So, you just had your first consultation with the wellness guide. He first asked about your goals, eating history, explored what foods you like and don’t like, began to understand how you eat and how you don’t like to eat. You talked about what cooking you do, if any, and he even explored when you ate during the day and what issues your home and work environment may have for a new lifestyle eating plan.
After checking on any food allergies, what relevant medications you are on, and some discussion about your diet history, he talked about this new approach to nutrition and established that there were good options for using food to “take back your health”. Together you have put together a meal plan for this week that is not too challenging and is designed to begin the process of food rehabilitation. This is new learning and could be exciting.
But how are you going to stick to the plan. You have always struggled with diets and while you are told that this is not a diet, but a lifestyle change, it seems a lot like the others. You are very concerned that you are going to fail, and your next appointment will be totally humiliating. Well don’t worry, making any change like this is very hard and if you struggle and don’t fully succeed, then you can still both celebrate the small successes, the learning and then channel new energy into the next period.
This can be very exciting, like heading out on a holiday, likely it will be a moment you will remember when you look back. New things to learn, and exciting results a distinct possibility. I hope you have a have a target you are aiming for. Maybe a particular blood test result such as the HbA1c level, or the number of medications that we want to reduce such as hypertension medications, to provide some motivation. Perhaps you want to be able to do a specific exercise, such as 5 full push-ups or summit the local hill without having to stop for breath.
To help you on your way, here are a few thoughts that might assist with your transition:
1. Plan your eating. This means deciding a time and place for each meal and deciding when during each day, you are not going to be eating.
2. Take a good look at the meal plan. Plan your shopping and visualize yourself following through with each meal. Think about your hydration.
3. Think about the size of the food on the plate, not too small that you will imagine yourself as being hungry soon afterwards, but not so big that you will be stuffed. Remember that it can take some time for your body to recognize the unfamiliar “I am full” message.
4. Start to take note of those foods that are unhealthy for you, particularly those old friends that you have now learned are killing your health goals. Imagine what damage they can be doing to you. If you feel a little smug about this new knowledge, then revel in it. Imagine seeing them in the supermarket aisles and moving right on past. You will be able to just scoot past the bread aisle, the soda aisle, and the cookie aisle.
5. Think about the period between your meals when you will not be eating, and plan what your will be doing in that time, maybe exercising, working, sleeping, socializing, etc.
6. Look at the meal plans and think about what might become your new favorite’s. Plan to learn how to prepare these well, so that they look good on the plate and taste delicious. Maybe you can even host a friend and serve them one of these new meals. Now there is a challenge.
7. Look in the pantry and refrigerator and clear out those temptations that you have agreed, are not going with you on your health journey. If you are a home baker, you might want to think about giving away those recipe books that are not part of you new food health journey. This is not a temporary change so let’s make it secure.
8. Imagine how you will respond when tempted with foods that are not part of your journey so that when a waitress offers you the breadbasket, you can politely and immediately turn it down without any temptation. Think about how you will respond to friends or family that don’t have this knowledge of better nutrition and may not be very supportive.
9. Take another look at the foods that you and the wellness guide selected as treats and ensure that you have some of these available for when you need a little boost. They will help you focus on the positive.
10. As you become more used to these meal choices, you will be able to visualize yourself selecting the right food choices. Think first about the protein on your plate. Is it sufficient to satisfy your protein appetite? Only after getting this right should you think about the other parts of the meal.
11. As each day is done and you have managed to stick to the plan, congratulate yourself for your achievement. This is a change that for some, can be as difficult as giving up smoking or alcohol.
12. Make notes in your food diary about what you liked, how you feel and what is working for you. This will become valuable input to help guide you on your new lifestyle journey and it will reinforce the choices you made today. In days to come you can refer to this for motivation or even just to remind you of some good meal ideas.
For many people there exists a selection of maybe 20-30 core meals that are the go-to meals for much of their eating. A great move could be to start to plan what you will include in a new selection. Once these are defined, meal-planning could become as easy as riding a bicycle. Some meals may not change, some old favorite’s will be consigned to the unhealthy bin. Maybe you can share new recipes with friends and learn together which ones you want to repeat regularly.
Enjoy the journey.
For more information about lifestyle change and “Taking back your health” with diet as medicine, take a look at my blog page, www.takebackyrhealth.com. There you will also find a link to my book on Amazon.
Kind regards George Elder.