Diets don’t work, and they’re not the way you should approach your food. You may be excited in the beginning and follow the diet religiously, but eventually you’re going to relapse. Why? Because you’ve either heavily restricted yourself from eating foods within a specific food group and so you’ll have the urge to eat those foods again, or you’ve placed so many restrictions on your own self (i.e. extreme calorie restriction) that you’ll feel the need to want to eat and enjoy your food freely and perhaps binge eat.
Diets provide a short-term solution. It’s easy and effortless, which is what most people want. To live a healthy lifestyle requires a lot of effort, time, dedication and patience – things that most people don’t want to do.
So, how do you live a healthy lifestyle? How do you eat healthy as a lifestyle, rather than having to diet? Instead of focusing on what or what not to eat, focus on your habits and behavior. Changing your habits and behaviors for the better will keep you grounded throughout your health journey and allow you to stick to eating well consistently and joyfully. After all, the best diet is the one you can stick to!
Here are my 7 principals (not in order of importance) that will help you live a healthier lifestyle. If you focus on these principles, it will help you begin to live a healthy lifestyle more consistently.
Principal #1 – have the right mindset.
If you’ve read my first book, Fill Your Mind Before You Fill Your Plate, you’ll know that the first pillar to living a healthier lifestyle is mindset. To me, it all starts in the mind. You may think that transitioning into a healthier lifestyle begins by signing up to a gym, or seeing a nutritionist. While exercise and nutrition are important, you should focus first on your mind. You must practice self-discipline and commitment. Like a muscle, you need to exercise and strengthen your willpower. The more you do this, the stronger your willpower will get. Similar to a muscle, the more you exercise, the stronger it will get.
Principal #2 – be patient!
Contrary to a diet which provides quick and easy fixes, starting a healthy lifestyle needs time and patience. Don’t set out on your healthy journey thinking results will come easily. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but they won’t. For example, we know peak weight-loss in lifestyle interventions occurs at around 6 months. Changing habits requires on average 66 days, and not 21 days.
Principal #3 – put in the effort
Chase a healthy lifestyle, don’t let it chase you. You are in the driver’s seat. It’s you who will make the decisions for yourself and take charge, not anybody else. Nothing comes easy in life, and when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, it’s definitely not easy. You have to understand that it will be a difficult journey that will require a lot of effort. If it was effortless, then we’d be living in a world full of fit and healthy people, wouldn’t we?
Principal #4 – consistency
Consistency…consistency…consistency! All 7 principles are key to living a healthier lifestyle, but I can’t stress enough the importance of this one. Let me tell you this, with the abundance of information today, it’s not necessarily a lack of education that is a barrier to people living healthier (although I’m still surprised at the lack of education in some people given the level of awareness and information available). It’s the implementation. It’s the daily practice of eating well, exercising, and sleeping well. The daily practice. That’s right, consistency requires daily, weekly, monthly and yearly practice. It requires effort all year long, regardless of whether it’s summer or not.
The most important thing is to just show up, even if it’s small practices every day. Too tired to exercise? Go on walk for 10 minutes. Too lazy to cook food? At least order from a healthy restaurant. Struggling to meditate for 5 minutes? Start by meditating for 1 or 2 minutes. By showing up every day and making the right, healthy and small steps needed, you’ll slowly get to where you need to be and build stronger, better and long-lasting habits…ultimately allowing you to be more consistent.
Principal #5 – do what you enjoy
If you want to be consistent, if you want to commit to living a healthy lifestyle, then do something you enjoy. Don’t engage in physical activity you hate. Try out different classes and types of training styles, find the one you enjoy, and stick to it. When it comes to nutrition, don’t diet! Diets aren’t enjoyable. By having the freedom to eat whatever you want (in a healthy manner of course), you’ll enjoy your life so much more and atomically find yourself making better food choices and decisions.
Principal #6 – have fun
With enjoyment comes fun. Indeed, a healthy lifestyle needs to be a fun and exciting one.Follow the 80-20 rule, focusing on eating clean, whole, unprocessed foods 80% of the time, and eating the foods you crave and enjoy 20% of time. This 20% is so important in helping you push forward throughout your journey because it provides you with enjoyment and flexibility. In this 20%, eat the foods you love (chocolates, sweets, chips, biscuits, etc.), go out with family and friends to restaurants and have some dessert at a social gathering. By finding this balance and giving into your cravings from time to time and eating foods which provide you with satisfaction, you’ll have a good time! After all, life is too short not to have a good time.
Principal #7 – reward yourself
A healthy lifestyle is all about celebrating the ‘small wins’. If you’ve accomplished a smaller goal which has helped you take another step towards the bigger goal, reward yourself! Whether this comes through positive self-talk or rewarding yourself with a meal or food that you love, the key is to recognize your achievements. Praise yourself and be proud of your work and effort, and then move on and work towards the next goal.
You can see here that I’m not giving you foods to eat and avoid. I’m not prescribing exercises for you to do. I’m focusing on behavioral qualities needed to help you focus on adopting a healthy lifestyle. At the end of the day, this is what’s needed to start living a healthy lifestyle. There’s no magic diet and there’s no superior way of eating or exercising. Through the right mindset, patience, work ethic, consistency, enjoyment, fun and celebrating small wins, you’ll be on your way to making a healthy lifestyle your new normal. You’ll achieve your own personal greatness and be the best and healthiest you can be.