Life can get a little crazy from time to time (although for some of us, "˜from time to time can feel more like most days), and when it does, certain things tend to take a back seat"”things like what we eat, how we eat and how much exercise we're getting.
Let's get real: When you've got your boss breathing passive aggressive threats down your neck or are feeling like your world is crashing down on you, the last thing on your mind is whether you should have pepperoni pizza or the quinoa, pumpkin and rocket salad with a lemon hummus on the side for lunch.
When chaos gets real, the easier, faster option always wins. Your mind and body switch to survival mode. The only thing you want at this point is to get through the day, every day"¦often at the expense of your health.
I've survived days like this"”mostly not very well in the beginning"”but as time went on, found myself getting better at it, and learning many invaluable lessons along the way. Here are my top three strategies that you can start following along to right now to take the spirit-crushing stress and overwhelm out of your diet and daily routine:
STRESS-LESS STRATEGY #1
De-cluttering my kitchen makes eating healthily so much easier. It wasn't until my fridge broke down and I was faced with piles and piles of soggy, expired food that I realized I was a closet food hoarder.
All those times I chose the leftover pizza, grabbed the pack of chips or even ate nothing? I did it because the thought of whipping up something healthier felt like too much work and navigating my fridge was a mess that I didn't want to deal with.
The remedy: Clearing out everything in my kitchen that served as a barrier between me and a quick, healthy meal, and re-stocking it with the ingredients and tools that would make choosing what was good for me, a no-brainer .
Make your kitchen a safe, nurturing space: How can you make eating healthily a quicker, more efficient and less stressful process? Is it getting rid of the extra-large bags of chips that are constantly calling out your name? Is it having a handful of yummy, 10-minute recipes stuck to your fridge and the ingredients they call for on hand to make them happen? List down everything you need (to add or get rid of) and carve out some time this weekend to set things up!
STRESS-LESS STRATEGY #2
Eating foods I love keeps my taste buds satisfied and me, less likely to overeat. Desserts are bad for you, so you should avoid them altogether, right? Wrong.
The more determined I was to not eat my favorite crÃ¨me caramel, vanilla cupcakes and ice-cream, the more I craved for them because I ended up feeling so deprived.
Was being healthy and getting rid of those extra pounds supposed to be this hard?
I decided that "no, it wasn't" and added my favorite treats back into my diet, but in ways that didn't allow me to get out of control (this may mean not having them at home) and portions that I planned ahead of time. Big picture: Having a cupcake once every few days wasn't going to blow my energy intake or make me fat.
In fact, I ended up losing more fat and gained more lean muscle because I didn't feel like I was missing out and staying on track with all my other healthy habits felt so much easier.
Which favorite foods can you plan to enjoy in reasonable portions regularly? For example, if you love chocolate, make a date with it once a week so that you always know when you're going to get to enjoy it. That way, you won't feel deprived and tempted to binge.
STRESS-LESS STRATEGY #3
If it's not working, I stop doing it. This one may seem obvious, but I've made this mistake and see so many people around me making it too, over and over again.
They jump from one diet, miracle shake or supplement to the next, or stubbornly stick to something even though it's not working, hoping that if they "just tried a little harder", the extra weight they're carrying around will magically melt away in days or weeks.
But nothing happens (mostly because they keep going off track), or they make a little bit of progress and then stall.
And then they realize that they hate eating nothing but canned tuna for dinner or find themselves terrified of having to follow a set of rigid diet rules for the rest of their lives.
Here's my take: I'm all for trying new things, but I make sure that I know why I'm doing it and how long I'll be giving it a go for. If I don't see any progress within 3 months, I take a step back to re-assess my strategy. Nine times out of 10, if something's not working, it's probably not feeling right either, which means it's time to let it go.
And when I let the wrong things go, I end up making more space in my life for the things that do feel right.
What diet strategy are you using that's not working for you right now? Think of three alternatives that you can replace it with and see yourself sticking to in the long term.
Remember: Making your day healthier doesn't have to be a complicated, painful affair"”it's usually the simplest strategies that work like a charm, and stick with you…for life.