Aiming to lose weight or create healthier diet habits? Vitality Wellness Coach Lindsey Passaic shares seven fail-safe healthy eating steps for long-lasting results

If you’ve previously struggled with weight loss, portion control or simply eating healthier, you’re not alone. According to retail marketing company Mintel, almost two thirds of us are on a diet ‘most of the time’ in the UK.

Research from Ohio State University shows we’re drawn to fads, restricted diets and cutting out food groups because they seem to be quick fixes. But, often, the psychological, physiological and social stress doesn’t outweigh the benefits, so you regain weight.

So what’s the answer? According to Vitality Coach Lindsey Passaic, creating healthier habits is easier than you think – all you need is a little common sense and a few tricks for maximising your willpower.

1. Set goals you can actually reach

According to Time magazine’s feature The Weight Loss Trap, when people are asked to envision their perfect size, many dream of weight loss up to three times more than what a doctor would recommend. Rather than set yourself unrealistic expectations, make your goal about becoming a healthier, fitter version of yourself. It can be challenging to remember this in a world of aspirational images and social media but, if you can set yourself realistic goals upfront, you’ll create a happier journey for yourself and be more likely to achieve the results you want.

2. Eliminate excuses with forward thinking

To give yourself the best chance to stick with healthy behaviours, clear out your cupboards and workspace of any temptation foods, such as sugary snacks. If your lack of kitchen tools or Tupperware is stopping you from meal planning, buy a new set so you’re ready to go. If old gym clothes are making you feel demotivated, buy one or two pieces that you feel confident exercising in. And if you’re always peer-pressured into joining happy hour, schedule something else fun for that time instead.

3. Build a support network

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a challenge and we all need help every now and again. This could be anything from enlisting a family member to babysit while you batch-cook nutritious lunches, to trying a personal trainer taster session to find your way around the gym. A study by The Society of Behavioral Medicine showed that working out with a partner, especially in a team, motivates you to exercise for up to two times longer than exercising alone. Joining a running club or setting up a packed lunch club at work (where you take turns making healthy meals for each other) will help you create a support system and make you more accountable for your goals.

4. Work on one behaviour at a time

Trying to change everything at once can prove too much, but if you pick one small habit you’re more likely to change it for good. For example, if your goal is to cut down on fizzy drinks, you could start by drinking a glass of water when you wake up. This will not only boost hydration, but also help you frame the change in a positive way – you’re adding something, instead of depriving yourself of something.

5. Do what you can, when you can

You might have every intention of eating a nutritious breakfast, but find yourself running late with limited options. These situations are inevitable, so focus on making the ‘better’ choice when the ‘best’ choice isn’t available. Can you opt for a porridge pot rather than a pastry? Pick sweet potato chips rather than regular chips? Pass on the glass of juice and go for water? Health psychologist Phillipa Lally’s study found that a new behaviour such as choosing the ‘healthier option’ can take anything from 18 to 254 days to become automatic. But, more importantly, she found that missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour doesn’t affect overall success. It doesn’t matter if you slip up every now and again – perfection is rarely possible.

6. Eat when you’re ‘physically’ hungry

Because we eat to satisfy both biological and psychological needs, it can be difficult to separate physical from emotional hunger. Pause before you reach for your next snack or meal and ask yourself, “How do I feel?” Are you feeling the common signs of hunger (eg stomach grumbling, lightheadedness, lack of concentration) or are you instead driven by feelings of boredom, anxiety or sadness? If it’s the latter, try satisfying the urge in a different way. Call a friend for a catch-up, pick up a pen to doodle or journal or step outside for some fresh air. It could be enough to occupy you in that moment.

7. Practise portion sense

Most of us have a basic understanding of protein, carbohydrate and fat, but few of us know how much to eat of each one across the day. The answer is that we should aim to eat a portion of protein and veg at every meal, and carbohydrate and fat at most meals.

Don’t fancy weighing and measuring your food every day? Use your hand as a quick and easy portion guide:

  • One portion of protein = the size of your palm
  • One portion of carbohydrate = the size of your cupped hand
  • One portion of fat = the size of your thumb
  • One portion of fruit and veg = the size of your fist

Follow these seven steps and you’re much more likely to swap unhealthy habits for a healthier lifestyle. Get in touch with us on Facebook to let us know how you get on.