This is the final installment of my Finding a Healthier Lifestyle series that I’ve been writing for Dumb Little Man. In case you missed the earlier portions of the series, I covered how to find the problem factors in your current lifestyle and becoming self-motivated, some simple diet and habit changes to help decrease your daily calorie intake and increase your daily calorie expenditure, and how to find an exercise routine that works for you.
What’s the hardest part of lifestyle change? Is it increasing your amount of exercise? Is it resisting the social pressures to eat and drink? Is it abolishing your old habits?
While all of the things I mentioned are indeed difficult aspects of lifestyle change and improvement, the hardest part is making the time to make healthy eating decisions despite the constraints of the fast-paced world in which we live.
I’m going to share some of the steps I took to keep my diet under control. Ultimately the combination of this diet and my overall increase in activity helped me lose forty pounds in the span of four or five months.
- Log everything you eat and be honest about it- When I discussed simple habit changes as a means of increasing calorie expenditure and decreasing calorie-intake, I mentioned that I used calorie-counting services such as calorie-count or FitDay to help me get started. You must learn to use these services regularly and honestly; don’t fibb about how much you’re actually intaking.
If anything, make sure that you’re over-reporting your calorie-intake if you have to ballpark it. The biggest failure vector for individuals looking to change their lifestyles is regression from a new diet back towards an old, unhealthy one; the practice of routinely documenting what you are eating will serve as a constant measurement of your diet performance.
- Determine what you can live without – The next step in adjusting your diet is making a comprehensive list of all food and drink items you can and cannot live without. Here are the foods and beverages that I determined I could do without:
- beer, alcohol
- french fries & other fried vegetables
- butter spread
- white bread
- red meat
So try it yourself; make a list of all the foods that you can do without. The foods on that list are those that we will consciously eliminate from our diets. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat them, just not very often. I ultimately ended up integrating red meat back into my diet after I learned how to manage it, for instance.
Add some healthier foods to your diet – What, add more food, in a diet? Yes. No one should be trying to starve himself or herself to death when he or she begins a diet. A diet has two primary purposes: to reduce the total amount of calories consumed down to a level on par with the total amount of calories expended and to replace bad sources of calories with good ones in order to improve overall nutritional balance.
So how do we know what foods to add and what quantities? Read through your diet logs! I noticed after reading through mine that I ate hardly any fruit and most of my protein came from fat-soaked red meat (they don’t serve nearly enough lean ground beef at my University cafeteria.) Here are some changes I made to my diet as a result of the trends I had noticed in my diet logs:
- I increased my total amount of fruit consumed, especially apples, bananas, and oranges;
- I increased my total amount of whole grains consumed (as a replacement for simple grains like white bread;) and
- I increased my amount of white meat and whey protein consumed.
So go ahead and take a look at your calorie-counting statistics after a couple of days and see where you could use some improvement. Don’t forget to apply the second step and cut out unnecessary foods as much as possible.
Create an “eating schedule” – One of the most overlooked aspects of dieting is the emphasis on when you eat; it’s even more important than what you eat, frankly. I decided that rather than do three big meals a day I’d do five smaller meals a day instead. Eating a smaller meal once every three hours produces less insulin (fat-trapping chemical that your body produces) than 3 big meals as the total amount of food being metabolized at any given instance is smaller. The gastric emptying time, the average amount of time it takes your stomach to empty its contents, is around three hours for the average human being. Thus I scheduled my food around then accordingly. One other thing is to pay attention to how you schedule your meals around exercise and waking up; for instance you can eat simple carbs at breakfast or after a workout with less of an insulin penalty. Go ahead and try it, create an eating schedule
- Pamper yourself every now and then – Diet changes are hard, but there’s no point in putting yourself through hell as you try to incorporate a healthier diet into your lifestyle. Every now and then, go ahead and treat yourself. Just make damn sure that you’re not doing it very often; thankfully the diet logging tools will keep you in check.
Thanks for reading.
This post’s author is Aaronontheweb, and he blogs about ASP.NET, Web 2.0 Development, Online Marketing, and Online Business at AjaxNinja. His most recent article is How 5 Simple Headline Improvements Increased my Traffic by 1000%..