There’s a saying that says “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.” If you want to lose weight and lower your body fat, making wise food choices is the first step. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. We know certain foods are unhealthy for us, yet we still consume them. If it were as easy as just picking a salad over a bag of chips, why are so many struggling? What we choose to eat often has nothing to do with hunger. If you’re frustrated and feel you just can’t make good choices, there are steps you can take to empower your ability to make better choices.
1. Seek Sunlight
A study suggests a link between low vitamin D levels and depression . If you find that you look to food when you’re feeling blue, taking a walk in the sunlight could help you curb the emotional need to eat. According to the study, people who experience depression also tend to stay indoors more and exercise less, which can lead to vitamin D deficiencies creating an unhealthy cycle. Make an effort to get outdoors during the day and receive that solar energy. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
2. Keep Moving
Your endorphins get a boost from physical activity. Whether you’re running, lifting weights, or walking the dog, those feel-good brain chemicals flow; so don’t limit yourself to one kind of exercise. Different people find certain types of exercise to be more enjoyable than others. Do what makes YOU feel good. When feeling the need to eat, but you know it’s not hunger, take a walk outside, do 100 jumping jacks, jump on a treadmill, or do some yoga. Trade the urge for activity.
3. Grow Your Own Food
Fresh fruits and vegetables not only taste better, but because they go from your garden to your table, they also don’t lose nutritional value from shipping and sitting. If space is a concern, container gardening is the way to go . Gardening has been shown to help reduce stress, and there’s something so rewarding about growing the food you’re feeding yourself and your family.
4. Prioritize Sleep
If you’re up in the middle of the night, you’re likely to head for the kitchen. If sleeping the recommended 6 to 8 hours seems to elude you, take note of your sleep environment . When it’s bed time, remove distractions like computers and phones. Smelling scents like lavender and sipping chamomile tea can be calming and relaxing. Keep water by your bedside if you get thirsty and make the kitchen off-limits after 10pm.
5. Replace a Habit
Often our unhealthy snacking is just a habit. Whenever we watch a movie we want buttery popcorn, or when we work at our computer we munch on M&M’s. Whatever it is, replace one habit for another. Try unbuttered, unsalted popcorn with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast; carrot sticks for crunch; and your protein drink poured over frozen blueberries for a sweet treat.
6. Choose Quality Calories
Apparently the idea that a calorie is a calorie isn’t quite the case . Different types of diets affect your body in different ways. After choosing poor quality food with little nutritional value, soon your body will let you know it’s not getting what it needs. Sugar addiction is real, and consuming sugar is said to have similar effects on the brain as some drugs .
7. Find Your Zen
Meditation increases your sense of well-being . Even 5 minutes can increase your sense of peace and cause you to slow down enough to be in the present and think through your decisions. Mindless eating is just what the name implies. You aren’t really in the now with the action and the consequence. By slowing the pace and breathing, you allow yourself to think through that decision and decide if it’s healthy for you or not.
8. Be Accountable
Accountability partners can help you in your moments of weakness. Even better, be a partner for someone who’s trying to make healthy choices too. The relationship should be free of judgment and guilt and full of honesty and authenticity. Choose someone who would tell you there’s spinach in your teeth, not who’s going to tell you want to hear. It could be an online partner or offline; what matters is that you’re a positive support for each other and want to see each other at your best.
By keeping our mood balanced, we make choices that are less dependent on emotion and more dependent on thought. We can be in control of our eating and drinking choices and not let the choices control us. Ultimately, we are the creators of the outcome and our own happiness.