can you tell that the change you have been working so hard for is actually happening?

Remember when we discussed mindset? After a month or two of real commitment to change, take some time and check your mindset again. What is different?
For one, you should find food to be a lot more satisfying. Unhealthy eating isn’t steady. Instead, you subject yourself to unrealistic expectations. If you have really made the changes you need to, you shouldn’t be white knuckling it. Instead, you should find joy in eating right!

Additionally, when you do indulge, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. If eating a cookie or a slice of pie feels like a failure, you are approaching it with the wrong attitude. If you’re using the right healthy eating mindset, you won’t feel like a failure when you treat yourself to a bowl of ice cream after eating well all week.

Finally, if your mindset has changed, you also shouldn’t feel compelled to overeat. When you are hungry, you should eat an appropriate amount — just enough to make you feel full. When you feel satisfied, you stop. You shouldn’t feel pressure to clean your plate, finish the box or have dessert just because it’s there.

Look back on the first things you wrote in your change journal when you began this journey. Now compare those things with the way you think about food and life now. Don’t worry so much about which notch in your belt you are using. Instead look at the long-term impact on your health.

In the end, a healthy lifestyle, complete with exercise, eating right and getting enough time to relax, is an essential part of a long and satisfying life. It’s not a change we should make so we look good on the beach. We should make it because it means we can share moments with our families for a long time. It’s the kind of lifestyle change that will make us happier, more satisfied and more energetic throughout our lives.

It’s also important that beneficial lifestyle changes are the kind that will last. Don’t get distracted from making lifelong improvements. Quick fixes will only discourage you from trying to make other changes in the future.

We hope this guide on how to change eating habits has helped you start your journey toward healthier living. If you want more information on how to be healthier and more active within the Harrisburg community, contact us and discover what the YMCA has to offer. We want to be a part of your positive lifestyle change, and we look forward to meeting you!


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