I want to start living healthy but its hard to change old eating habits. Do you have any tips on how to make my transition easier?

You have already made a big step towards improving your diet and lifestyle. You admit that you know you need to change your diet and you asked for help from a health professional. Great start!! There are many things one can do to begin to move away from consuming a diet that is not good for them and start moving in the direction of overall health improvement. We can almost use the typical “Stages of Change” in this case. You have already bypassed the first stage which is “precontemplation”. People here are not even thinking about changing their unhealthy eating habits, which you clearly have done.

The next step is “contemplation”. This is where you are and those here would benefit from reaching out to a health professional (registered dietitian and/or certified personal trainer). In my opinion, you may benefit by making an appointment with a local registered dietitian (RD). She can help you make a realistic goals list of all that you want to accomplish; whether that is a weight loss goal, a goal to reduce fat and sugar intake, to strive to increase fruit and vegetable intake, to reduce fast food intake etc. You can find a local dietitian by going to the website www.eatright.org and clicking on the “Find a Dietitian” tab.

The next step is “determination”. Now you (and your registered dietitian) can put a plan into action. If you don’t go and see a RD, you are going to want to take a good look at what you are eating and drinking. I would start a food diary and record everything you eat and drink for at least two week days and one weekend day. Try to notice trends in your food consumption. Are you skipping breakfast and then overeating later in the day? Do you frequently find yourself stopping at fast food after work because you either don’t have groceries/food at home or don’t feel like cooking? Do you eat a lot standing up or in front of the TV? If you answer “yes” to any of these, I would start your healthy transition process by making a few small changes. Grocery shopping and planning ahead are very important steps to eating healthy. Pre-plan a few healthy dinners for the week. Some you can consume in a jiffy and some that you may prepare on the weekends and heat up during the week. Be sure to include boneless, skinless chicken breasts (and other lean meats), purchase a variety of healthy grains and fruits and veggies to allow for a “meatless” day or two as well. You could check out cookbooks or look online for healthy recipes. If you see that you “mindlessly” eat a lot (i.e. standing while eating, distractedly eating in front of the TV), try to make mealtimes more focused so you can actually enjoy the flavor of the food. Sit down when eating and savor each bite that you take. You will find yourself feeling more satisfied after the meal. I would also begin to become familiar with portion sizes so you have an idea of how many calories you are consuming. Start to check the labels and maybe even measure food out to allow yourself to see what one portion looks like. This will be helpful when eating in restaurants and when serving yourself food at parties.

The next two phases are maintenance and termination. Once you start making healthy changes do your best to maintain them. Continue to explore healthy recipes, get your whole family involved and talk to your friends about what healthy dietary changes you have made. They may have helpful hints for you that have worked for them. The maintenance phase is actually one that should last your whole life. In the actual “stages of change” model, termination is the final phase. But, this phase does not apply here. You certainly don’t have to “terminate” your intake of foods that are considered unhealthy. There is room in every diet for your favorite foods. I encourage that people consume the foods that they find decadent and savory, but I encourage people to consider these times a treat, to take smaller portions, and to try not to eat these things as often as you once did. Good luck!

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