Ever wonder why it’s so hard to give up your favourite naughty foods? It turns out habit has a huge influence on what you eat – the good stuff and the bad.
So here’s why it’s so important to create healthy habits...
Imagine you were handed the key to a brand new home that was all yours to keep, but instead of looking after it you filled the space with rotting furniture and didn’t bother to clean or upkeep it?
Eventually, mould, decay and bugs would set in and it wouldn’t be a very nice place to live.
But if you brought clean, quality items into the home, looked after it every day and regularly gave the space a clean, you’d love living there and would feel uplifted and energetic when at home.
Now, relate that example to your body. Choosing to eat processed, unhealthy, sugar-filled convenience foods a lot of the time will only deplete your immune system and energy, breaking your body down more quickly and making you feel, well, blah.
But eating fresh, healthy foods and staying active will help you feel better every day and you will most likely live a happier, longer life, with energy to burn!
So how do you flip the switch and turn bad habits into good ones?
The first step is embracing the changes you need to make. Next on the cards is swapping some of your favourite naughty treats for their seriously delicious, healthy cousins.
It’s so much easier to swap rather than stop, so here’s a list of a few new habits to put in place today!
Old habit: Picking up something sugary after every meal, because you feel like you “just need something sweet”. Hello, chocolate/ice-cream/biscuits/lolly jar!
New habit: Stock up on a selection of healthy, sweet tasting herbal teas that will help cut the cravings, like licorice or fennel, peppermint or chai. A few of my favourite brands are Love Tea and Pukka.
Old habit: Drinking a few glasses of wine… every night. Those calories add up!
New habit: Save your drinks for celebrating over the weekend and keep Monday to Thursday vino-free, swapping the booze for sparkling water (I make mine in a SodaStream) with a lime/lemon/orange wedge. Put your water in a wine glass to get the same ‘fun’ vibe going – seriously it works!
Old habit: You sip on coffee first thing in the morning, then every time you need an energy boost throughout the day. This constantly triggers a stress response, putting you in ‘fight or flight mode’. You temporarily get a lift in energy, but it doesn’t last and the drain on your adrenals can eventually leave you feeling more strung out than ever. Too much caffeine can also affect the hormones that look after your muscles, bones and moods, so this is a habit worth breaking.
New Habit: You don’t have to give up coffee completely, just stick to one cup per day, with late morning or mid-afternoon probably being the best time to sip the dark stuff, as it’s less likely to interfere with the timing of your natural cortisol peaks.
Old habit: You rarely drink water, even though you know you should be getting at least a few litres in every day. It’s just not the most tempting beverage in the world!?
New habit: Make water more enticing by adding bubbles to it, or infusing it with sliced fruits, herbs and cucumber/mint. Now decide on daily events that will act as triggers to remind you to drink up, for example downing a glass first thing in the morning when you wake up and about half an hour before every meal or snack (which can curb your appetite too), or simply refill a 750ml water bottle three times throughout the day and keep it in plain sight on your desk to ensure you stay hydrated through the day.
Old habit: You don’t plan your shopping or meals, which means you always end up grabbing food on the run… and you have no idea what’s really in it!
New habit: Own your shopping and get excited about it. Make a list of some simple meals you can prepare throughout the week, as well as what you’ll need for breakfast and lunch, then prepare some of the basics on Sundays to make it easier through the week. Boil some eggs, chop up some salad, pack some healthy snacks and suddenly the fast food court doesn’t have much pull on you anymore.
Old habit: Eating starches like bread, pasta, rice, potato, or cereal with almost every meal.
New habit: Think of starches as maximum calories, for minimum nutrients. Try and pack your plate with as many vitamins and minerals as you can; vegetables and salad mostly, a little meat and healthy fats, some fruit and then those starches come last. Most of the time, after filling up on all the good stuff, there won’t be any room for the bland white foods, so you’ll only choose them as a sometimes food, or a treat.
Old habit: Eating a lot of your snacks from a packet.
New habit: Do 90% of your shopping around the outside of the supermarket, not down the aisles where the packaged and processed foods that are full of chemicals, salt and sugars hang out. Ditching packaged foods is a great way to detox!
Old habit: Eating packaged cereal or toast for breakfast every morning. This is the easiest way to slow down your metabolism and skyrocket your sugar intake, while setting yourself up for an energy rollercoaster throughout the day.
New habit: Choosing protein, healthy fats, or vegetables to start your day – or why not all three! This makes sure you’re in fat burning mode from the moment you eat your very first meal, as well as stabilising energy levels, improving gut health and helping you get in a whole extra meal’s worth of micronutrients. If you only change one thing about your diet, make it breakfast.