Like pretty much every other American, one of my New Years’ Resolutions was to start eating healthier. However, I knew from past experiences that I was not going to be able to sustain my resolution if I tried to cut out everything all at once. I came up with a plan at the beginning of the year to slowly make decisions that would promote healthy eating. If you are looking to become healthier over the course of the year, consider implementing the following strategy (keep in mind–each month, you are building the previous steps on top of each other. For instance, once you eliminate dessert, you continue to leave it out when you transition to non-dairy, etc.):
1. Starting Day 1 and staying consistent all year, choose a workout routine that you enjoy (at least a little bit) and stick to it.
If group fitness is your thing, join a gym. If you’re a fan of interval workouts, do T25, 21 Day Fix, Insanity, or P90X at home. If you like to run, lace up those shoes and get out the door. Whatever you do, just make sure you have fun. Also, consistency is key. Schedule your workouts like they’re appointments you can’t break, and refuse to cancel on yourself.
2. Months 1-3: Focus simply on cutting out desserts and sugary snacks.
I’m not talking about giving up fruit and checking every single label for sugar (yet), I’m simply talking about making small changes. If you’re used to having something sweet after a meal, try switching to fruit with a little honey drizzled on top, or berries & homemade whipped cream (sweetened with honey or other natural sweetener).
3. Months 4-6: Transition from eating dairy to non-dairy products.
You’d be amazed how much dairy can cause you to put on and keep on weight. Slowly making changes to eliminate dairy from your diet will produce big results. Plus, you will feel better; many people see improved digestive health and reduced bloating.
4. Months 7-9: Reduce your carb intake–particularly simple carbs.
I have a really hard time eliminating carbs altogether (plus, I don’t really think it’s necessary if you’re focusing on reducing sugar, dairy, and simple carbs). Simply look at the carbs you’re currently eating, and try to make choices to eat more whole and ancient grains as opposed to those that are processed.
5. Months 10-12: Take a closer look at the sugars that sneak up in the foods you eat.
Now it’s time to start digging a little deeper and look for hidden sugars. For instance, if you eat vanilla flavored yogurt in the morning, there is a lot more sugar in that than you may think. Even things like tomato sauce may contain sugar. Eliminating sugar from our diets is one of the best possible things we can do for our health. Investigating and taking a closer look at labels will keep them from sneaking up on you.
You may even consider taking a break from fruits that have high quantities of natural sugar (if weight loss is your goal). While these sugars are not nearly as harmful as the white stuff, they are still sugar. Examples of sugary fruits are pineapple, pear, banana, and watermelon.
While I am in no means a health a fitness expert, I know that taking a harder look at the sugar, dairy, and simple carbs in my diet with bring greater overall health. Completely eliminating everything at once has never worked for me in the past, and can actually be dangerous by bringing too much of a shock to your system. Thinking in terms of smaller steps and building them on top of each other could bring you a lot of success in your overall health. Give it a try!