Updated: Apr 28, 2019
When we get challenged by cravings, thoughts and fears but then also remember the side of us that knows we would like to make a change but can’t seem to find enough motivation to do so, it can be a little frustrating. How do we confront the mind when our willpower seems to shift into the background? And when we finally manage to take our first step, we get excited but the real challenge comes when we try to stay on track and avoid falling back into previous habits we'd wish to eliminate. A good first step, is to actively decide that now is the time, believing it, and making it happen but also maintaining a system that will keep us from forgetting why we started in the first place. The most important step though is to create a plan that's not only realistic, but fun. Something that puts a smile on your face the moment you start your day. You need to genuinely enjoy it, every step of the way. Use the below steps as a springboard to pick up ideas but always remember to make it about your own journey and apply everything you learn in ways that make you feel good. Now lets take a look at the tips and tricks below and get you ready to go.
1. BE CURIOUS
Why do children learn so quickly? It's not only because they are young and like a blank canvas, but also because of their curiosity. They are genuinely curious about things that sometimes barely even make sense to adults and they won't stop asking until they have an answer. Unfortunately, we tend to loose this a little as we grow up and if we want to be healthy, we need the knowledge. If you are transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, make sure you are aware of essential nutrients your body will need and find foods that can replace these nutrients. It might take a little research to begin with, but by finding topics and information that enlighten your curiosity, you will become a Pro very quickly. Some ways to make this fun and effective is through images. Let's say you know you will need to be aware of getting iron in your diet, so you look up “plants or food high in iron”, you could download images or make a list of food containing iron. Then lets say you find research claiming iron is best combined with vitamin C in order to be absorbed by the body and so you choose to research food containing this antioxidant. So now you have a bunch of leafy greens on one side, and some citrus fruits on another side and you can now become creative and try different combinations to plan your menu (you can create folders on your computer and sub-folders with the images you will combine. Then think of name for your recipe and give that name to your folder). You will be surprised how easily you might come up with interesting combinations, like sliced grapefruit on a bed of leafy greens, sunflower and pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top with a dash of balsamic vinegar. And you will be desperate to try it out and see how it tastes. Mainly because YOU are the creator. Sound awesome? I bet it does! So sit down with yourself and allow your creativity to flow. Think about all the ways you could combine those foods, but if that’s not your cup of tea you can always look up some recipes to get your mouth watering, just remember that curiosity is a big fat key to progress and consistency.
2. CREATE A FOOD CALENDAR
Yeah yeah, I knooooow, its the booooring food calendar you keep hearing about but trust me, if you keep hearing about it, it probably works!! ;)
Just some key points to make it lighter on you, if you are taking recipes from the internet, make sure they are easy, require little preparation time, few ingredients, you have the required kitchen equipment to elaborate the recipes with and also ask yourself if you are going to enjoy making and eating them. They have to be recipes you can’t wait to make, they need to get you excited. Then see how much you can purchase in advance (try to make as little trips to the supermarket as you can so you have all ingredients readily available for you to use). If you love sweets and you know you will be craving them, make sure you include a couple healthy desserts or healthy sweet snacks in your food calendar too. You can make some delicious sugar-free banana muffins for example to last you the whole week and this will help against the urge of giving in to unnecessary purchases that will end in feelings of guilt. If you love chocolate and know you have a weakness, why not try making some raw vegan chocolate at home using genuine ingredients? This will be a lot better than conventional packaged products you find on supermarket shelves. Most importantly though is to keep track of your progress. Set aside a specific moment of the day which you dedicate to overseeing that you are taking note. I find it useful to not go to bed before having completed this. Make it a habit, just like you don’t go to bed before you brush your teeth, include tracking your progress and keeping your food diary up to date into your daily evening routine.
3. BE GOAL ORIENTATED
Remind yourself of the reason you are doing this. Want better skin appearance and texture, maybe a glow? feeling heavy and want to achieve lightness in your body? always feeling tired and want more brain power? do you have a special occasion coming up and you need to loose weight? simply curious about why so many people are turning to plant based lifestyles and want to try it out for yourself? suddenly became aware of animal suffering and environmental damage and want to make a change? whatever the motive is, always remember it, and remind yourself about it when you wake up in the morning, whenever you want to give up on it, and before you go to bed (this last one is powerful as it will set your mind to it for the following day and keep you excited. Before we go to bed, we are usually in a mental state that allows more thoughts to be absorbed by the subconscious mind, so how we go to bed is very often how we wake up the following day).
4. DO NOT DEPRIVE YOURSELF- IT'S OK TO GIVE IN FROM TIME TO TIME
Want it? Eat it! Old habits die hard. Never EVER beat yourself up for cheating on the plan. If you cheat, just enjoy it and get back on track immediately after. Don’t be hard on yourself or you will give up and mentally set yourself up for failure each time you try it again. Of course it's so much easier to just get a take away and warm it up at home, we all do sometimes!! You might even have thoughts like "Gosh I’m feeling a little down today, I am just going to get a bar of chocolate or I wont make it through the day". Yep!! it’s going to happen. It always does at the beginning, and it will happen for as long as it needs to, so just laugh and enjoy the feeling of being naughty. Then though, tell your mind that you really need a nutritious smoothie, a salad or something healthy. Do not allow this to be the thing that sets off the domino effect, causing a chain reaction of habits that then makes you feel helpless. Remember to allow yourself to slip but also to always be in control. You are in control of allowing that naughty meal and you are also in control of getting back on track as soon as you have enjoyed and laughed about it. A little mental strength is required, but also understanding that you are human and you are doing the best you can. Habits are habits and it takes time and time again of conditioning yourself to acknowledge those voices in your head and still do what you know is right in order to create a new habit.
5. EDUCATE YOURSELF
Most people I know who have transitioned to a healthier lifestyle and stuck with it always have a story to tell, whether it's a documentary that has changed their life, a health condition, even a health condition of a friend, relative or someone they follow on social media. These people have recovered from their condition by using the purest medicine around, the power of plants. So I strongly suggest, if you are serious about long-term change, do some research about processed and refined foods, also about animal products, sugar, fizzy drinks and watch documentaries. This will make it easier for you to resist the cravings and the journey will be a lot lighter. You will also find yourself educating and becoming an example for others and you will notice your behaviour around food changing.
6. GET DISTRACTED
If you are secretly (or openly) addicted to junk food you have no need to worry, we have all been there (I was mildly addicted to crisps for a long time after changing my lifestyle. My trick was to eat something healthy first, and then allow myself to get the crisps if the craving persisted, which it usually never did). I can’t insist more about the fact that the first step is to eliminate all kinds of junk food from your diet. And yes, you do have the power to achieve this and I am going to challenge you to do so. Why? because if you stop eating addictive food for 21 days your body stops craving it. After 21 days, your body will feel cleaner and your mind will be stronger. You will feel free, but please don’t do this by punishing yourself, but by finding healthy alternatives you love. If you love crisps and know you need to eat them regularly, it may be because you love the crunchiness and the saltiness. In this case you can find something else that is crispy and savoury. It’s important you try your best to make all these treats yourself (or read the packaging labels) to ensure non of the “bad guys" are sneaking in. For example, you could try making some crisps out of veg and use pink Himalayan salt (which, when used in moderation, is the only salt considered to be healthy as it's free from contamination and contains some nutrients). Now, I know this step isn’t easy, as food addictions can completely influence, control and even dominate what we do and how we think in a specific moment, but testing our willpower at this stage is the root to building a stronger mind, and trust me, it does get a lot easier in time. As mentioned above, try distracting yourself every time you get the craving by finding a similar but healthier alternative. Also drinking water can help, as sometimes craving bad food only means we are dehydrated. Grab yourself a bottle of 500ml water and drink it all in one go. You might even forget you had that craving after you have done so. Worth giving it a try, right? the benefits of water are so massive it is definitely worth it!! so every time you think “junk food” tell yourself “yes, of course, I will probably get if after downing this 500ml bottle of water!!” Just remember, avoiding junk and processed food is the first most beneficial thing you can do for your health. If you want to look and feel younger it's well worth breaking that addiction.
Take away note: the more processed food you eat, the more you will get addicted to the chemicals, preservatives, colouring agents and other additives they contain, and feeding your body something it doesn’t recognise as food is something you don’t want to be doing, but if you do, I don’t judge you (nor should you judge yourself). We are surrounded by temptations every single day and it can be a real challenge at times.
7. CHOOSE FLAVOURSOME!!
If your food doesn’t taste the way you like it to taste you will have cravings and loose enthusiasm. Make sure you combine flavours you love and don’t worry about eating similar food all the time to begin with. You will very soon deepen your knowledge and come up with amazing creations and discoveries you will call “your kind of comfort food” as you will notice how good you feel when you make that particular dish all for yourself. You will soon be turning to healthy options when you feel low or in need of a hug. Remember that organic fruit and veg taste better and are generally a little more nutrient-dense than non-organic!! Feel the goodness with every bite and imagine the effect each food has in your body while you are eating it. This will make healthy food more enjoyable and unhealthy food less desirable. Mentally perceiving the benefits of your food before you eat it immediately sends the signal of health to your digestive system. It makes a massive difference and creates wonderful mindful eating habits.
8. DO NOT LIMIT YOUR PORTION SIZES.
When turning to a healthy diet, some people find themselves eating more, if this is you, don’t get put off but listen to your body’s needs. Your body might be starving for nutrients. Fruit and veg are lower in calories than animal products and processed, even packaged and canned food, so you may have to make up for the energy when transitioning (if that's what you are intending to do). Don’t worry, your body will adjust in its own time (every body is different), just remember that you will be eating natural food, loaded with goodness, therefore it can’t hurt to eat the same amount of calories you usually eat, even if the portion sizes are bigger or the amount consumed by the end of the day is higher than what you are used to.
If your goal is weight-loss rather than health, you'd need to work out how many calories you need to get from healthy food and determine what macronutrients should be the most predominant in your diet according to your lifestyle but again, do not limit your portion sizes. I have had clients who weren't eating enough and couldn't understand why they weren't loosing weight (or only loosing weight temporarily) and it's because they were constantly living in starvation mode which translates to their body holding onto every bit of stored energy it possibly could. I increased the amount of food they were eating but changed the kind of food they were eating and they dropped the weight sooner than they expected. Eat the right food, eat enough of it, be patient and you will drop the excess weight naturally
9. CHOOSE CONSCIOUSLY.
Make sure you always check in with yourself before you purchase a product. Do not place anything in your trolly without reading the list of ingredients and asking yourself what effect those ingredients will have on your body. Is this product genuine? Will it spike your insulin? Will it make you feel guilty? Will it make you crave more unhealthy food? Will it give you acne? or maybe even something positive like, will it heal your gut? Will it make you feel energised naturally? Will you feel better after choosing it over something else? And ask yourself what the most nutritious but still tasty options available are. Make sure you don’t walk out the market wondering why you bought something, and if you do, be strong enough to say "this doesn't serve me" and throw it away. I know it isn’t acceptable to throw away food, but most of the food we regret buying is not at all food so don’t worry, make sure you put your health before a pack of cookies. Also try to notice moments in which you use food to cover up an emotion, whether it's boredom, or even just mere habit. Be mindful about what the triggers are and get to know yourself a little. If we are able to recognise and detect a moment of “weakness” it's easier for us to stop for a moment to acknowledge it and then let it go. Bringing small moments of strength into our lives on a regular basis helps us build confidence, and this will show and have an effect on other aspects of our lives that require mental strength and will power. Getting out of our comfort zone can only add quality to who we are and how we feel about ourselves so make sure you practice this regularly.
10. AVOID FOOD SHOPPING WHEN HUNGRY
I am going to keep this a short paragraph, as the heading says it all. Make sure you shop after one of your main meals. When we are hungry, our body pushes us towards fast sources of energy and these are usually the exact processed or high glycemic foods we are trying to avoid. Even when convinced about going in with a plan, facing the challenge of seeing bags of crisps and ready made meals smiling at you and pulling you towards their shelves is surely best avoided, if possible.
11. LET GO OF WHAT YOU BELIEVE PEOPLE WILL THINK OR SAY ABOUT YOU
Make it your own journey and be proud of what you are doing... for yourself. It shouldn't be to please anyone other than you. It is understandable that you'd want to do something to get someone else's approval or to feel accepted or even to prove to others you can do it or you can look a certain way, but remember that as strong a motive of that kind can be, it is usually connected to negative feelings about yourself and about your journey in general. If you want long or even life-lasting results, you need to make it about you, even if that makes you feel selfish. And if you do feel selfish about taking so much care of yourself, remember that a better you can give more love to those who surround you, so it's not at all selfish after all.
You will very likely get people try to drag you away, offer you food they know you want to avoid, tell you things to put you in doubt and make jokes only they find funny. This is usually because they don't want you to change. They want to keep enjoying unhealthy habits with you (as they aren’t yet ready to make a change for themselves), they are attached to the "good times" and that's sweet but they probably don't realise that there will be new ways to enjoy your company, that it will not affect your friendship or relationship in any significant way, and the friends you do loose because of this (if any at all) do not matter because you will end up attracting others who are on the same vibe as you.
Touching back on being curious, you will start attending events related to your new lifestyle, engage in Online content related to this new way of living and almost without realising, in time, you will attract a new tribe of health enthusiasts just like you. Unsupportive people do not serve you while you are on the path of self-improvement
It's only human for some people see their failures in other people's successes. You smile and thank them for sharing their point of view. You keep yours. If it hurts, acknowledge the pain, take a deep breath and keep going. One day they may come to you for advice, and I am talking from experience :)
12. KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED
In a world of distractions, it is extremely easy to feel highly motivated in one moment and then all of a sudden loose motivation. Social eating is a common place where people tend to drift away from their intentions, which is Ok, but they then fail to get back on track. If your mind is resonating with this then be aware that there is absolutely no need at all to exclude yourself from social events just because you are trying to be healthy. As you eat healthier you will naturally tend to choose healthier options from the menu. If you manage to become extremely healthy then who cares if you indulge every now and then when being social as long as you also train yourself to not make it a habit to go for unhealthy when out, sometimes going for the healthy option on the menu turns out to surprisingly be the tastier and while all your friends feel tired after their meal, you are ready to get up and dance. So allow yourself to eat whatever you feel like eating (healthy or non-healthy) as long as you are back on track the following day and don't make it a habit.
Now I know the “getting back on track” part of this is well, easier said, as we now find ourselves in our comfort zone and all we want to do is keep feeling the pleasure of satisfying our brain with whatever it desires and we are now most likely going to try to keep “treating” ourselves until we find some new sort of motivation or until we get uncomfortable with being comfortable, then hello vicious cycle. It all starts over again. We get the temporary motivation, then “fail”, then drown in our “failure” until we can’t take it anymore and re-start the cycle.
So how to break the cycle and keep our motivation up? Creating a “healthy habits” mood board right before or straight after we engage in an unhealthy habit and put it somewhere we can’t avoid seeing it several times per day, like for example setting it as our Desktop background image on our work or personal computer, phone or iPad could effective
Another way is to create a streak. There is actually an app called streaks and another one called strides (they both do the same) which make it easy to keep track of how many days in a row you have accomplished something. They create a chain of green dots. Every time we get a green dot, our brain gets rewarded instantly. The moment we break the chain with a red dot, the streak starts over. Using this tool for any habit we want to create (or even break) can be extremely powerful as our brain constantly wants to be rewarded. The streak begins straight after “cheat day”. Your goal is to achieve a set number of green dots in a row (by eating healthily all day- you set the rules of what healthy means to you, what you can and can’t eat, for example and if you follow those rules, you get a green). Let’s say you want to eat healthy for 30 days, then you will need a streak of 30 green dots before you reward yourself with something nice that isn’t food. The moment you start the streak, you will want to keep up with it. How long will you last? Save your score each time (you can download it as an image to your phone and then favourite it) and see if you can keep beating your previous best score. This definitely improves your will power and strengthens your mind and your ability to be consistent. A little trick is to have a meal plan ready, recipes that are easy, fast and maybe even have some favourites under your sleeve. Success always goes to those who have a plan!!
Some people find it useful to set reminders on their phone too!! “Beep beep, drink water!!” And think about comparing choices. Let's say you are reaching for a chocolate bar (an unhealthy kind, but you know you love the flavour of that particular bar), in that moment you know you shouldn’t really be buying it, so you also pick up a healthy raw chocolate bar (maybe it doesn’t taste like your unhealthy one, but its always good to hold both). When you are holding both, read the ingredients. You might end up thinking “actually, today I am going to go for the healthier one". And again, mindful thinking, remind yourself of the feeling you will have after eating each one and check in with yourself regarding whether this is a feeling you would like to have or not. Or tell yourself to go for the healthier one, and if you can’t get your mind off the other one, create a healthy version of it at home or just go back and buy it the following day. Usually you will forget all about it, as cravings are usually a thing of the moment.
It may also be useful to ask yourself how you need or want to feel today and then remember how choosing healthy will make you feel, how choosing unhealthy will also likely make you feel then weigh out the two and make a conscious decision. Some examples:
HEALTHY= productive, alert, awake, happy, etc
UNHEALTHY= sluggish, bored, tired, guilty, etc