One of the most motivational and productive things that made me want to stick to my diet even more than before was to clean out the pantry. After eating relatively healthy for a couple of weeks, I took everything out of the pantry. This made me realize just how much we had in there, and how unhealthy we had been in the past.
Not only did I find things that were expired to throw away, but I also took the opportunity to organize everything so that it would be more accessible. I only put things back that had no sweeteners, had low sodium, barely processed, and so on. I tucked away items essential for hosting guests, items like sugar (which is expected while serving coffee) into less visible places so they don’t tempt me. Then I gave everything else away to the food bank.
Almost everything else, that is. I also kept whatever my husband insisted on or that I knew he would otherwise just go out and buy later on. It’s his pantry too, and he makes different food choices. This is the tricky part to doing this because if the people you live with are not onboard, you have to figure out a system that will work for you. For example, I keep most of the food that I can snack on toward the top shelves in the pantry, while other foods tend to be lower down.
To reduce the temptation of going out to eat, I also stocked up on healthier non-perishables like tuna (in water, dolphin-safe), black beans (no salt added), chickpeas and even dried chilies. I actually proceeded to repeat this process with the refrigerator a week later. I felt that I had accomplished a lot doing this, and have been happy knowing that whatever I reach for at home is healthy for me.
Before you make any huge changes to your daily routine, make sure that you’re going to be 100% happy with the way you schedule it. Otherwise you won’t stick to it. It really is that simple.
My method is to make and keep lists that help me prioritize and review what is important to me. I:
list how I spend my time now.
list things I want to do regularly (including the ones I’ve already have been doing that you want to keep in your schedule). These should be the things that are the most important.
make a final list of whatever I will schedule. This includes the things I must do (like go to work or groceries), as well as anything else that is important (working out, cooking, and family time). For example, I generally plan ahead and do groceries before my commitments stack up during the week so that I have time to cook and eat without feeling rushed or tempted to go out.
create a realistic schedule from the third list, allowing plenty of time to get to and from work, home, school, the gym – whatever. If I can’t stick to it, I won’t stick to it.
make a schedule as often as I have to depending on how busy I am – sometimes I write out a day-to-day schedule at the beginning of the week or I make one the night before. Maybe you will be able to or have to plan months in advance, but most people are somewhere in between.
re-evaluate priorities and make a new schedule whenever I’m overwhelmed or find myself unable to stick to the plan. I did this a lot at first while figuring out how long my workouts take, how long I wanted to cook, how much sleep was ideal, etc.
My regular schedule nowadays includes working, exercising, cooking, eating, spending time with my husband and writing on a daily basis. Now that it’s winter, it is darker and cooler outside in the morning so I’m not waking up early to go on a daily walk like I did in the summer months. But I’ve started reading more books instead. I re-evaluated and changed my schedule based on my opportunity costs when I didn’t enjoy the walks as much. I’ll probably go back to walking soon though because the days are already much longer than a month ago.
Ultimately, with my scheduling list method I waste less time than before and am much happier knowing that I do what is important to me every day.
Treating yourself right is a 24/7 job that you will not do properly if you’re constantly giving yourself excuses. Consistency is the key to fitness.
That said, nobody’s perfect. It’s hard to stand by your lifestyle during certain events, while travelling, and around others. For example, it is hard for me to go to Subway with my husband and not get a sandwich while we are there, even if I know that I’ll enjoy my salad more anyway and feel better afterward. He has different health goals and different eating habits than I do, and I respect that.
It took me a couple of years of living healthy before I started experimenting with specific exercise, nutrition or wellness regimens like P90X or a gluten free diet – and I’m still figuring out what exactly works best. (I’ll talk about the importance of variety later on.)
During the holiday season I gave myself one meal each holiday to break all of my new eating habits. To my surprise, despite planning to pig out, I found that I still stuck to portion sizes for the most part just because I’ve now learned how to eat more slowly and stop when I feel full. The next day however, I ended up feeling a lot heavier and mentally cloudy. This reinforces my current eating habits because I’m much less likely to stray knowing I’ll feel worse the next day.
Special occasions are still special and parties are still fun, heck I enjoy them more knowing that I’m sticking to my beliefs and that I’ll feel good the next day. The bottom line is to figure out what works best for you and what you can maintain. Start by forming basic habits that will work for you rather than against you every single day.