As a nutrition consultant and digestive expert, I know many of the tricks for successfully creating healthy, whole foods-based nutrition plan. But I also know all of the pitfalls that can trip you up!
Here are the five biggest slip-ups I see with my clients and share some of my tips for how to easily handle and avoid them.
1. Bailing Out
There are two primary reasons why people give up early on a new eating approach.
First, many people start a program without preparing for it. By day three, the healthy food in the refrigerator is all eaten and there is no time to shop or cook. This is when the to heck with it mindset kicks in and they find themselves reaching for that frozen burrito in the freezer.
To avoid this pitfall some up-front planning and prep work is key: knowing exactly which foods are beneficial, and stocking the kitchen with them and getting rid of foods that are triggers or not supportive of the plan list (like that burrito). Cooking up some big batches of healthy soup, chili or stew in advance will leave the refrigerator full for most of the week. It is always my recommendation to have a week’s worth of meals in the fridge and freezer before the changes are implemented.
The second big reason that people decide to throw in the towel is that they fail to understand the initial symptoms that can occur when general nutrition is shifted. Early on in a less processed, more whole foods based diet, most people experience several days of feeling tired, cranky, wired and weird. At this point, many of them decide it is not worth the effort and grab a burger and fries.
It is important to stress that these feelings are very temporary and are in fact a good sign! They mean that the body is switching from burning sugars to burning fat (which is challenging for your cells at first), and will calm down and be followed by increased energy and vitality.
Ride out the symptoms. They only last three to seven days. To ease their effects, nibble on a
little avocado, some unsweetened coconut chips, or a handful of olives.
2. Freaking Out
One of the toughest concepts to overcome when I present clients with my nutrition program is a terrifying fear of fat. Over the years, some experts have demonized healthy fats like avocados, coconut, clarified butter and beef tallow.
If you have fallen for the fat scare, it is time to get over it. Healthy fats can support health, longevity and actually help you lose weight faster. They also give you beautiful skin because they strengthen the walls of your skin cells. They also satisfy your hunger, keeping you from bingeing on the foods that truly are unhealthy. Eat healthy fats at every meal!
3. Pigging Out
I am often asked about portion control and what constitutes enough. You definitely do not need to count points, grams or calories, but you do need to learn how to build a proper plate. Here’s a quick guide to creating my idea of a healthy meal:
- Protein. Each meal should include a serving of protein. A serving of meat, fish or poultry should be about the size and thickness of your palm. A serving of eggs is as many as you can hold in your hand (that’s about two or three for women and three or four for men). A serving of egg whites alone is double the serving for whole eggs.
- Non-starchy vegetables. A serving of non-starchy vegetables (typically flowering parts of the plant such as lettuce, asparagus, amaranth, eggplant, cucumber, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, peppers and tomatoes) should be at least the size of a softball. There is no limit to these so fill your plate with at least two or three softballs’ worth.
- Starchy vegetables. A serving of starchy vegetables (such as potato, yams/sweet potato, jicama, kohlrabi or winter squash) should be about the size of a baseball for women and the size of a softball for men. Up to one serving per meal is recommended.
- Fruit. A serving of fruit is an individual or a tennis-ball-size serving of berries, grapes or tropical fruits (about 1⁄2 cup). This is also equivalent a closed fistful, or about 1⁄2 cup if the fruit is diced. Eat no more than two servings of fruit per day, and break them up across meals and snacks to distribute your sugar intake.
- Fats. Each meal should include one or two servings of fat. A serving of liquid fat should be about the size of one to two thumb-size portions (about one tablespoon). A serving of nuts, seeds, coconut flakes or olives is about one closed handful. A serving of avocado is one-half an avocado. A serving of coconut milk is one-third to one-half the can.
4. Dining Out
I love going out to a restaurant with friends and family, especially for special occasions. I learned early on that restaurant dining needs to be the exception, not the rule.
While you can eat wisely at restaurants, it is way too easy to over-indulge, especially when the wine starts flowing! Even if you feel cooking is a chore for you, try to make most of your meals at home. Again, batch cooking will make it faster and easier.
5. Stressing Out
Stress hormones make you crave sugars, refined carbohydrates and fats. Worse yet, the stress hormone cortisol causes you to deposit fat around your belly and is one reason why even seemingly slim people sometimes struggle to lose fat around the middle.
Reduce your stress with simple breathing exercises and mindful meditation (check out this post). It is also essential to manage cortisol by moving the body, even just a little, each and every day.
By following these simple strategies you will find it easier and be more successful at implementing lasting changes and shifting towards a more nutritious lifestyle for you and your family. The time to start is always NOW as procrastination is yet another saboteur that will derail even the best plans to begin.
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