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Keep it Simple
When I first decided I wanted to improve my health, I found myself swimming in a sea of information. All kinds of “experts” had differing theories on how to be healthy. Some promoted veganism, others espoused the importance of a high-protein diet, still others insisted that raw was the only way to go. One thing, however, was unanimous. The North American diet is making us fat and causing chronic disease – and this was not the path I wanted to take. So undaunted, I started taking courses towards becoming a holistic nutritionist. Halfway through, I realized that there was still no definitive answer and worse, I was losing my enjoyment of food worrying about whether I was getting the right combination of nutrients, trying to figure out the optimal supplement combination, and trying to stuff as much chia seeds, spirulina and hemp hearts into my recipes as possible.
Philosophies like the Whole 30 keep it simple – the only requirement is eating whole, unprocessed foods. So if you like eggs, eat them every morning. If you like meat, include small, lean portions in your meals. If you are vegan, the Whole 30 makes exceptions to accommodate. And if you don’t like avocados, chia seeds or kale, don’t sweat it. Just choose some other fruits and veggies that you do like and indulge.
Even with the best intentions, if you are not prepared, you will inevitably cave. When you’ve spent the whole morning working or running errands and are ravenously hungry, you will crave delicious simple carbs that will fill you up fast and give you short-term satisfaction. So if you don’t have some healthy snacks on hand, it will be next to impossible to resist. I always stock up with a large container of roasted nuts and bags of apple chips from Costco, as well as prewashed containers of salad that I can drizzle with olive oil, salt/pepper and roasted pumpkin seeds. If you are not used to eating this way, I know this may not sound very appetizing (there used to be a time when I could not imagine life without potato chips and cheese), but after a couple of weeks, it gets easier and you start to crave these healthier foods. When I want something sweeter or my kids are eating ice cream after dinner, I have some frozen blueberries and coconut cream (the cream skimmed off the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk) sprinkled with cinnamon. Other great options are bananas smeared with almond butter or bananas fried in coconut oil and topped with coconut cream.
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I promise it becomes much easier over time to maintain a healthy diet but unfortunately, poutine and ice cream will never completely lose their appeal. Although you will probably feel pretty nasty after eating a large bowl of junk food, it will taste pretty damn good going down. The first time I did this cleanse, I had a bite of my kids’ pizza and almost cried, it tasted so good. It took everything in me not to have another bite and it was definitely not worth the effort. Therefore, do not cheat. The dopamine that floods your body with that first bite will make it difficult to stop.
Even when the actual cleanse period is over, set certain rules to maintain a healthy lifestyle and don’t break them. I have poor impulse control – I can never have just one glass of wine or french fry – so I set rules that will allow me to indulge without going overboard. For instance, I only drink wine when I go out or at home on weekends, I don’t eat after 8:00pm, I try not to eat any sweets, and no matter how busy I am, I always have a protein and greens-heavy breakfast to ensure I can make it to lunch without snacking.
On the other hand, if you do cheat (I still do…), don’t give up. Sometimes when I feel discouraged, I say, “to hell with it”, and start eating all the things I had given up. Don’t go down this road, it is dark and depressing. Take a deep breath and start over.
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Unless you work beside a Freshii, almost every food outlet around you will serve everything deep-fried, or accompanied with noodles, bread or white rice. Therefore, it is essential that you make enough at dinner to take for lunch the next day or always have a roast chicken and greens in your refrigerator so you can pack a salad. And if you’re eating out, make sure to look at the menu online beforehand to make sure they have some options for you.
Although exercise is not necessary for initial weight loss, it is an essential part of being healthy. Also, when you stick to a regular exercise regimen, you will feel stronger and better, which will give you an added motivation to stick to healthy eating habits. When trying to find an exercise routine that works for you, again, keep it simple. Don’t try to keep up with the latest fad or subscribe to an expensive gym membership if you know you likely won’t go. I once continued a Goodlife membership for five years even though I actually ended up going only a handful of times. I also tried getting into yoga but the calm atmosphere was not for me, and I’ve run a few times but can’t make it past ten minutes without becoming bored. So you need to find something that you will actually will stick with. Whether that means finding an exercise buddy to motivate you, or buying videos to do from home (which is what I like best – see http://www.tracyanderson.com), take the time to find what works.
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