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Forget about the complete overhaul – Start with small, sustainable changes

light-fashion-hands-woman_300Before and after pictures.  Who doesn’t love a Cinderella story where someone overcomes tremendous obstacles to improve their health, lose weight and look great. It explains the popularity of shows like the Biggest Loser and Revenge Body.  Within an hour’s time, a person is completely transformed.

Unhealthy habits like not getting enough sleep, eating out too much, not exercising and relying on sugar and caffeine to power through the day – they slowly start to add up.  Then you reach the breaking point.  It can be as benign as being fed up because none of your cloths fit to something more serious like finding out you have high blood pressure or diabetes.  Either way, you want change and you want it NOW!   

We all want quick results.  Sure you can white knuckle it through a strict diet and exercise program.  With a little motivation and sheer will-power, you can power through it for a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months but then life eventually gets in the way.  You get sick so you miss a couple of workouts, you work late and end up eating greasy take out for dinner.  Slowly the best laid plans start to crumble, you become fed up with you inability to follow through . . . again . . . so you throw in the towel and go back to your old ways.

I get it.  Been there, done that.     

So how is it that some people seem to be able to prepare healthy foods, get regular exercise, get enough sleep and make their self-care a priority?  How do they do it?  The truth is it was a process.  They didn’t just suddenly wake up one morning and start meditating, drinking green smoothies, eating vegetables and working out. They stated out slowing, building healthy habits one day at a time.

You can do the same and here’s how.

Crowding out

Crowding out is a concept that focuses on adding healthy foods to your diet rather than eliminating unhealthy foods – pretty great huh?  Instead of saying you’re never going to eat french fries, brownies or potato chips ever again, you focus on adding more healthy foods like fruits and vegetables to your meals.  The premise is that if you focus on adding more healthy stuff, you’ll eat less of the not so great stuff. 

Here are a few small changes you can make that will make a huge difference in you energy, weight and overall health:

If you’re a soda drinker, start by replacing one soda a day with water or sparking water flavored with fresh fruit and herbs.   

Commit to eating some vegetables at every meal.  It’s easy!  

Instead of a bagel, pasty or cold cereal for breakfast, make a veggie packed frittata or crustless quiche that you can enjoy over a few days.  Or make a smoothie and add a handful of baby spinach or kale (You won’t taste the greens, I promise!)

Not a fan of salads for lunch?  Add lettuce, tomato, red peppers and sprouts to your sandwich.  You don’t have to give up your sandwich and still get a couple of servings of veggies in.

Start dinner with a small salad and add a side dish of cooked vegetables like broccoli, green beans and sliced carrots sautéed in garlic and olive oil.  If you start you dinner with the salad and your vegetable side dish, you will definitely end up eating less of the cheeseburger and fries. 

It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition.  Remember – Progress, not perfection.  Start with one small change that you can incorporate into your daily routine.  Try it out for a week or so, and then add another one, and then another one.

Trying to change everything all at once is stressful, exhausting and rarely works. Rather than going on and off a diet (and losing and gaining the weight back), crowding out allows you to enjoy your guilty pleasures in a moderate way and still make positive, healthy changes to your diet. While this method doesn’t promise you overnight results, what it does promise is to help you make lasting changes for a happier and healthy life.   

What small change will you try this week?  Let me know!


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