Starting new habits is not an easy task. Some changes can take longer than others but the key to making any long-term change is sticking with it. If you get off track, jump right back into it, don’t just quit. When trying to build a clean eating habit, consistency is paramount! Not only will clean eating makes you feel better, but it will help you have more energy and be healthier overall. So why not start now? Here are eight ways to help you establish long-term healthy eating habits:
1. Figure Out Your Why
When trying to create a new habit, you first need to figure out why you want to do it. What is your why? Why do you want to be healthier and eat cleaner? Is it because you want to live a long life to be around for your family, children, spouse? Is it because you’re tired of the way junk food in making you feel like crap all the time? Is it because you want more energy to do stuff with your loved ones? Or you don’t like the way you look?
Be honest with yourself about your why. Write it down so you can look back at it on the harder days. And it doesn’t have to be just one reason, write down all your reasons. As many as you can think of. Big, small it doesn't matter. Whatever is important to you and why you want to change. Your why can be a very powerful thing and understanding your motivation can get you through the difficult times.
2. Your Language Matters.
You might not think so, but how you think/talk influences your actions. Work to always talk positively to yourself, because negative thoughts lead to negative results and actions. For example, if you’re trying to eat healthier and you tell yourself, “Don’t eat junk food today,” that is actually a negative statement and will work the opposite of what you're trying to accomplish.
Think about it like this, if someone says, “Don’t think about a pink tiger with blue stripes,” what are you going to think about? Try more positive language like, “This healthy lunch is going to be so tasty and filling.” I know sometimes it is easier said than done, but keep trying and you’ll find your mindset will change after a while if you keep working to talk and think positive.
3. Make it Easy on Yourself.
Things that are easy are more likely to become a routine. An estimated 47% of our behavior repeats daily, with minimal thought needed. Change can be hard, so set yourself up for success by making it a little easier on yourself, especially when life gets busy! Want to join a gym? Join one close to your home or work and be prepared by having the proper clothing and equipment packed the night before. Want to eat healthier? Prepping your meals and snacks in advance is the easiest way to ensure you have healthy meals readily available for your hungry. That way when you get hungry on the go, you’ll have healthy options to grab instead of a bag of chips.
4. Start Small
Change doesn’t happen overnight and you can’t break a bad habit in a day. Some of the best weight loss motivation I’ve ever gotten is that “I didn’t gain this weight in a day, so I’m not going to lose it overnight. It takes time.” That applies to habit building and clean eating as well. So start small and build yourself up to large change. Change soda out for water. Start meal prepping. Exercise 10 minutes a day. Grab an apple instead of chips for a snack. Small changes will help build up your self-confidence and motivation, so then you can do even more. You’ll truly be surprised at how much transformation will happen when you take a gentle, self-love approach. Be proud of all your healthy changes, big or small. They're all great and a positive step forward!
5. Be Realistic with Yourself
When setting any kind of goal, it is always important to be realistic. If you never cook dinner at home and want to start, try committing to 2-3 nights a week at first instead of every night. Or if your goal is to eat clean, don’t stress over calories but put your focus on eating real food and just watch the transformation happen. Of course, everyone wants to get to the finish line as fast as they can, but don’t aim too high. With slow progress, you’re more likely to make a life change which will make you healthier in the long run. Consistency is key and will help you create more of a positive attitude with the process. You might even actually enjoy it!
6. Organization is Key
Even if you’re not a super-organized person by nature, it’s not too hard to get organized with clean eating habits. Schedule a meal-prep day, making meal plans, and only have healthy foods around you, these are the simple task that will set you up for change. If you want to exercise more, make sure to schedule it ahead of time so that you’re prepared. Not sure what to eat? There are so many available meal-plans online or even join one of the many Clean Eating Challenges. A challenge might even help keep you accountable. Feel like you’re always too busy to eat healthily? A meal-prep day will save you in a time crunch. You can even look into a healthy meal delivery service if you think you're too busy for meal-prep. They’ve become available in most areas these days and cost usually isn’t too bad compared to what you would spend at the grocery store. Plus there is usually less waste.
Just always remember you are worth the extra effort to eat clean and healthy. After a while, you’ll find that you will feel better, you are more motivated and even have more energy to do all the things you didn’t think you would ever have time to do.
7. A Stumble is Not the End
Don’t get down on yourself if you stumble at a party and have some cake. Or if you have a hard day and slip-up and have some cookies instead of a healthy snack. You haven’t undone all your hard work! With your next meal or snack, just jump back on the wagon and choose a clean food option. It will be okay and as we talked about earlier, remember your why. Pull out your paper where you wrote your why(s) down and remember why you started this lifestyle change. Junk food usually makes you feel like junk, and who wants to feel like that all the time? Get out of the “diet” mindset, the goal is to have a healthy eating lifestyle.
8. Treat Yourself
There is no such thing as perfection. While we all know you shouldn’t use food as a reward, but everyone has to live a little. Embrace the philosophy of moderation and let go of the “bad food” mentality. Try to choose the cleanest food options you can, when you’re at a party and don’t feel bad about it. If you feel like you need a cookie, there are so many available that have real, clean ingredients. Or make your own! Maybe go for those instead of Oreos. The 80/20 rule is good to live by. As long as you’re eating healthy 80% of the time, it’s okay to have a few extra calories the other 20%. Just make sure that you stick to the habits you’ve committed to for the most part.