Sticking to a healthy diet and exercising regularly can be difficult. Life gets busy, you get tired, and as a result, your health goals take a seat on the backburner. Research dietitian Haley Schlechter of Pennington Biomedical Research Center dishes out her best advice for maintaining balance in your healthy lifestyle.
Follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These recommendations are government-endorsed for a reason! They are simple to follow and generally work well for people in all walks of life, Schlechter said. Some of the key guidelines are:
By following those guidelines, your body will feel nourished and you will feel fulfilled, making it easier to stick to your healthy eating plan in the long run.
Moderation in all things. You can have your cake and eat it too, just eat it in smaller amounts, less often. Research shows that avoiding your favorite foods can result in overeating those same foods later, which can sabotage your efforts to maintain balance, Schlechter said. Eating small amounts of your favorite “unhealthy” snack when you are craving it once or twice a week helps avoid this issue.
Get moving! Take the stairs, walk at lunch, join a local gym, rec sports league or running club. There are so many ways to get and stay active, and it all counts. The easiest way to get discouraged is to set unrealistic goals, Schlechter said. If you know you can only make it to the gym once a week, don’t tell yourself that this week you’re going to go five times. Instead, find and take advantage of other opportunities to be active. Got kids to take to sports practices? Walk around the field while they’re practicing. Have to go a few blocks for a lunch meeting? Consider walking, if your area is walkable.
Make it liveable. The best diet is the one you can make into a lifestyle. What works for one person may not work for you. Know yourself and choose something you can do for a lifetime. When deciding on a diet, consider how much time you have to prepare food, when and where you have access to a fridge and/or microwave, any intolerances you may have (e.g., gluten, dairy), and how you can incorporate foods you enjoy.
Don’t over-restrict yourself. The quickest way to fall off a diet or exercise plan is to feel like it’s taking away from your social or family life, Schlechter said. This is where striking a balance really comes into play. Don’t skip out on social events because you’re afraid to eat something “unhealthy.” If it’s a potluck-type event, bring a healthy dish that fits your diet. Try to plan ahead and eat mindfully when out. Start with a salad or half a plate of vegetables to fill up on healthy options. Then ask yourself if you are actually hungry for more or just craving the other goodies available. Not hungry? Don’t keep eating!
What tips and tricks do you use to stay on track? Leave a comment or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you!
About the F-Word
"Food" is the F-word. And the F-Word blog is all about helping you find your food-life balance. After battling an unhealthy relationship with food and body image for years, I'm dedicated to helping others avoid those misfortunes. Read on for nutrition guidance, lifestyle tips and stories from other bad-ass people who also overcame disordered eating.