1. Stop when you feel full enough. It's easy to sit down at a meal and overeat when you know you're not getting your next meal for sometimes 8+ hours later. These large meals can stretch out our stomachs and actually leave us hungrier than if we chose to eat a smaller meal and supplement with small snacks. Bring healthy whole food-centric snacks in your bag for your mid-afternoon craving and try to practice leaving food on your plate when you feel full enough.
2. Drink lots of liquids. I have always been conscious of this and recently noticed that I drink way more water if I pour it into a cup with a straw. The oral fixation of the straw in my mouth, with the satiation of filling myself with liquids, helps to curb my "bored eating" and hold me over until the next meal. Also, flavored teas and sparkling water are great ways to trick your mind into thinking you're having something more indulgent than just plain water.
3. Move your body first thing in the morning. Every morning, my husband and I wake up and take our dog for a long, leisurely walk. If you live in a cold climate, you can wake up and stretch for a few minutes inside and practice meditative breathing to help wake your body up. Early morning exercises make us more conscious of the choices that we make throughout the day.
4. Enjoy indulging. Practice mindfulness when you indulge. Enjoy the moments where your favorite dark chocolate melts across the roof of your mouth. Indulge (note: not overindulge) in your cravings by allowing yourself to have a certain type of food without restrictions; your body will be happy that you fed the craving, and it will move on.
5. Eat in the afternoon. The afternoon is when you need all of the energy you can muster, so make sure to give your body what it requires to get through the rest of the day.
6. Plan on three meals with freedom to snack. I am a "bored eater," where I'll snack on foods between meals to bide my time until the next meal. Keep a habit of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, and try to make it to each meal without over indulging on snacks in between. Of course, if you're starving, eat something!
7. Make healthy choices for late night meals. If I'm out and about, or say, at a movie or party that runs over my normal dinner hour, I'll have a healthy snack before I go out. Along with the snack, I will pre-prepare an awesome salad or sliced cucumbers with a delicious hummus, so when I get home, I have something light and healthy waiting for me -- not like the late night pizza I'd reach for in college.
8. Hold yourself accountable. If you're trying to create healthier habits, start a food journal and see what your tendencies are. Try and make small changes, like subbing a sugary Coca-cola for an iced-tea with lemon or asking the restaurant to hold the bread -- maybe after the first serving (so hard!).
9. Find a partner to work together with. My husband and I flow together. We go through fit phases and more relaxed phases in life. Each time we're joyfully cruising through our fit phase, it's because we've been on the journey together, and have shared our goals with each other. When you work together with a partner, you create a safe environment for a happy change.
10. Make the end goal fun. A diet can sound so awful. Why? Because it is usually something we try to achieve quickly, with a lot of sacrifice. Take your time and create healthy, long-lasting habits that you can practice every day for the rest of your life. Diets that restrict can be a quick remedy, but they always fail when you add the restricted food back into your diet.
11. Enjoy your results. Enjoy where you are in your journey. So you're a ways away from your goal? So what! Look how far you've come! Acknowledging that you want to change your body is a big step in the right direction. Celebrate your achievements and be proud that you are creating a healthier life for yourself without the torment of starvation or over-exercise.
12. Cook at home. When you cook at home, you get the chance to see what exactly is going into your food. Restaurants can add a lot more oil and salt than you would ever think is reasonable if you were to put it on the food yourself.
13. Keep it under 5 ingredients. Think of how many ingredients went into the food you're about to eat. If it's over five ingredients, chances are it's more of a once-in-a-while food, and not something you want to be eating everyday. By keeping the ingredients minimal, you should find yourself eating more whole foods.
Photo credit: Michael Weschler