Slow and Steady Wins The Race?

What is the best way to start eating healthier? Is it best to go "cold turkey",  replacing all junk food and sweets for salads and chicken breast? Or is it best to make small changes over time and make a  more gradual transition towards eating healthier?

Different things work for different people, but I have to say that I am a proponent of making slow, gradual changes over time for long term success.

There are many people who have success doing "30 day challenges" and so forth, where they completely eliminate sugar, dairy and grains from their diet for a certain amount of time. The thought of doing that is very intimidating to me, and I just can’t get my mind around making such drastic changes. There are people, though, who do enjoy the challenge and end up making it a lifestyle change from that point on.  It can definitely work.

But then there are the people who do a challenge like that and stick with it for a few weeks, only to find over time that it is much too restrictive for them to maintain, and they end up going back to their old not-so-healthy eating habits.

What has worked best for me has been making small changes over time. I did NOT go from eating fast food, sweets and soft drinks on a daily basis to eating lean protein, oats, and broccoli! If someone told me 8 years ago that I would be eating the way I do now, I would have sneered my nose and said, “Yeah right!”

What worked for me was giving up one or two things at a time and replacing them with healthier options. Maybe not the healthiest option, just healthier. For example, when I was first trying to give up soft drinks I  replaced them with a version that was out at the time that had half the calories and sugar than the regular version. From that point I transitioned to diet soft drinks, and then when I learned that even those weren't good for you, I cut back to only having 1-2 a week rather than every day.

The next thing I gave up was fast food. When I did eat fast food, I at least tried to choose healthier options. For example, when I worked at Kroger during college, I would often go to Wendy's across the street on my lunch break and get a plain chicken breast sandwich with a baked potato or side salad instead of a cheeseburger and fries. Most of the time I tried to pack my lunch, which was usually something a like turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich with fruit and a yogurt. Again, not at all what I would consider a healthy lunch now, but it was healthy to me at the time and much healthier than chips and a Snickers bar. 

Other things I worked on over time: I stopped eating candy and sweets as often and tried to eat more fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. I replaced all white/enriched flour products for whole wheat(although I now know whole wheat doesn't equal healthy). I cut back on the processed foods I was eating(crackers, chips, granola bars, etc.) and learned how to cook real food.  I began eating more fresh, lean protein and added in more healthy fats to my diet. I cut back on products with artificial sweeteners and replaced cow's milk with almond milk. My most recent change has been cutting back some on grains and starchy carbs. All of these things happened over the course of about 8 years!

For me, it was a very slow transition to the way I eat now-I went from a really crappy diet ....to a slightly healthier diet....to an even healthier diet...to what I would call a healthy diet!  And the side effect of making those healthier changes over the years? I got leaner without even trying!

If you find it hard to stick to a "diet" for more than a few weeks, I would suggest taking things more slowly and making one or two changes a week or even each month, rather than trying to do it all at once. Let those things become habits before you change something else. Yes, it requires more time and patience if you are only focused on physical results.

But if you really want to be healthy and make a lifestyle change that will last forever, it's about developing eating habits that you can sustain. It's about being healthier, not being super restrictive just to reach a certain number on the scale or stressing yourself out over having to eat perfect ALL the time. Before you know it, you'll be eating healthy and have the physical results to show for it!



Tell me, what worked best for you? Small changes over time or a drastic diet overhaul?

Comments

  1. This is so me!! When I first started focusing on what I was eating, it was just to lose weight. I loved those 100 calorie packs! I ate things and was just focused on the number on the scale, and started walking... just walking. It has been a gradual series of changes over the last 2.75 years. I eat a pretty clean diet, not 1005 clean. I have to figure a way to satisfy my "sauce fix" (on my chicken and spaghetti squash) but other than sauce on my meals ~~~~ as I am typing this I am thinking... Am I REALLY a clean eater? am I fooling myself? but even if I am (fooling myself that is) I eat 100% CLEANER than I did when I started. No diet sodas, no more frozen diet dinners, no more canned soup's!! It is so rewarding to see where I started and how far I have come. I love following blogs like yours, they help me stay focused and motivated. Thank you

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    1. That's what it is all about-you don't have to eat perfect(I sure don't!), but it's about improving and trying to do the best you can and finding what works for you in the long run! Don't ever think you are fooling yourself! It seems to me that you are doing a great job! Thanks so much for the comment! :)

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  2. I love this post!
    I'm exactly the same way :)
    I started eating 'healthy' 5 or so years ago and you just grow into it over the years.
    Apparently i'm a freak - it's been over a year since i've eaten anything close to unhealthy (unless you count high fat authentic indian food & raw chocolate/cheesecake unhealthy - then i do ;)) and i honestly don't even crave it?

    If you've told me this a few years ago i would have never ever believed it. I honestly have no desire for it, i'd rather have a big juice steak with sweet potato & almonds!

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    1. I like how you put it-eating healthy is something you grow into. So true!
      I do enjoy eating healthy, but I have NOT gotten to the point where I don't desire bad foods!! I don't think I will EVER get to that point! You are a freak! Just kidding. ;)

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