We’ve all been there – just one of those stressful days that never seem to end. Once they do, however, you want to stuff your face with pizza, regardless of the implications. Resisting the urge to gorge on junk food can be incredibly difficult in some instances, killing all of your motivation to stick to a healthy diet of lean protein and veggies.
So, what does it take to start eating healthy food and to keep up the new habit in the long run? Working on your mindset and the goal you want to accomplish will both help you yield the results you’re hoping for.
Find a Support Buddy
Having the support of a close friend or a loved one can make all the difference in the world.
We’re social creatures and doing things in a group is a lot easier than pushing yourself individually.
This is one of the reasons why being in a relationship has so many mental health benefits. Studies also show that guys in a marriage or a committed relationship are a lot healthier than all the single dudes out there.
To go through with a diet change, you need to find someone who’ll go through the process with you. It can be a girlfriend, a roommate, a sibling – someone who is willing to share the journey and to hold you accountable.
This very same principle can be applied to exercise, to spending more time outdoors and to any other wellness/health goal you want to accomplish. Even when the going gets tough and you feel like giving up, you’ll have someone by your side to pick you up (or kick you in the backside upon necessity) and get you going once again.
Simplify the Meal Prep Process
Eating healthier typically means making your own food at home. for many busy guys, that’s just too much of a hassle to keep up in the long run. They often give up not because of the dietary restrictions but because of the meal prep.
If you manage to simplify and enjoy the preparation of healthy meals, you’ll be much more likely to turn the new nutritional plan into a long-term lifestyle.
Here’s what I do to make it happen.
Use one day per week to do shopping and prepare ingredients. Washing, chopping, freezing, blending, boiling – these tasks can be handled in advance. When your ingredients are prepped and ready to go in the pan, the cooking itself will happen quickly and efficiently.
You can also use that one day to cook several meals you’ll be eating during the week. Doing this twice per week will be sufficient to enjoy culinary diversity without having to do additional grocery shopping or meal preparation.
While planning seven days’ worth of meals isn’t that easy, you can at least have an idea for the foreseeable future. The worst thing to do is to shop, chop and cook every single day. If you don’t eliminate some of the work, chances are that you’ll soon be going back to takeaway.
Rewarding yourself will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation needed to stick to a healthy meal plan.
Balanced nutrition isn’t about deprivation. Anyone who’s 100 percent strict and rigorous will eventually give up. You have your needs. The occasional beer and burger isn’t going to tip the scales. Hence, you should give yourself the chance to have fun every now and then and to celebrate the milestones that you’ve accomplished.
You can set a reward per week, per month or per a period of time that works for you.
The reward doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of food. It’s also ok to buy something nice you’ve wanted for a long time to celebrate the pounds you’ve lost or the health improvement you’ve accomplished.
Understand the fact that junk food should not be seen as a rewarding experience. There is a big difference between a home-cooked burger and a takeaway from a fast food place.
Making a burger at home will give you access to a somewhat decadent meal that still has nutritional value. If you turn junk food into something rewarding, you’ll get used to looking forward to it. Obviously, such expectations go against the principles of long-term healthy eating.
Avoid Extreme Restrictions
When looking for meal plans, you’ll come across so many restrictive diets – carb free, ketogenic, high fat and low carb, etc. Restrictive diets, however, do not work in the long run.
Eliminating an entire food group like carbs or lipids is problematic because you will lose some weight in the beginning but eventually, you’ll either overeat in secrecy or you’ll get in a binge-eating habit. Hence, restrictions tend to be destructive to health and wellbeing in the long run.
Restrictive diets are also harmful. Your body needs carbs, proteins and lipids to function properly. The elimination of an entire food group will sooner or later lead to some nutritional deficiencies.
If you don’t know how to craft a balanced meal plan, you may want to talk to a nutrition expert. A professional will show you how to combine different ingredients and what the best macronutrient ratios are.
Based on this information, you can craft and customize a sustainable meal plan that’s fun, enjoyable and easy to do in the long run.
Track Your Progress
Let’s face it – most of us are highly competitive. This is why we like tracking progress and seeing results. A positive outcome is the best way to maintain your motivation.
To introduce a healthy diet, you have to come up with the right goal. A good goal is realistic, measurable and easy to break down into smaller milestones.
Keep track of progress without obsessing about it. You can go for a weigh in once per month. You can also have your BMI and fat percentage checked at the gym.
Once again, don’t overdo it. If you start obsessing and checking the numbers every single day, you’ll be getting close to disordered behaviour. It’s a myth that only women deal with eating disorders.
Here’s a simple statistic to show you that men are heavily affected by unrealistic body image ideals – 25 percent of normal weight men believe they’re underweight and 90 per cent of teenage boys do exercises for the purpose of bulking up.
Tracking your progress lets you know if you’re on the right path but you should never overdo it. Your weight and body measurements will vary across the month. Hence, you should set a longer period to track changes so that the regular fluctuations don’t affect you.
Try New Foods and Enjoy the Process
Healthy eating is all about enjoying your food.
Having a positive attitude, picking ingredients with care and attention, experimenting with recipes and having delicious meals every single day will give you the satisfaction required to keep going.
While we all have our go-to favorites, you should definitely experiment with new ingredients and recipes.
If you’re not certain about a specific kind of food, go to a restaurant to check it out. Try different meals and if you like the flavors, you can easily start making such recipes at home.
Be curious about food and about high quality ingredients. Becoming a connoisseur will give you delight while also helping you meet your body’s nutritional needs.
Overcome Emotional Eating
Every single person has food barriers. All of us link certain foods to comfort, happiness, childhood safety and fun.
These emotional connections are the most destructive element of a meal plan. They’re most difficult to overcome and one of the primary reasons for overeating or turning to food whenever stressed out.
While food should give you pleasure and nourish your soul, you don’t need to have an unhealthy connection to certain types of junk food.
To find and keep the motivation to eat healthy meals, you’ll need to start exploring the relationship you have with food. When do you eat and why? Do you eat when you’re hungry or just because you’re feeling stressed out?
Once again, a professional can help you understand the answers to these questions. If you believe that your relationship with food is unhealthy and toxic, you may want to consider seeing a therapist.
In the end, you want to move forward and change yourself for the better. That’s admirable and achievable. While the tips mentioned above are generally helpful, you will have to identify your own barriers and the things that stand in the way of adopting a healthy eating mindset.
When you identify these specific problems, you will find it much easier to introduce the measures required to keep your motivation level up.