By Sophia Godkin, PhD
Perhaps you grew up with Ronald McDonald as your childhood role model. Perhaps your parents didn’t know the difference between eating for nourishment and eating for eating’s sake. Perhaps your family’s most frequented restaurant passed off a few leaves of romaine lettuce, two baby tomatoes, and half a bag of croutons smothered in blue cheese dressing as a salad. Perhaps you’ve recognized the detriment with which those early people, places, and events have influenced your eating habits. Perhaps you’ve tried deliberately to change them and have succeeded at making a few changes, but know there’s more you can do.
Whatever the case may be, there is one fact we know for sure. And that is that you hold within you the power to start eating healthfully. And to make it stick.
The key? INSPIRATION.
When you can get and stay inspired, you can easily trade in those poor eating choices, driven by old, unconscious thought patterns, for your newly- and consciously-created healthy eating habits. So if you are ready to change your eating habits for the better, here are the top 7 ways you can get (and stay) inspired today.
1. Tap Into Your ‘Why’
What is it that inspires you to eat healthfully? What is it that really drives you and keeps you yearning for change? Why are you here reading this article and wanting to develop a healthy eating habit anyway? Is it because eating healthfully gives you more energy which helps you perform better at your job? Because it helps you feel good in your body which makes you feel happier? Because it will help you stay active and do what you love throughout most of your life? Whatever your ‘why’ is, let it inspire your eating habits. Just before you choose what to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, ask yourself, “Why do I want to eat healthfully?” This ‘why’ is what will keep your goals meaningfully intact for a very long time to come.
2. Take the Time to Enjoy Your Food
Eat mindfully, with care and attention. As you sit down to eat, tell yourself, “Eating is a way that I care for myself.” Then really allow yourself to enjoy your food as you savor every bite. Tune in to how healthy, whole foods make your body feel and take a moment to appreciate the journey that your food takes from nature to your plate. When you take time to eat and appreciate your food, eating in and of itself becomes a pleasurable and inspiring experience.
3. Embrace Who You Are
Stop comparing your weight, your body build, your eating habits or appetite to others. Ectomorphs (people with a small bone structure) naturally have a modest appetite and an almost non-existent ability to pack on the pounds. What happens when you, as a mesomorph (person with a medium bone structure) or endomorph (person with a large bone structure) compare yourself to someone else? You feel uninspired and unmotivated to make change. So ditch sizing up the eating habits and appearance of others and be inspired by you… the you that is committed to making change for the better… the you that therefore grows healthier and happier with every passing day. (If you’re curious to find out which body type you fall into and the unique nutritional needs you have, head over to our 3-minute health type test to find out).
4. Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
The quickest and easiest way to zap and destroy your inspiration is to focus on being perfect and doing things perfectly. Why? Perfection, as designed by our over-achieving, over-striving culture is an elusive, unattainable state of being. When you strive for perfection, you are never happy with yourself and you often push yourself to uncomfortable and unnatural extremes like eating so rigidly that you take the pleasure entirely out of it. If instead you focus on the progress you are making, for example replacing one unhealthy meal each day with a salad, substituting spaghetti squash for pasta, or switching from fried to baked potatoes, you will enjoy greater satisfaction, more inspiration, and better results. So drop the dreadful, unachievable P (perfection) and replace it with the encouraging, fulfilling P (progress) to stay inspired every day.
5. Imagine You’ve Already Achieved It
How incredible does it feel that you have decided to stay the course and create a healthy eating habit? How wonderful is it that you have what it takes to create a healthier, stronger body each and every day? Tap into the feelings of pride, excitement, and accomplishment that you have for all the progress you have made, and then use your imagination to step into the moment when all your effort and determination have paid off and you now have a life-long habit of eating healthfully. How amazing will it feel when you no longer have to think about making healthy eating choices because you just naturally do? As you guide yourself to feel now what you yearn to feel as healthy eating becomes a steady habit in the future, you feed both your body’s need for nourishment and your mind’s need for inspiration.
6. Reward Yourself
Many of us have been taught to push ourselves to do things we should do, not necessarily things we want to do. When we consider our actions to be guided by shoulds, we forget that we are the ones deciding our actions in each and every moment. Healthy eating, if you remember to focus on your “why”, isn’t something you should do; it is something you are choosing to do because it allows you to lead a better life. And as the one making a choice for the better, you deserve to be rewarded. Rewarding yourself for eating healthy food by eating unhealthy food is of course an option though it may not be the option that will keep you inspired well into the future. So how can you reward yourself in a way that keeps you inspired, motivated, and empowered? You can pamper yourself with a massage or bubble bath, try out a new restaurant, explore a new part of your city, buy yourself a new kitchen tool to help create some of your new favorite recipes… the options are endless. Whatever you love to do, do it to reward yourself and to keep your inspiration alive.
7. Gather Your Healthy Eating Tribe
Healthy eating is always better done in company. With a tribe of like-minded people who have a similar goal of eating healthfully, the supposed boredom and drudgery of healthy eating can turn into excitement and curiosity. With companions in all the tasks required to make healthy eating a reality – from deciding what to cook to shopping for groceries to preparing ingredients and actually cooking your food, you’ve got plenty to be inspired by. There will be that person who will leave you feeling inspired by telling you about the sale on avocados and wild caught salmon happening at the local grocery store, and another who will inspire you with the story of how the dairy-free lemon and herb chicken potato casserole recipe they tried last week was an absolute hit at the family dinner party. And in return, you can share with them the best places you’ve found to buy your ingredients and the cooking blogs and shows you’ve found to be most helpful, and regale them with stories of all your newly attempted and successful recipes. So go on, share your new love of healthy eating with those around you and watch your healthy eating tribe gather to support, inspire, and encourage, and to be supported, inspired, and encouraged by you.
As you set out to eat healthfully, notice what inspires you and do more of it. Pay attention to the times when you’re feeling less inspired and know that it is just a passing phase. Remember your ‘why’, enjoy yourself as you eat, embrace who you are, recognize your progress, step into the feeling of being a healthy eater, reward yourself, reach out to someone from your healthy eating tribe, and get re-inspired. But most of all – have fun.