I used to go to big fast food chains several times a week. On lazy Sunday’s my friends and I went there even twice a day. Pasta was my go-to dinner with a great variety of sauces. And all the sweet things were just made for me!
Today my friends make fun of me because of all the green things I eat and drink, as well as my restaurant choices, which are mostly organic or vegan and are surely not the conventional restaurant they’d choose. For others I am a great source of information when it comes to everything healthy and fresh and a little out of the box.
My transition from burger with fries and a huge piece of cake -or two- started with a sentence I read in an article: “If you want to eat healthy, eat colorfully.” As a very visual person this made total sense to me. I tried to make everything I would cook, look as colorful as it could get. Though I didn’t know what I was doing, my diet transitioned to be healthier. Of course you only get a good variety of colors when using vegetables and fruits. What really changed, was my perception and awareness towards food. I was eating more mindfully. Asking myself how I can make this meal more colorful or what to order at my favorite places beyond the things I was used to.
Then I moved to New York City and dived into the world of green smoothies, smoothie bowls, vegan everything, health shots – let’s say into a whole new world of food and flavors. I just tried things out of curiosity. Surprisingly I loved all of it. After three months I got back to Germany for a week and ate what I was used to eat there. I was very irritated that many of my favorite things did taste so differently – and not in a good way. Worse, I simply didn’t like them anymore!
From this time on I got very conscious about what I would eat. I started researching, reading books, magazines and started following health influencers. My eating habits completely changed away from food chains towards everything fresh and healthy. A couple of years later I got licensed as a nutritionist and personal trainer, simply to learn more.
I have learned a lot about transitions from less-than-healthy eating habits to very healthy habits through my own experience and also through my clients. I have seen and still see so many people struggling with it. If you are struggling or know someone struggling, you have the chance to learn about the five most common reasons why people don’t make it through this time of transition. So you can avoid these things and be more successful creating a new eating habit!
- Wrong mindset: The reason I start with this point is, so many – if not most- people in our society are chasing some kind of perfect look. The motivation behind this is external. People want to look because of their urge to belong. Belonging to what the media or our surroundings suggest is the ideal, mainstream or simple the way how to look like. If that is the main motivation, I guarantee you, it won’t last long. External motivations have to be extremely strong in order to give us a reason to keep our motivation up over the long term and that is rarely the case. Just to look a little more like what someone else calls “better”, this motivation will fade soon. If you really want to change your lifestyle, you need to know why you are doing it. Be aware of why you are doing it. And do it for your own good or for the good of someone close to you or for the good of all. That means, if you do it for your health, in order to stay fit for your family or your life goals, you are very likely to follow through. This is called internal motivation and you decide yourself to do it for a certain reason that is bigger than an outside factor. Know why you really want to do it.
- Frustration & excuses: Or let’s call it, underestimation of time, effort but also outcome which mostly results in finding excuses. Many magazines and nutrition concepts play with the idea that everyone can have life changing results in no time, with very little effort. What is the most amazing thing humans are able to create? Creating new life, isn’t it? To give birth to a new human. There is nothing more valuable than creating new life, otherwise we all wouldn’t be here! But the most beautiful thing in life has its price and comes with a whole bundle of challenges. It takes lots of effort and time. Why should anything else in the world come without challenges, when the most incredible thing we humans do, comes with many of them? It is not easy. A diet transition will take its time, till it comes naturally to you and you will have left the old patterns behind. You might have to try different ways. You might think paleo is what will make you happy and healthy. After a month or let it be a year, you might find out that it’s not and you’ll start all over with another diet. But life is a marathon, not a sprint. Give it time. Keep it up. Frustration will come but is the excuse stronger than you? Because your outcome will be very rewarding. It will leave you not only healthier but also happier!
- Underestimation: Again – life is a marathon, not a sprint. I recommend to do one thing at a time. Not to change your whole lifestyle in a day. You want to change patterns and habits you’ve lived with for a long time. Changing it all in a day can cause more stress, frustration than you might expect. This can lead up to you being overwhelmed and throw in the towel before things really started. Of course know yourself best. If you’re the person that needs to change all at once because that is what you’ve done in other transitions, do it! Just don’t underestimate the effects changing eating habits will have on your whole life. Don’t force things but listen to your heart, as always in life.
- Impatience: I put this down here on its own because it is part of all the reasons why people don’t make it through an eating habit change. Sometimes everything goes perfectly. People come along with their diet changes and are in the middle of their transition. They feel good about it but expect completely life changing awakenings within the first few days. Although this happens in some cases it’s not for everyone. The body needs time to adapt to the new foods. As the body will have refilled all nutrients, it’ll start to clean the body. It’s no longer in “survival” mode but finally has time to take care of toxins and other things, it was just putting aside. Detoxification can feel a little exhausting, so can weight loss and everything else the body is doing during this time of healing. And that’s what it is. The body is healing when we give it the right nutrition. This will also impact our mind in someway, as it is connected with the body. Give it time! You will feel some change. After a month, after three, after six and even after a year or even longer you will still feel it changing. It starts with day one but the effects will stay for at least a year.
Here are three things that you can do right now, if you are planning on changing your eating habits:
- Find your why: Use paper & pen. Write down why you want to make this transition. Set a timer for 5 minutes and just write about why you really want to eat healthier. Don’t overthink it. Just write until the timer goes off.
- Commit: Take a new piece of paper and write a contract that can sound like the following. I, ________(your name)________, want to change my current diet to a more healthy diet for the following reason(s): ______(your reasons from the first exercise)______. I will start from today (date) on, by doing _______(at least one thing that you can do today, that will start your journey)____. I will keep working on this transition every day for the following 365 days, no matter what happens. I will not fall back to the way I am eating now. I am aware that I will go through challenging times. In those times I will recall the reasons stated above and remind myself why I started this journey today. I love myself. I believe in myself. I know I can do this. ____(your signature)_____
- Start today: If you know your first steps, do them immediately or schedule an appointment in your calendar for later this day to search for a nutrition coach or a friend who can help you with the first steps. And tell at least three people about your new project, so you feel some accountability. Preferably people, who you know will support your idea.
I hope those few tips will help you with your transition or gave you an idea how you can support someone you know wants to change to a healthier diet. I have been through this and it takes times and it is not easy. But it was one of the best decision I have ever made and I wouldn’t be as happy, healthy and as successful without it.