First, the good news. Regardless of your gender, age, height or weight, you can make an effort to eat well and exercise. But if you are focusing all of your efforts solely on the number on the scale, you are missing the big picture – and the opportunity to do something great for your heart and your overall health, regardless of your weight.
Now, the bad news. Too many people set themselves up for failure if they try to lose weight by “dieting” and only focus on pounds. But we’re about to change all of that.
Here are three things you can do to build a healthier relationship with food and set yourself on track for better health.
Adopt a new mindset
Have you ever tried a diet? You know – one of those plans that requires you to cut carbs or subsist on cabbage soup for weeks? Sometimes they work well in the short term and you lose weight, but they are not always sustainable and don’t always result in long-term success. That’s especially true if the diet you choose:
- Is a huge departure from how you normally eat
- Cuts out a lot of foods you enjoy, so you feel deprived and need to “cheat”
- Is prohibitively expensive, requiring special food or supplements
- Lacks variety, so you get bored
- Doesn’t include physical activity, which is crucial for good health
- Makes you obsessively track calories or pounds lost
Adopting the right mindset takes you out of a diet mentality and leads you to make sustainable changes to build a healthy lifestyle. There’s no deprivation or calorie counting – and there is lots of variety and delicious wholesome food.
Set the right goals
Weight fluctuates, so stepping on the scale daily can be a recipe for disappointment. And a goal such as “I will lose five pounds in a week” leaves you with little control over achieving that exact number. There are much better ways to mark your progress when you make healthy lifestyle changes. Set a goal that you can control such as:
- I will replace pop with water every day this week
- I will walk 10 minutes at a time until I reach 150 minutes per week
- I will have one extra serving of vegetables every day this week
- I will replace while bread with whole grain when I eat sandwiches or toast
These are small, sustainable changes, and they can add up slowly over time. Start with one, and add a new goal once you feel that you’ve successfully migrated the first goal into your new healthy lifestyle. Then keep going.
Build your healthy eating plan
Instead of a limited, restrictive diet that focuses on what you can’t eat, your meal plan should let you make healthier food choices for the long term. Remember unlike diets, a healthy meal plan isn’t one-size-fits all and should fit your lifestyle and goals. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when building your plan.
Strike a balance: Begin by focusing on your plate. At each meal, try filling half with vegetables and some fruit; a quarter with protein sources such as fish, poultry, eggs, tofu or beans; and the remaining quarter with grains (preferably whole grains), such as brown rice or quinoa.
Get real: Aim to eat fresh, whole, unprocessed food more often than you’re eating take-out or processed food. Fresh, real, whole food is filled with the nutrients your body needs – fibre, vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats.
Limit ultra-processed foods: Ultra-processed foods such as deli meat, soda, chips, fries, cookies, cakes and candy currently make up about half (48%) of the calories Canadians eat each day. They’re high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats (like trans fats). Ultra-processed foods have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and more. Cutting back on these foods makes a big difference to your overall health. And you may just lose some weight in the process, even if it’s not your specified goal.
Now for the best part: this eating plan can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure and some types of cancer. It can also help you reach a healthy weight for your body type.