Rebecca Robin, IIN Content Editor
Adjusting to healthy eating.
A healthy and diverse diet can help your body feel and perform at full capacity. However, it takes time for your body to begin feeling noticeable effects of a diet rich in micronutrients, macronutrients, and whole foods. The body will “communicate” how it’s adjusting to your improved diet changes, which can look like weight loss, improved skin, better digestion, and higher energy levels.
The key thing to remember when embarking on a health journey is to be patient with yourself as your body needs time to physically adjust to the changes in your diet as well as maintain this new healthy habit. Research shows that it can take up to 21 days to form a new habit! Many people may become discouraged when they do not see results right away, but it’s important to not only take note of the small improvements but also remember the long-term goal: to make healthy eating a conscious choice every single day for prolonged health and well-being.
Consult with a nutrition expert.
To begin your healthy-eating journey, you may find it helpful to enlist the support of a nutrition expert. The nutrition expert you choose will depend on your needs and goals.
A registered dietitian (RD) can prescribe a specific diet or meal plan that aligns with your body’s needs. A Health Coach can help tailor this plan to meet your bio-individual needs, helping you successfully implement this plan in your daily life in a way that works best for you.
If a dietitian gives you the green light to try a certain diet, you can set goals with a Health Coach around how to integrate the new foods into your routine. If your blood pressure is high, a dietitian may recommend the DASH diet, focused on reduced sodium intake. If you find yourself suffering from brain fog, brain-enhancing foods, like leafy greens and berries, can help you regain your focus. A Health Coach can discuss these diet changes, helping you determine how to proceed when high-fiber foods make you bloat or when your sleeping habits may be affecting your hunger schedule.
Similarly, diets like the ketogenic diet will have varying effects on the body in the first few weeks. The keto diet limits carbohydrates and doubles down on fat and protein, training the body to tap into your fat storage for fuel instead of using glucose. In the beginning of this process, you may feel fatigued and out of focus, often called the “keto flu.” The body needs time to adjust to changes before transitioning into ketosis, the process of using fat for fuel. A Health Coach can help you navigate this process, checking in and supporting you to manage any potential adverse emotional, mental, or physical feelings by providing a safe space to explore your concerns and questions.
Long-term and visible changes will take more time, dedication, and consistency. Health Coaches can help you make gradual, sustainable changes – like slowly adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet – to boost your overall health. If you’re looking to improve your overall energy, it’s important to remember that because your energy and blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout each day, you may not be able to pinpoint what is and isn’t working to improve your overall energy until you are a couple of weeks into a new routine.
Track your progress.
Nutrition experts agree that tracking your daily progress is important to see how healthy eating can affect you in the short- and long-term. This can look like counting your daily macronutrient intake (the calories from fat, protein, and carbohydrates that directly fuel your body), monitoring your portion sizes, or tracking your weight. If you’re choosing to track your weight, it may fluctuate in the beginning, but after a couple of weeks, you can better evaluate how your new habits are impacting your body composition.
To track progress, a food journal is a great tool that can provide a sense of accountability and encouragement, allowing you not only to track short-term goals and achievements but also to note how certain foods make you feel over time. Listening to your body’s cues is key as they are important for achieving whole-person health. Making diet changes can have an impact on your mood and performance, and to best track those changes, a food journal can be helpful.
There are going to be some days when your body requires more fuel and your hunger is increased and days when you feel fatigued and bloated. These reactions depend on many factors, from the intensity of your last workout to the amount of water you drink or even your emotional and mental well-being. By tracking your progress, you can determine which foods, portion sizes, and meal schedules help you feel your best.
Try to bring a positive and curious approach to using a food diary, as you don’t want to take food tracking overboard. If you have a history of disordered eating or an inclination towards obsessive thinking or self-shaming, you may want to avoid food diaries altogether. This is where a Health Coach comes in, helping you track your progress while focusing on the importance of primary foods and intuitive eating.
Try to stay consistent but not regimented.
Real change happens when you form new habits in a gradual, healthy way. This could mean devising a grocery list and meal plan ahead of each week to take the guesswork out of eating healthily. Meal prepping can help prevent those instances when you’re super hungry and don’t have the patience to cook. It also ensures you have healthy food on hand to sustain your healthy eating goals.
Though sticking to eating schedules and meal plans are one way to maintain healthy eating plans, there’s something to be said about not being so strict. Enforcing a strict mind-set around food may have the opposite effect than you intend, such as making you feel as if healthy eating is something you “have to do” instead of “want to do.” Allowing yourself to indulge in foods you consider a “treat” can be really rewarding if you have the right mind-set: understanding that healthy eating is a long-term lifestyle practice. Treating yourself once in a while is a great way to ensure both long-term growth and a happy, healthy body.
Find healthy alternatives.
Junk food lovers are well aware of the rush of dopamine, or spike in pleasure and energy, that comes with indulging in a candy bar or bag of chips. However, these foods aren’t sources of sustainable energy. Processed foods contain high amounts of sugar, salt, and hydrogenated oils, contributing to inflammation in the body, which can lead to acne breakouts and mood swings. These foods also spike your blood sugar, and consumption is linked to a higher risk of obesity, depression, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
The good news is you can find healthier, more nutrient-dense replacements for some of your usual unhealthy snack cravings. The goal in the long-term is to satisfy your sweet (or salty) tooth while helping you stay on track to sustain your healthy habits. A few of our favorites include:
- Plain yogurt with your favorite fruits as a swap for a scoop of ice cream
- Thin slices of sweet potato baked in coconut oil and a sprinkle of sea salt to satisfy your potato chip cravings
- Whole-wheat, quinoa, or lentil-based pasta instead of regular pasta as a better source of fiber and carbohydrates
Over time, your body will begin to crave these healthier alternatives. You may even experience reactions when you return to eating foods with high sugar or salt content, such as headaches or stomachaches. These are also good cues to watch out for; maybe you’ve never noticed them before!
Moving forward with your healthy eating goals.
Slow and steady wins the race! As you add healthier and more nutrient-dense foods to your diet, you will see some immediate benefits in your productivity and energy levels. You’ll also get better at recognizing how your mood and performance are impacted by the foods you eat and how eating healthy foods helps keep you satiated, energized, and focused. The potential long-term effects, like weight loss and a shift in your cravings, are a bonus to having more stamina and less brain fog on a daily basis.
By holding yourself accountable, listening to your body, and consulting with nutrition and health experts, you can solidify these new habits and transform your body to look and feel your best. As you embrace your bio-individuality, you may end up creating your own plan that marries many different types of eating because that’s what works for your body! The possibilities are truly endless.
If you want to learn more about becoming a Health Coach so that can create positive health outcomes in your community and beyond, click here to learn more about our Health Coach Training Program.