Making significant changes to the way you eat takes a long time to get used to, the thing I have found that works best is to make small changes one at a time so you can focus on making them stick. The same thing applies when you are moving from highly processed foods to real foods, I can pretty much guarantee, that if you go cold turkey and stop eating processed foods all at once, you will last about 2 weeks before you cave and go running back to something with a sugary chemical centre. Making significant changes rarely works, making small changes is much easier and more likely become your new normal.
Three years ago my partner and I decided to change the way we ate, having done it before my partner suggested we move to a paleo diet, game for something new I agreed and we started our transition. Understanding that the composition of our meals needed to change a lot to become paleo we have begun by looking at what we were eating. At that point in time, most of our meals would have been one-third carbohydrate, one-third meat and one-third vegetable, not great but better than some.
Knowing that the move to paleo meant some big changes overall we started with something small, that first little change was eliminating bread. Not a lover of eating first thing in the morning my go-to breakfast of choice was toast; this was the first thing to go. We started by introducing eggs to the toast, so I got used to something more substantial first thing in the morning. When I was used to the eggs, we added bacon, after that we got rid of the bread. The result was a new morning routine that has eggs as the main breakfast component; this is still the case after three years.
Next was getting rid of sandwiches for lunch when there were no leftovers, and on the weekends, I stopped buying bread altogether and replaced sandwiches with easy salads, we worked to make that the norm. Over a matter of months, we removed bread, potatoes, pasta and rice from our diet, replacing each one with a new alternative that helped to complete meals. Slowly over the course of a year, we eliminated processed foods from our diets, though not as strict as we were in that first year we still eat real food every day.
For me the hardest battle was with sugar, I know it’s not good for me, I know it links back to all kinds of health issues, but it tasted so good and let’s be honest is in everything. Removing sugar from my diet is by far the hardest thing I have ever done, I am now in the camp of thinking that sugar is addictive and should be treated as a drug. You may be laughing at this but seriously making a commitment to be sugar-free is tough and a real battle. It took me months to wean myself off processed sugar and just as long to stop craving it. I still have moments where all I want is something sweet and sickly, when I think of it in comparison taking away bread and pasta was a walk in the park.
Making a decision to do something differently should be treated like a journey not an instant change. We often try to make snap changes then wonder why we can’t follow a diet or stick to a new workout routine. It is because big changes are hard to build a routine around, and until a change becomes part of your routine it will be hard to stick to. Making small changes can seem dull or more like hard work but the truth is doing a little at a time has greater impact and has more chance of becoming a lifelong habit. If you want to make a significant change in the way you eat or exercise follow some simple steps
- know what your end goal is - set an achievable and realistic goal for yourself
- break down your goal into smaller chunks- work out what the small steps are that you need to take
- focus on one step at a time - focusing on one step means you dedicate yourself to making sure that step gets done
- give it time - there is no magic timeframe to make new habits stick so be patient and give yourself time
- do what is right for you - everyone is different so make sure you do what is right and will work for you
Everyone is different and will face different challenges when making changes in their lives; the key is understanding your strengths and using them to make positive changes in your life.