Processed Foods Part 3: How To Make the Shift
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In this three part series on processed food and sugar, we first discussed the impact of low quality foods and drinks on our bodies. Second, we categorized common healthy and unhealthy foods and drinks by what we should consume all the time, occasionally, and rarely.
All this information is great and most of it may not be a surprise to you. But you may be feeling uncertain about how to implement change and create a permanent healthy eating lifestyle to improve your health. So, let’s now discuss how to remove processed and sugary foods in a sustainable way.
The key is to focus on the healthy stuff you want to add in while shifting away from the unhealthy.
So if you currently consume mostly Red foods and drinks, shift away from them by focusing on adding Green foods and maybe some from the Yellow category. Even if you consume more Yellow foods and drinks daily than Green, you will need to make a shift to where Green foods and drinks are your primary source of nutrition.
But there is more to it in order to be successful in the long run.
Your Roadmap to Long Term Success
Here we are going to implement the three non-negotiables needed to be successful at reaching health and wellness goals.
- The right mindset
- The right plan
- The right accountability
The Right Mindset
Having the right mindset is the biggest factor in creating permanent change. You can be eating and drinking all the right things, but if your mind isn’t set on victory, success, and your reason for doing this, you are at high risk for not maintaining this lifestyle. And therefore, you are very likely to not reach the goals you aim to achieve for your health and wellness.
So, here are a few things you may need to do to shift your mindset in the right direction:
- View food differently. Think differently about processed and sugary foods and drinks and how it is more harmful than good. How you and your body don’t deserve that harmful stuff. View what you eat as medicine that either heals or hurts the amazing and complex system of a body that was gifted to you.
- Be the boss. Often people find comfort in food because they feel it is something they can control when life is stressful and feels out of control. The truth is the food is controlling you. Processed and sugary foods and drinks set a desire in you to eat and overeat them. Rarely does anyone binge on vegetables. It is usually something processed and sugary. There is a reason for that. So you have to tell those foods who is boss, and it isn’t them.
- Self-control can be strengthened. We only have so much willpower in a day, so self-control cannot always be relied upon when tempted by those unhealthy foods. The good news is you can improve your self-control the more you practice it. Find your triggers, take a pause, remember the reasons or change, and you are less likely to give in. Next time it will be easier to say ‘no.’
- Seek progress. Aim to do a little better than the day before. If you are expecting yourself to go from eating mostly Red foods to only Green foods right away and be perfect every day, you are most likely going to fail and not get back up. But if you see this change as a process, you’ll continuously work on improving, even in those moments you take a step back.
- Remember your why. Often remind yourself of the deep reason you need to make this change. Your reason to eat and drink healthier has to be stronger than your reason to stay the same. Temporary satisfaction often pushes away long-term desires. But you can overcome the immediate temptation by taking time to recall why you need to make a better choice.
If making mindset shifts is the most challenging for you, check out this article for more information and download the mindset shift guide.
The Right Plan
No goal succeeds without a plan in place. Rarely do they just happen by thinking about them. This is true for successfully creating a lifestyle change to healthy eating. You have to strategize and plan the changes you will prioritize and how you will implement them.
The struggle in planning for most people is the fact you have to take time to do this. Yes, it takes some time. But a little time spent planning can save you a lot of time later and help make your life healthier in the long term.
What you need to have a successful plan with examples of how to start:
- Write your plan down. There is power in writing things down. A visual reminder of your plan jogs your memory and increases your commitment. It will help you think things through and come up with a more achievable plan. So get out pen and paper or the Healthy Habits Starter Guide and physically create your plan.
- Conquer one week at a time. Rather than thinking you have been successful over a long time period to get the healthy lifestyle you want, focus on being healthy one week at a time. When you consider conquering smaller chunks, the road ahead can look more doable to achieve. Before you know it, one week turns into two, a few weeks turn into a month, months turn into a year, and a year turns into a permanent lifestyle.
- Start small and build. This goes back to ‘seek progress’ under mindset. Overhauling or changing everything at one time usually isn’t successful. So pick a meal that normally is highly processed or a very sugar beverage that you have regularly during the week and plan to replace it with a specific item on the Green or even the Yellow list. Write it down. For example, “Instead of a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast, I will have oatmeal.” Or, “Instead of coffee with flavored syrup, I will have coffee with heavy cream. Now if you pick to sub a Red for a Yellow, later on you will need to shift from a Yellow to a Green.
- Consider your roadblocks. Think about what is going to keep you from being successful with the change you just wrote down. For example, it will take extra time to make, it won’t’ taste the same, you may question your willpower, stress at work could trigger a bossy food craving, or a party this weekend might derail you.
- Get specific on how you will do it. Not only how you will shift your food or drink consumption, but how you will eliminate roadblocks and challenges. For example, plan when you will get the food you need to have on hand, how you will find the time to prepare, what alternative will satisfy you when work gets stressful. Also, consider removing the tempting stuff from your house or desk drawer.
- Schedule your treats. As I mentioned in part one, this isn’t about never restricting yourself from enjoying a treat or foods and drink from the Red category. Just plan a time to have a treat you love. It gives you something to look forward to. Also, you won’t feel deprived and will be less likely to go on a binge. When you have that planned treat, savor and enjoy every bite.
- Take action. A plan isn’t worth anything until you do what you planned to do. Pick a start date and ‘just do it’ to borrow from Nike. Start making the change you have now committed to by creating a game plan for success.
If you need more help with planning, see this article.
Developing the best mindset and creating an amazing plan aren’t everything you need. You need a system to hold you accountable.
The Right Accountability
Setting up an accountability system is like the stamp of commitment to make a change. The right accountability helps keep you on track and can help you get back on track when you start to go sideways with your healthy eating changes.
There are several different forms of accountability so you have to pick which one/s will help you the most. And just FYI, the scale is not a good one.
For making sustainable changes in your eating, I find this combo the best to succeed:
A paper tracker and an accountability partner.
A Paper Tracker
There are plenty of ways to track your progress, such as a document on your computer or an app on your phone, but a paper tracker is one of the simplest and best. As stated earlier, there is something to be gained by writing goals and achievements on paper. So physically marking a sheet can give you more of a feeling of satisfaction than doing it digitally. With a paper tracker, you can more easily see your progress, not only because you can keep it out where you frequently view it but because you see your consistent star days and won’t want to break that chain. You can also mark your challenges, so you can better plan for them. Then, celebrate when you crush them. For a paper tracker, use the Accountability Calendar in the Healthy Habits Starter Guide.
An Accountability Partner
When you make your desires known to someone else, you will want to live up to what you say. But it’s more than just someone you can share your desires with. The best accountability partner will support you, check on you, and even call you out when you get sidetracked. For an accountability partner, you could join a group, make this change with a friend or family member, or hire a coach. Most people hire me whether for fitness training or nutrition coaching to be their accountability partner. I encourage and guide, support and challenge, follow up with and check in on, and give praise and grace.
If you are looking for accountability like I just shared, set up a coaching call with me.
By implementing these three critical parts, you can more confidently make a shift from consuming primarily unhealthy, highly processed, and sugary foods and drinks to fueling your body with the medicine of whole, real food and beverages. I promise you, you will feel so much better in so many ways. You won’t regret this change, you will only wish you had done it sooner.
I wish you nothing but the best in your health and wellness,