My Top 5 Tips for Healthy Eating

5 tips for healthy eatingIt’s been almost 7 years now that I transformed my M&M’s-for-dinner ways into a much healthier way of living and eating.

The catalyst for this change was discovering I had a genetic kidney disease.

I found out about this completely by chance. I had been travelling for 6 months with my husband on a dream trip around the world when I started feeling really, really tired. Tired in a way where doing even the smallest thing seemed to take superhuman effort.

We were in China at the time and as soon as we reached Shanghai, I went to a clinic.

It turned out to be nothing more exotic than Mononucleosis but it was affecting my liver and spleen and I wasn’t having much fun anymore anyway so we cut our trip short by 2 weeks and went home to Geneva.

In Geneva, the doctors decided to re-do all the ultrasounds, and that is how, completely by chance, I was told I had hundreds of cysts on my kidneys. I barely knew what kidneys did in the body and had never heard of Polycystic Kidney Disease even though it usually runs in families.

The doctors told me to just relax and live a normal life because there wasn’t anything I could really do to prevent this disease from potentially turning into full-blown kidney failure anyway.

This didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t grasp how doctors could tell me there was nothing I could do. Because when I was honest with myself and took a long, hard look at my life, I could see plenty of things I could be doing better.

Starting by not having M&M’s for dinner. By drinking more water instead of mostly sodas and coffees. By eating more vegetables. By educating myself on nutrition and actually discovering that I wasn’t eating enough HEALTHY fats. By experimenting with adding more protein to my diet as a way of curbing my sugar addiction.

And that is how I started making changes to my diet, and even ended up studying nutrition which had never interested me before (my initial degree is in Psychology).

In this blog post, I wanted to share what I have found to be the 5 most important steps to a healthier way of eating.

1. Find your motivating force

This is the first step to making any change. Our natural human tendency is to resist change because it implies the unknown so your motivating force is what will help pull you towards the outcome you want.

What matters to you about eating more healthy? If you were already eating healthy, what would you be DOING differently in your life? What impact would this have on your life?

Acroyoga In a strange way, I now consider myself lucky to have had such a strong motivation to change. Instead of just focusing on ‘not getting sick’ as a motivation, however, I now focus on wanting to fully enjoy my body and take care of it in the best way possible. This motivating force links to vitality and being able to get the most out of life. It goes beyond food and includes movement (like Acroyoga in this photo), self-care and emotional health – all of which are just as important as what we eat.

Linking your motivating force to an overarching goal or value for your life like self-care or vitality or living more fully can be a powerful motivation when change is hard – which it will be in the beginning – guaranteed.

Oh, and make sure your motivating force does not have a “SHOULD” in it. Because, really, there is no obligation to eat healthy. There is no food police. You are the only person here whose opinion matters and if this doesn’t matter enough to you right now, that’s OK. Be honest with yourself. Maybe it means being a lot less ambitious about what you are willing to do. Or maybe it’s about linking healthy eating to something that DOES matter to you like having the energy to play with your children.

2. Be realistic and start with really tiny steps

Which brings me to the next point. The biggest obstacle I see to making healthy change is actually being waaaay too ambitious. Like, expecting to overhaul your entire diet overnight or going from a pretty unhealthy way of eating to a 100% healthy way of eating.

Guess what? This never works in the long-term. Because guess what the only thing we hate more than other people telling us what to do? Telling ourselves what to do. When we use deprivation and excessive willpower, we simply end up rebelling against ourselves in the long-term.

So a better way to go about this is to start with really tiny steps. Decide to make one new healthy recipe per week. Try adding a vegetable-based smoothie to breakfast. Drink one more glass of water every day for a week and build up over the month. Make a batch of quinoa and try using it in different recipes across the week. Just decide on one small step that feels do-able and start there. Then, once this becomes a habit, add the next most do-able step and keep building on this.

When I first started out, I decided to simply add a vegetable juice every day for the 40 days of Lent. That was it: Nothing more! Yet what happened from there was that I naturally started craving more healthy food, and began experimenting with healthier options.

And even if you start with just tiny steps, could you do yourself a favor and let go of the idea that change is linear? Change looks more like this chart – so start to embrace the up’s and down’s as simply a part of the process!

Source: BuzzFeed Life

Source: BuzzFeed Life

3. Experiment!

You know what I find fascinating about nutrition? How unscientific it is. One minute fats are bad, the next they are good. One minute coconut oil is the devil, now it is a panacea.

This used to drive me crazy. Until I realized I had a very powerful tool on hand: Curiosity and the ability to experiment and listen to my body.

Because one of the reasons nutrition is so inconclusive is that no one diet works for everyone.

So instead of only listening to external experts, experiment! Call on your curiosity and try out different ways of eating to find what works best for your body.

Experiment with times of day where it feels better to have bigger or smaller meals. With whether you need a snack or not. With different types of foods and proportions of macronutrients (fat/protein/carbs). The Breakfast Experiment

You could also start by experimenting with different breakfasts – my free online Breakfast Experiment can help you do that.

When you take on this approach you realize that you are never actually eating badly – it’s all part of the experiment called life. Now when I eat something that didn’t work for my body, I don’t beat myself up about it. I simply notice with curiosity that actually, I am better off not eating chocolate so late at night or that having too many fries doesn’t work for my body.

4. Forget perfection

When I first started making healthy changes, I got a little carried away and tried to eat ‘perfectly’. I actually became borderline orthorexic at some point – and this didn’t really work because I would then end up completely losing control and swinging to the other extreme. I call this Boot Camp vs Club Med mentality and I wrote about it here.Bootcamp-or-Club-Med

I also realized that eating healthy food does not necessarily mean having a healthy RELATIONSHIP around food. In fact, I would often eat too much in quantity of healthy food because I was feeling frustrated and deprived. So when I eased up on this and started allowing myself to eat a little less healthy, I was actually able to develop a healthier relationship to food – one that includes the occasional fries or fondue or dessert which I fully enjoy.

Remember that this is not a crash diet. It is your life. And you need to be able to keep eating healthy, which you will only be able to do if you enjoy it. So allow yourself to eat healthy food AND less healthy food. It’s all about balance. And you might notice that when the unhealthy stuff is no longer forbidden and you start really listening to your body, the less healthy stuff loses some of its allure.

5. Rely on habits and organization rather than willpower

This is probably the most important thing I wish I had known starting out.

Healthy eating is more about being organized than a matter of willpower.

When you have a headstart ingredient like a batch of quinoa or pre-chopped vegetables or cooked lentils in your fridge that you can quickly transform into a meal, eating healthy becomes the obvious choice.

This was something I learned after some trial and error and thinking that I was simply lacking in willpower. I was working at a fast-paced job and would come home quite late and didn’t have the courage to start cooking from scratch despite my best intentions. So I started putting aside an hour on Sundays to prepare some headstart ingredients for the week. I would listen to TED talks or good music and turn it into an enjoyable moment.

I have to point out that I am not a naturally organized person, but I knew that this was the only way that I would end up not just making pasta or having a ‘picnic’ dinner instead of an actual meal.

This is still the way I cook now, where I try to have at least one headstart ingredient on hand, to always have the basics in my kitchen and meals that I have frozen in my freezer. This approach truly makes it possible to eat healthy, even during busier periods.

This is the reason I created my step-by-step approach for creative meal planning as a 7 week online course, Healthy in a Hurry: I wanted to make healthy meal preparation accessible and fun by building simple habits, step by step.

Every week for 7 weeks, a new lesson will be released where you will have access to 2-3 short videos + PDFs you can download with guidelines, tips and recipes that will help you make healthy meal planning a reality. Each week’s module also has a simple worksheet you can fill out to help you plan for the week. You will also have access to all the material even after the course is finished so you can come back to it anytime. 

And there’s a free 45 minute Skype call with me plus unlimited access for any questions because accountability is key and I am committed to your success. Find out more here!

I would love to hear from you – what have you found most helpful in eating more healthy?

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