Health can seem complicated. If fact, if you spend enough time online, it can seem like on every day of the week there is a new thing you need to do or eat to be 'healthy'.
This can lead to people throwing in the towel altogether and curling back up on the couch with a bag of chips. But it doesn’t have to be this way- healthy living can be pretty simple if you focus on
- Building sustainable patterns,
- Understanding energy balance and
- Executing the big tickets items before getting caught up on the little things.
If you are serious about getting healthier, forget about food for a moment, and turn your attention to your food environment and your habits.
Being healthy is less about one specific food or exercise, and more about building an environment that makes healthy living easily accessible and being patient as you develop new habits.
The people who achieve long term health change are successful because they started first by looking at their habits and then made a plan for improvement, specific them.
If you want to give this a go, start by spending a few days observing and recording your eating habits and behaviours, and paying more attention to the types of foods that are around you regularly (your food environment, at work, at home and even in your car).
This exercise can help clarify how often you make absent-minded food choices and shows you how food environments can play a role in the food choices you make before you have even had a chance to think twice.
From there, you can make a list of things that specifically need to be changed.
After habits and environment, the next step is to get a better understanding of energy balance.
One thing that can help get you on the straight and narrow path to better health and nutrition choices is understanding energy balance. We all have a certain amount of energy (calories or kilojoules) that we need to eat per day to stay weight stable. Eat more than this amount, and you will gain weight, eat less than this, and you will lose weight- pretty simple.
And yet, a common complaint from people trying to lose weight is that they are 'eating healthy' but the scales won't budge. Here’s the thing- you can be choosing healthy foods but still be eating over your daily energy requirements.
Two of the biggest food culprits here are 'clean treats' and smoothie bowls. These favourites contain lots of nutrients (vitamins and minerals) but due to their high energy density, they can easily push you well past your daily energy requirements, which means you will not lose weight.
Tracking your food intake for a day or two can help you better understand the energy cost of foods and see where you could tidy up a little.
And then there are some boring basics that aren’t all that exciting but can go a long way to helping boost health.
These are the simple things like getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, adding more vegetables in your main meals, to build the volume in your meal and to help you keep full, making sure that you have a source of protein at main meals to, again, help keep you full and setting regular meal times so that your body knows what to expect and can get into a rhythm.
These are some easy changes that will help you manage your appetite and help keep you fuller.
If the whole 'health' thing makes your head spin, you are not alone. The good news is that there are lots of healthy patterns of eating that can suit your lifestyle, likes and goals.
So rather than getting too specific too early on, take a look at the big picture and choose a few of the simple and actionable steps outlined above to get the wheels turning, and go from there.
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