Tips and Tricks For Sticking To A Healthy Eating Plan

Eat vs DietBy Marie Albiges

Freelance Writer

Your long-term goal to a healthy life is a destination. To get there, you need to make stops along the way, or set small, manageable goals to celebrate in your journey.

That’s what Tidewater Performance Coach, Tiffany Owen CSCS, CPT discussed in her second session, “Fail to Plan and Plan to Fail: Tips and Tricks of a Successful Lifestyle,” at the Tidewater Physical Therapy Women’s Health and Fitness Series at the Newport News Performance Center. The annual series is held in conjunction with Women’s Health Week and features four days of free community lectures and exercise demonstrations to help women jump start their journey to a more healthy life.

“You plan everything that you think is important,” said Owen, who studied kinesiology and exercise science in college and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach. “If it’s important to you, you will set aside time for it.”

To get started on the plan – on the journey – Owen offered these tips.

  • If you plan for your work, and for your day, it makes sense to also plan for your health, and that means being consistent with nutrition and healthy eating. Understand what you’re eating and why.
  • It takes 21 days and a lot of energy to build a habit, and that also means getting rid of bad habits, which include cravings such as a sweet tooth or incorrect portion control. It’s going to be hard work, but knowing that it’s hard is a tip all by itself. You’ll be prepared to face the tough days.
  • Determine what causes your cravings – sugar, salt, even wine. Is it physiological – you are actually hungry – or psychological – you’re stressed? Knowing where the cravings come from will help you plan ahead.
  • Planning starts in your kitchen before you even hit the grocery store. Do a pantry inventory. Make a list of what you have, and then write down what you need for the dinner you’ll be making. If you know exactly what you need to purchase at the store, chances are you won’t be as tempted to buy something you may be craving. You’ll go in with a plan.
  • NUMBER ONE RULE OF GROCERY SHOPPING! Don’t go hungry! Plan to have a snack before you head out!
  • Owen can’t cite specific numbers, but she’s sure you spend more time rummaging through the fridge trying to figure out what to make for dinner than you would actually planning your meals ahead of time. Plan your meals for the week. Think you don’t have time? You probably don’t have time to rummage either.
  • Get your game face on and plan your route through the grocery store. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Don’t be swayed by deals such as “buy one, get one free” cereal bars, because they usually aren’t healthy for you. See something you’re tempted to buy it because it’s a great price? Set it down and say ‘I’ll come back to this later.’ Chances are you’ll forget about it.
  • Plan to look at nutrition labels. Don’t just look at calories and fat. Look at the serving size first. See if you can pronounce the ingredients (if you can’t, you probably shouldn’t be eating it). Avoid items with sugar. Pick items high in fiber.
  • Don’t purchase foods that support your bad cravings. If they aren’t in the house, you won’t eat them.
  • If you do get a craving, wait 12 minutes. Cravings are shown to last anywhere from three to 12 minutes,” said Owen. After 12 minutes, that craving may go away.
  • Craving still there? You could also just be dehydrated. “If your body is dehydrated, it will cause a hunger response,” said Owen. By gulping down water, it may eliminate the craving.
  • After you’ve figured out how to eliminate the cravings, it’s time to start planning around busy schedules. Try to make things convenient. Buying small Ziploc bags for portion control, freezing cooked meat and cutting up vegetables and storing them in the fridge will save you time and energy, and will be healthier for you in the long run. It will also eliminate time rummaging in the fridge for what to do for lunch and dinner.
  • Find yourself in the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant? Try to get the healthier options. Replace fries with apple slices. Substitute water for soda. Opt for a grilled item.
  • At sit-down restaurants, look at the menu before you go, so you know what you want and you won’t be tempted by opening the menu.
  • Follow the 80-20 rule. Eat well 80 percent of the time and treat yourself to a favorite snack 20 percent of the time. Plan to treat yourself so you stay on track. This isn’t a diet. This is a healthy way of life and eating that’s sustainable.
  • Don’t set out to change the world in one day. “If you do too much at once, you’re not going to stick with it,” Owen said. “Take small, manageable steps.” Plan to start off, for example, by focusing on your portion control. Then cut sweets from your diet. Then wean off soda. Or maybe you set out to drink enough water each day.

By planning for your health and nutrition and creating a habit, you’ll eliminate unhealthy eating from your diet.

“It’s all in your mind,” said Owen. “That motivation will get you started, but it doesn’t last forever, so you need to build a habit.”

Marie Albiges is a freelance writer based in Newport News, Va. Her passion, second only to writing, is running.