Every year when I see a Canada Goose waddling around my neightbourhood, it spurns me into action to start planning my favorite event of the year – putting away my winter sweaters and filling my closet with brightly coloured spring threads. It’s also when I pull out a couple of pairs of shorts and try them on to see if my summer wardrobe is still fitting after a winter of good eatin’.
Normally they slide on easy peasy and there’s always lots of room at the waistband. This year – not so much. I just turned 40 which always a game-changer body-wise and I’ve been saying the hell a little more frequently lately. If the former reason is causing me to be Lady Tightpants, I can accept that. I plan to navigate my 40s gracefully and embrace all that comes. But that said, I’m not going to shell out for new clothes if it is because I’ve dipped my hands a few times too many into the chip bowl. I can’t accept seeing the effects of my own over-indulgence. It affects not only my body but eventually will affect me mentally when I’m foggy and sluggish and my workouts are as vigourous.
So what do you do when you realize that your nutrition needs a spring cleaning?
1. Pull out your journal or a piece of paper and start writing. Self-awareness is really important when you are getting re-focused on your goals. I know that I’m a boredom eater and when life is going great part of me is bored and looking for stimulation (shopping and eating) and the other part of me is getting a little stressed waiting for the tables to turn. At least by knowing this, I can engage in better habits that keep me occupied and relaxed.
2. Read up. I am not a fan of “FUD” literature – that is “Fear Uncertainty Doom” which tells you that sugar is going to kill you. But that said, there are a lot of good books with a balanced approach that can inspire you to be stay away from refined sugars or trans fats. Michael Pollan has some great books on taking a balanced approach to eating and Dr. Robert Lustig does a great job of illustrating what sugar does to your hormones.
3. Set a SMART goal. Having a goal will keep you focused on cleaning up your diet. Just saying ‘I want to eat better” isn’t going to do it. One example would be: I want to have a binder with 40 healthy recipes that I’ve prepared.
4. Write your elevator pitch. A lot of us are shy about declaring our intentions to eat a certain way. I’m lucky because I’m a fitness professional. It’s important to me that I walk my talk. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be as intent of eating healthy. Come up with your quick and dirty explanation, one that doesn’t make the person you are eating with feel like crap if they are having a burger and bust it out whenever you’re questioned for ordering the chicken breast and salad.
5. Change your routine. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. If every time you buy a Tim Horton’s coffee you buy a donut, stop going to Tim Hortons. You’re not going to stop buying the donut. Or you might for a couple of times and will be back at it.
6. Open your mind to new things. It used to be that I couldn’t watch a movie without nachos. Or have someone over for dinner without opening three bottles of wine. Once I started trying out different things like air popped popcorn and other liquid accompaniments at meals, I opened the door to a wonder of healthy options.
7. Commit to 12 weeks. It sounds like a long time, but it’s not. You’re not going to make any healthy changes in one week. Even a month is too short in my opinion. Your body needs time to balance and retool itself to your most natural and vibrant state. And it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. One where there will be room for birthday cake, if you so choose it. But you need time to incorporate the healthy changes before you bring the treats back. You can always stash the Easter chocolate your mom buys you in the back of the freezer or if you want to make someone really happy, gift it to a homeless person.
8. Only incorporate habits that resonate. There is an extremism right now surrounding healthy eating that is leading people to believe that they have to join the cults of Juicers, Intermittent Fasters, Raw Foodists or whatever other fads are gracing their Facebook feeds. Listen to everyone but follow nobody. You can be a Paleo/Vegan until Four/Whole Foodie if you so choose. Pick and choose what works for you.
Not only will I be healthier, but I’ll have more money to spend on fun this summer!