How to start a healthy lifestyle and keep it?

So far you may have seen eating a healthy diet and exercising as a short-term goal: for the summer swimsuit, to get into the dress. And then you put it aside, until the next holiday, party or new year.

When you’re an adult, you gradually realize how important your lifestyle is to your health, image, inner peace, energy levels, mood and even success.

Or maybe if you haven’t reached this point yet, you have begun to see that there is more and more interest in our food (with endless new diets and trends), exercise and meditation (lately it seems that everyone talks about meditating).

Why is it important?

All this interest has a raison d’ĂȘtre: there are more and more studies regarding the relationship that diet, physical activity and mental health have with chronic diseases. And nowadays, many of the main causes of death in the world are chronic diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, etc.).

This is why it is important to start seeing healthy eating, exercise and mental health as a lifestyle, something that is part of you. But of course it won’t be sustainable to do so if we have to put aside everything we like or do things we don’t enjoy, it would be like wanting to torture ourselves every day. By imposing on us strict and complicated rules to follow, we are only destined to fail.

For example, suppose I want to eat healthier and I make it a rule that I won’t eat bread after 6pm, but I eat dinner every day at 8pm and normally included bread in my dinner. It turns out that I really enjoy bread and that I decide to just take it out without replacing it with anything else.

What will happen is that every day I will be suffering for not eating bread, when I see one I will crave a lot, and a few days or weeks I will be eating as before.

The most important component

Habits and our thoughts play a very important role in our lifestyle, much more than we would like to acknowledge. Therefore, the most important thing to achieve lasting change is working with our mind first of all, with how we think and perceive that change, so that it can become a habit and then a lifestyle that does not cost us work.

Tips for a positive perception of a change in diet

Establish meal times, make eating a habit. Our body works best when we have established routines, in fact they reduce cortisol production because our body knows exactly what to expect.

That’s why it’s important to have set meal times, which you follow every day (yes, even on weekends). This will help your body to regulate and not be hungry all the time, because you know when you are going to eat.

Think positive. What I mean is don’t think you’re taking something away or there’s something you can’t eat, focus on everything you can eat and always have a perspective to add. For example, instead of thinking that you’re removing bread from your diet, think that you’re adding vegetables to your plate.

A tip here is to fill your plate with vegetables, especially if they are leafy because they have a lot of volume, they will help you be satisfied and you won’t feel like you’re eating little. Always add instead of remove.

Eat things you like and enjoy. Not because it’s healthy you have to know ugly, look for the fruits or vegetables you like, try new ways to prepare them, try new recipes. Eating is something you enjoy, not suffering.

Look for substitutes. If there’s something you really like and are constantly craving, look for a healthier way to replace it. Following my example of bread, instead of eating a commercial one packaged with hundreds of ingredients, I look for a recipe to do it at home with healthy ingredients.

Or if I love chocolate, I trade it for bitter chocolate 90% cocoa. Or instead of eating wheat flour pasta, try zoodles or chickpea or lentil pasta. Today there are substitutes for almost anything, just make sure the new substitute is really healthy and not full of sugar and chemicals.

Follow the 80/20 rule and eliminate guilt. You are what you do 80% of the time, not by eating healthy one day you will become a healthy person and the same thing happens the other way around; not by eating something “unhealthy” one day you cease to be a healthy person.

Focus on eating healthy 80% of the time and enjoy the remaining 20% of the time. You’re no longer on a diet for a certain period of time, but you’re maintaining a healthy diet and it won’t be sustainable if you think about forever eliminating something you enjoy.

The important thing here is: enjoy yourself when you indulge in those tastes. Don’t feel guilty, don’t try to disguise it. For example, if one day you crave a lot of pizza and you’ve been eating healthy for weeks, eat the pizza. But eat the best pizza in town, your favorite, enjoy it, eat it consciously and calmly.

And at the next meal you make, stick to your healthy diet. Without guilt, without trying to deceive yourself by eating a pizza that tastes awful or that you’re going to make up for by not having dinner. It’s okay if you only eat that 20% of the time.

Reduce the “unhealthy” portions you eat. Since we’re talking about the 80/20 rule and not feeling guilty, it’s also important to note the portion sizes of those 20% foods.

You are not going to eat 10 pizzas by yourself when you crave a lot, try to gradually reduce the size of the portion of those foods that you do not want to be part of 80% of your diet, as just a little and make it conscious, really enjoying it, to remove your craving and ready, continue with your healthy diet.

Establish meal times, make eating a habit. Our body works best when we have established routines, in fact they reduce cortisol production because our body knows exactly what to expect.

That’s why it’s important to have set meal times, which you follow every day (yes, even on weekends). This will help your body to regulate and not be hungry all the time, because you know when you are going to eat.

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