Article by Felicia

IF YOU’RE LIKE MOST PEOPLE I KNOW WHO WANT TO LIVE A HEALTHY LIFE, YOU’RE READY TO TAKE CONTROL.

For the most part, you understand what a healthy diet consists of. But you may feel like sometimes it just doesn’t all come together. You want to take control of you’re health, but are a little confused as to why information varies so much online and how to actually execute a healthy eating plan that works for you.

I want to help.

I pulled together some of my top resources to help you do what you ultimately want most: improve your health and  maximize your energy, all while living a busy and sometimes hectic lifestyle. If you know me, I only share what works LONG-TERM. The reality for many is that life can get hectic at times. With kids (if you have em’), work, volunteering, responsibilities, housework, etc., etc., etc.

Just the thought of it all is overwhelming. As a mom of four small children, with a full-time job, a business, and a husband who also works, I know how hard it can be. As a nutritionist/dietitian/health coach, I also know how important good nutrition is and that it can become a real challenge when everyone is so busy.

Getting off track sometimes is expected, but we all know your body and mind feels MUCH better when you’re into a healthier routine (and research shows this as well). Plus being healthy is important for disease prevention. You don’t have to be perfect of course (and never do, that’s why I follow the 80/20 rule)…but you can get back into a healthier routine (or start one, or even just refreshen on how to stay on track), your body and mind will thank you.

Here are 9 proven (by research and practice) strategies to achieving your health and wellness goals:

1. Focus

Summer happened. Over-indulgence happened, you might have eaten more than you should have, drank more than you should have, stayed up later than you should have, exercised less than you should have…but now we need to re-focus. For our own sanity of course. 

Draw a line in the sand.

Don’t beat yourself up for letting loose over the summer. It is a BUSY time! Simply get back up, dust yourself off and get focused.

One of the first steps to making healthy changes is finding your motivation, and I have a blog post here to help you do that after you’re done reading this post.

2. Set Small Goals

If taking on all of these steps, or too many changes is too overwhelming for you, you wouldn’t be alone! I have worked with countless people who think things should be straightforward, and when they’re not (because making changes never is), they’re hard on themselves and give up. I talk more about this in this short YouTube video.

Many people have much better success when they set smaller, more realistic, and most of the time ‘action-oriented’ goals to reach their larger goals. That way, when you are able to ‘check’ off that you reached this smaller goal, you’ll get the psychological boost knowing that you did it. Also, all of the small goals will add up to big, lasting changes over time!

So for example, say if weight loss is your ultimate goal. One smaller goal (and you may have several of these) may be to do this by cutting down your nighttime eating to only 200 calories max, 5 days per week, and no more than 350 calories the other two days. This is just one example, and again you may have many different goals. Then check in with yourself every two weeks to see how you’re doing with the goals. 

3. Mindset Is Key!

Many people don’t realize that it is only their mindset that is getting in the way. In short, your thoughts create your feelings, your feelings create your actions, and your actions create your reality.

Telling yourself that you can’t do something, or that something is too hard, or that you don’t have time, will only reinforce those thoughts into reality. Instead of this approach, try another one. Say something positive to counteract these statements, such as, “I know I am busy, but I will try to find the time”, “I know I have struggled in the past, but many people have struggles before they reach success, so I CAN do this.” I promise you that saying these things over and over will help you not only feel better, but will start encouraging you to take more action to reach your goals.

The most important thing to remember, is that you will have setbacks. Like will get in the way at times. We deal with that as it comes, we get re-inspired and re-motivated, we learn from our setbacks, we are not hard on ourselves (because that doesn’t help anybody), and we KEEP GOING. Success is the only option. 😉

4. Plan (I know, I can virtually see some eye rolls…hear me out first though)

A little planning now will save time in the long run. So, what can you do? The main thing – and yes, I know you’ve heard it before – is to plan, plan, plan. “Fail to plan; plan to fail.” It sucks, but it’s true.

I can hear you saying: “Ain’t nobody got time for dat!” (or, is that saying too old now?) 

But anyway, know this: by investing time to plan ahead you save time in the long run and reduce stress during your very busy days (and who couldn’t use that?). 

Here are some tips for meal planning: 

  • Do you already grocery shop weekly? Take a few minutes before heading out to scan the contents of your pantry and fridge. Take note of healthy meals your family already likes to eat and make sure you have the ingredients for those. When we are busy we reach for what is convenient to eat so make healthy foods the convenient choice.

  • Better yet – bring less amounts of less healthy choices into your home in the first place (because I would never tell you that you have to completely give up things you love, just have less of it, and have your diet be overall healthier items).

  • Prep at least one batch of a food item each week. You can slowly work towards prepping more over time, but for now, I would start off small. Pick a couple of instances during the week where you find you don’t make the best choices or when you’re just too rushed (e.g., breakfast, snacks, or suppertime), and then 1-2 items (starting off) to prep to help during those times.

    • Choose a day of the week (e.g., Sunday, or even a couple hours on Saturday and a couple on Sunday) and prep one or several items.

Basic Meal Prep Examples (to get you started):

The below examples could all be done at once, or just try 1-2 at a time. Flavour with the basics to your taste (small amount of salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, curry powder, red pepper flakes, thyme, Italian seasoning, etc.) and different epicure seasonings to make things easier, and you can get more experimental with your flavourings over time.

Example 1: Cook a whole lot of protein so you’re ready for the week. This could be used for lunches for everyone, and perhaps 1-2 meals depending on how many you make.

Example 2: Cut up veggies such as carrots, peppers, celery, etc. These can be used as snacks to have with hummus, or to be quickly boiled, sautéed, or steamed in the microwave to have with a meal.

Example 3: Cook a large batch of quinoa (or any other grain such as bulgar or wild rice, or even beans or lentils). This could be added to salads to make more filling, or as a side with a meal.

Example 4: Roast a large amount of veggies – e.g., sweet potato, peppers, squash, etc. to use as sides for meals throughout the week.

You get the point! There are tons of ways you can make your week a little easier, so try just prepping one thing for now, and go from there. 

4. Make Eating Healthy, Easy (Most of the time, at least)

Healthy snacks and meals don’t have to be difficult. Some suggestions for healthy snack choices (can combine 2-3 of these for a balanced, filling snack):

  • fresh fruit;

  • vegetables with hummus, tzatziki, or guacamole;

  • yogurt with berries and/or nuts and seeds;

  • nuts;

  • whole grain crackers or pita with hummus or tzatziki or guacamole;

  • dried chickpeas; or

  • energy/protein balls

Simple meal ideas include (can be combined with some of the snack ideas above for a balanced meal):

  • sandwiches or wraps;

  • pasta, quinoa salad or greens salad with protein;

  • leftovers;

After shopping spend some time washing fruit and vegetables and place them within sight in the fridge. Prepare baggies of cut up fruit and veggies to make it quick and easy to grab them for lunches and snacks.

If you have kids get them involved in meal planning and preparation. As their skills increase they’ll be able to take some of the work off you and they will be learning important life skills to keeping themselves healthy as they get older.

Get everyone to pack lunch (yes, that means you too!) right after dinner when leftovers are at hand and you have more time. Keep reusable containers, ice packs and insulated bags around to make this job easier.

Yes, all these things take a little investment of time and effort. The payoff is well worth it for you and your whole family.

Suggested cookbooks: 

Cooking for the Rushed – Sandi Richard

Saving Dinner – Leanne Ely

5. Hydrate (Easy enough, right?)

Tip: don’t chug your water. When you do, your body retains less of it, and it causes you to pee more of it out…sound familiar? Try to sip only 2-4 ounces at a time.

While summer days can take on many forms, the end result is most often dehydration and water retention (due to overload of salty/sugary foods, and lack of hydrating beverages…because sadly alcohol does not count). One great way to restore your balance and get back on track is to get hydrated.

Even if you just start off with one change in getting back on track, drink plenty of water throughout your first few days. Start with sipping from a tall glass of water in the morning, and carry a water bottle with you to sip throughout the day.

If you really don’t enjoy drinking water on its own, for flavour, add a small amount of flavoured water enhancers, or even sliced fresh fruit, herbs or vegetables to your water, just like at the spa! Water infusers are great. There are also new fruit flavoured cups.

6. Rest

Make sleep a priority. Many people’s holidays end with the feeling of exhaustion.

When your body is low on sleep, it becomes easier to make poor eating choices. You’re also less likely to get back into your workouts (or start exercising if that’s your goal) if you don’t give your body a chance to rest.

Aim for getting a full 8 hours of sleep each night. Hey, I’m a busy working mom, I understand that it can be hard to shut off at night and get enough rest. For tips on getting into a healthy sleep routine, visit here.

7. Practice Mindful/Intuitive Eating

​Tracking foods and counting calories/macros works great for some (I work with many people that have success with this, and it helps keep them accountable), but for others, it just stresses them out.

Mindful/intuitive eating can help take some of this stress away. It involves re-learning to trust our body’s natural, engrained, physiological ability to eat the right amount of food that our bodies need. Mindful eating is the opposite of dieting. In diet land we might look to external rules to tell us how much to eat such as calories, points, blocks. Intuitive eating instead encourages us to look within ourselves and use our own internal cues of hunger and fullness to guide us in knowing when and how much to eat.

Here are some tips for mindful eating:

Start tuning into your gut when you’re eating, and recognizing the feelings of fullness. What do they feel like? Do you know what they feel like? If you’ve had a difficult relationship with food in the past or have been dieting for a long time you may not be able to feel or know what hunger and fullness feel like to you. That’s perfectly okay.

Check out this hunger and fullness scale, that can help you map out what hunger and fullness feels like to you. Try to eat until you’re 80% full. Many of us feel like we have to “clear the plate” because that’s what our parents told us. However, if you try and recognize and stop when you’re 80% full and satisfied, this can save a ton of unnecessary calories throughout the week.

For more info on mindful eating, download this handout

8. Increase Your Activity (Even if it’s just a little bit!) 

“Physical activity helps:

  • healthy growth and development  

  • prevent chronic diseases like cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease

  • make us stronger

  • give us energy

  • decrease stress, and

  • prolong independence as we get older.”  (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2011) 

If you are looking to get active or increase your physical activity, don’t worry about how much you ‘should’ be doing. There are lots of recommendations or guidelines like 10,000 steps or 30-60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, but these are medium or long-term targets to try to work towards.

Start out by assessing how much physical activity you are currently doing and set a small and reachable goal to build from there. Once you achieve that goal, provided you are ready to take on more, set a new goal to achieve. Build gradually and only take on more if you’re confident it is something you can achieve and maintain!

Focus mostly on establishing a routine for your activity first and managing your schedule and other commitments to consistently support this. Once you have a consistent routine in place, try to increase how much you are doing (up to a point). Lastly, focus on increasing how hard you are working. This will give you more bang for your buck!

Overall, I just want to say – congratulations! You’re doing your best in this busy and sometimes hectic life. Many of my clients come to me “stressed”. Try not to stress (for tips on managing stress, visit here), and just do the best that you can do. That’s all anyone can do. Let’s work on loving ourselves and our families first, and then slowly make small changes that will add up to BIG results over time.

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