Healthy Eating

Celebrate Summer!

…while maintaining a healthy eating routine.

During the summer it is common for our eating habits to shift. With many celebrations, bar-b-q’s and other social gatherings taking place this time of year, we might not be eating as healthfully, or we might be consuming more food and alcohol than usual. While we should enjoy this fun and short-lived season, it’s important that our once in a while indulgences don’t become permanent habits. If you tend to overindulge or fall off track easily in the summertime, don’t despair. The summer can be the perfect time to clean up eating habits and boost your nutritional intake.

Summer is the perfect time to add fresh, nutrient-dense produce to your meals.

One major benefit of realigning eating habits during the summer is the array of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that are available this season. This allows us to add variety and extra nutrients to each meal. When the temperature rises, we naturally desire foods with higher water content, so we can stay hydrated in the heat. We also gravitate towards eating lighter because our bodies no longer need the extra carbohydrates that we primitively crave more of during the winter months.

So, here are some tips to maintain a healthy eating routine to off-set the not-so-healthy eating that we may partake in this summer.

  • Identify Your Favorites

It is always easier to implement foods we like rather than forcing ourselves to eat things we are not crazy about. When my clients want to increase their fruit and vegetable intake, I have them list the fruits and vegetables they enjoy the most. We then use their list as a guide for grocery shopping and selecting recipes.

  • Find Recipes in Advance

Many of us look for recipes right before preparing a meal. This is fine, unless we discover we do not have the necessary ingredients on hand or the recipes are too complicated to prepare in a short time. I always recommend finding five to ten recipes based on your list of favorite produce that appeal to you (or to your family if you are cooking for them too). After choosing recipes, you can check to make sure you have the ingredients needed prior to prep. This method is also helpful for preparing lunch for work or school.

  • Add Favorites to Your Grocery List

Once you have made your list of favorite fruits and vegetables, and have found the recipes you would like to use, you can add these items and ingredients to your weekly shopping list. This ensures that you have fresh produce on hand that you enjoy eating, along with the condiments needed to cook. The key here is when you always have these “go-to” items on hand, you are more likely to include them in your diet on a regular basis.

  • Prepare for the Week Ahead

Assuming your work week starts on Monday, have your new grocery list written and ready for shopping over the weekend or right before. Buying your weekly groceries before the work week guarantees that you will have everything you need to prep ahead of time. This way, the washing, chopping, and storing of your fruits and vegetables is done by Sunday and ready to go for weekday meals. Having a bowl of fresh cut fruit in the fridge is also helpful for breakfast or snacking.  With most of the prep work done, you won’t be pressed on time and resorting to unhealthier meals or snack grabs.

  • Try it Out

Finally, give yourself a week or two to try out this system. Take notice of what works and what doesn’t, or what you like and don’t like. After getting into a routine, you can adjust the timing of your shopping or prep work, or choose different recipes for the following week. Eventually, you will be in a rhythm of integrating more vegetables and fruit on a daily basis. Soon, the healthy weekday meals will counter the less healthy food choices you might have to make at social gatherings. Most importantly, you can enjoy the summer while still maintaining a healthy eating routine!

Keeping Resolutions Beyond the New Year

Why we start with force and go out with a fizzle… 

As the calendar turned to the new year, we envisioned a fresh start and thought about what we would like to do differently in 2022.  Resolutions are often made at this time.  The new year brings an opportunity to abandon old habits and commit to the improvements we would like to see. We might want to improve professionally or personally. Maybe we think about paying more attention to our physical or mental health.  Whatever the change we desire, having a vision of what that change will look like is usually what motivates us to take the first step.

When a resolution is centered on our health, it often involves a new diet or exercise program.  We might vow to practice mindfulness, or take more time to do the things we enjoy.  Regardless of the behavior we choose to adopt, we first have to eliminate one or more automatic behaviors that are part of our routine.

It is for this reason that after we follow a new regimen for a few weeks, most of us reach a fading point.  It may start by missing a workout or two, or by gradually drifting away from a new diet plan.  No matter the trigger, we eventually become too bored or too busy, and find we are not nearly as motivated as we were on January 1st.

Why does our enthusiasm to adopt a new habit fade so quickly? 

Here’s why we might start with force and end with a fizzle…

We Need the Right Kind of Motivation

When the desire to make a change comes from an inner yearning to achieve a certain goal, you are more likely to achieve it. For example, if a doctor advises a patient to lose ten pounds or eat less sugar, the instruction might seem simple. Advice given by a doctor for health reasons is usually enough to motivate us. However, if the individual receiving this advice does not connect it to a personal value or something important to them or their lifestyle, (i.e., having a job that requires physical stamina or the desire to stay active with age) then the likelihood of maintaining the change is going to be low. Having intrinsic motivation can be a powerful motivating factor in getting a desired result.

Thinking Too Big or Too Many

It is common for many people who make resolutions to commit to many changes at once.  Although it is admirable to want to improve ourselves, being overly ambitious often results in unrealistic goals that are difficult to achieve. An example of setting the bar too high would be trying to run five miles a day after being sedentary for three weeks. Or, cutting every carbohydrate from your diet (including carrots and bananas because they rank high on the glycemic index), and signing up for a thirty minute meditation class five times a week.  Being overly enthusiastic and impatient often precludes us from setting manageable goals that fit into our lifestyle. 

Smaller goals like cutting all added sugars, walking for twenty minutes two to three times a week, or meditating five minutes a day might not sound like much, but starting with little steps creates a much higher likelihood of achieving (and maintaining) commitments that you can build on later.

We Need a Contingency Plan

Similar to creating realistic goals, we have to plan for interruptions when trying to work on a new goal.  Just one unforeseen event can easily throw us off track.  This is why it is important to consider any possible roadblocks or obstacles when planning your new regimen.  Even small disruptions can easily get in the way of planning.  Having a plan B in place helps to prepare for anytime a new routine or schedule might not work.  For example, if you miss a jog you had scheduled with a friend, you can follow an exercise app instead. Or, if you wind up working late on an evening you designated for self-care, you should have another day penciled in as an alternative.  This simple step will prevent the feeling of failure to meet goals, and allows some mental flexibility by realizing you are not locked into one way of achieving them.

Having Someone to be Accountable to

Some of us prefer to have a partner when taking on new activities. It can be more fun, and it’s nice to have support when navigating new territory.  Still, many of us prefer to take on new challenges by ourselves and not complicate the effort by involving another person. Either way works – but staying motivated is easier when you have someone to check in with. Sharing our progress with a partner, spouse, or friend gives us someone to be accountable to.  Having someone who can make sure we stay on the road we set out to drive on gives us the support we need if we veer off.  If there is not a person who you feel you can count on, you can also consider working with a coach.  Having a Fitness Trainer, Nutritionist, or Health Coach will not only provide support and accountability, but will help guide you with suggestions and resources to keep you motivated.

So, as you continue to envision your goals for this year, and what things you would like to improve, try not to put too much emphasis on resolutions. Instead, commit to making a realistic plan with small goals, and have the support you need in place to ensure long lasting change. 

If you are considering making changes in your life to improve your health and well-being, it may not be difficult to start a new regimen, but it is often difficult to maintain it.  A Health Coach can help you outline a plan to benefit your health, and more importantly, support and guide you while maintaining it.

Contact MAP 2 Wellness to learn more about Health Coaching and our wellness related services.

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