The first—and perhaps only—thing to ditch from your diet in 2022 is guilt.
If your eating habits have gone haywire during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone.
“Nobody is perfect,” says Kelly Wilson, MS, RD, LD, CSO, clinical dietitian at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center. “Nobody eats healthy all the time. It’s about going back to basics and finding the balance that works for you.”
Here are her six tips to reaffirm your resolve and balance your scales.
Give Yourself a Break.
Forgive yourself if you’ve gained weight and be kind as you would be to friends when you slip on the slope of stress eating.
Appreciate your body for what it’s done for you the past few years as you’ve dealt with an interruption in your routine and a shift in lifestyle,” says Wilson. “This has been a tough time they’ll write about in history books. Stress triggers hormones that increase your appetite and make you more likely to reach for comfort foods.”
Set Attainable Goals.
Take small and specific steps. Choose to dine at home one more night a week, rather than having a vague vow of eating healthy or an overwhelming one such as losing 20 pounds.
“Smaller goals are easier to achieve, versus completely overhauling your diet in one week,” she says. “Little successes build upon each other by giving you a sense of accomplishment.”
How you frame goals influences your likelihood of prevailing. Instead of seeing chicken breast, veggies or salad as a sacrifice, view food as nourishment.
“Think about how great you’ll feel after eating it,” Wilson says.
Also think about what you CAN have, versus what you CANNOT. “Resist calling foods good or bad,” she says. “And allow yourself to enjoy comfort foods now and again.”
Focus not on your weight or clothing size, but on being closer to eating meals that follow the plate method. Divide your plate into one-half fruits and vegetables, one-fourth protein (fish, meat, eggs) and one-fourth carbs (brown rice, wheat pasta, quinoa).
“Adding such healthy foods pushes less healthy foods from the menu,” she says.
Not only create a grocery list but also decide what you’ll eat for each meal in the coming week.
You can prepack lunches—and snacks—making it less likely you’ll turn to unhealthy choices when hungry.
“When you have the ingredients of a healthy meal available, you’re more likely to eat them rather than grab whatever is closest,” Wilson says.
An all-or-nothing mentality leads to bigger lapses. Instead of declaring you’ll only eat home-cooked meals, plan for two to three quick meals, two to three healthy ones and one out.
“Rebuilding good habits takes time,” she says. “Healthy eating is a lifelong journey.”