By Dietitian Jill Place
I get texts, emails, and calls daily from people who ask … “I want to get … HEATH(ier) … where do I start?” To tell you the truth that’s a TAAALLL question.
And wide and long to boot. Because if you’ve never TRIED to get healthy … and you eat McDonald’s three times a day for example (do you?) … it’s almost impossible to know where to start.
I remember … when I worked with Harvey and Marilyn Diamond when their book, Fit for Life, was hot-hot-hot … that a moderate approach to diet change … like eating a steak salad or an uber-amazing veggie wrap with BBQ onions … worked well to get people healthier.
In other words … eating meals that they were familiar with … tweaked for health and food combining … made their food choices easier. Which I guess contributed to the book’s popularity to this day.
And the fact that eating fruit in the morning instead of a heavy breakfast contributed to weight loss. It was powerful stuff 40 years ago … and became a bit of a movement.
One of the people I counseled in this way then called me one day flummoxed. She said, “I stood and the door at Trader Joe’s and thought, ‘where do I start?'”
Soon afterwards, I delivered to her a total menu with solely Trader Joe’s products. I hung out for hours at Trader Joe’s jotting down everything that I thought might be appropriate for a healthy lifestyle.
I used that menu for years. Through that experience, I realized that people need detailed instructions to make a seemingly overwhelming change easier.
I’m gifting you with something similar below. So be sure to read on …
Also … it takes more than a diet to get healthy. I explain it all in this article. So … before you even consider a Trader Joe’s trip … here’s some getting-started info …
I acted my second “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” (I played the middle part three times) at the very first dinner theater in L.A. But we were sadly forced to close after the first weekend (I got GREAT reviews) because the place didn’t renew its liquor license.
One of us actresses was a very sexy (and slender) mid-40’s. When we picked up our stuff a few days later, I swear she had put on 20 pounds! “I stopped the starving and monkey urine shots,” she said. I myself had undergone that near-torture as a teen 15 years before.
So … before you begin … it might be prudent to ask yourself why you want to move the needle forward on your health. But it can’t be for a vanity or frivolous reason. Like the woman above. Those reasons are usually doomed to fail. I know it failed for her.
You want to discover instead what I call a Heart-Reason. It’s about finding that inner a-ha to propel you forward towards a resonance with whatever do want to do … your purpose. And it’s impossible to accomplish your chosen purpose successfully without it.
You can read more about the Heart-Reason in my article, Setting Up YOUR Health-Self Experiment. As a matter of fact, you might want to read the whole series on health self-experiments … go to Finishing YOUR Health Self-Experiment to see the link for all of them. The ideas in them will help you take stock and set you on the right path to health.
One of those ideas is to develop a mindset that you’re like a detective unraveling the case … uh … CAUSE of what’s ailing you … NOT caving in to “band-aid” solutions for your symptoms. And be willing to be curious and accept the fact that some things you try just won’t work. Then …
Make a Plan
In my early dietitian days, I ran an Opti-fast type program. One where you drank 5 shakes a day instead of food.
We used to have a saying … “If you don’t have a plan, the world has a plan for you. And it’s not about weight loss”. I still use that saying to this day … about any lifestyle change.
The hard truth is that we’re wired to easily absorb the negative. And positive change is like a heavily-loaded truck trying to inch up a steep hill. You definitely need a climb-up (it may involve a winch and some rope) plan to succeed.
Especially after you figure out your Heart-Reason. Here are some surefire steps for the climb … I use my own health-self experiment to see if I can lose weight with intermittent fasting as an example …
- State your target behavior in specific, objective, and measurable terms. I lost 15 pounds by doing exactly that. Here’s my own statement … “I want to lose weight by eating anything I want for only six hours a day and recording my weight for a month”.
- Create a tracking system to record your data. I used my Fitbit app to track and record my data. It also wouldn’t hurt to keep a journal to record feelings, “cheats”, successes, and “stinkin’ thinkin'” during your journey.
- Collect “baseline” data on your target behavior. I did this by doing some research on intermittent fasting, its benefits, and how to begin it.
Then You Want to Make an Action Plan …
which includes …
- The baseline data. How will you use what you’ve learned to create a plan than works for you? I used mine to ease into a plan that started with eating only 8 hours a day. Then … in a week … I decided to go down to 6.
- Implement your action plan and continue to track your behavior and record data. How will you know if your plan is or is not working? Continuous recording is necessary for identifying your behaviors and trends over time. Including all the times you “cheated” on the plan. If your data isn’t thorough, you won’t know where to go next if your plan fails.
- Examine your data. If what you did worked, keep doing it; if it didn’t work, figure out why. Assess whether it was the action plan or how you went about it. Then figure out if you’ll modify the action plan for the next go-round or toss the idea altogether and do something new instead.
There can’t be a plan to improve your health without a way to change what you eat. The lines at the In-N-Out Burger places (there are THREE within a 10-minute drive from me) are twice as long these days.
Part of the reason is that they tout “old-fashioned ingredients”. But I am still hard-pressed to find a vegetable or fruit in any of them. Except the lettuce and tomato.
So you might start changin’ your munchin’ with adding more fruits and vegetables into your life. There are many ways to do that … buying them first and making one meal a salad meal are great first steps.
Because I’ve found with clients that first steps … like joining my Facebook Good Gut Group, often lead to bigger ones. Anyone can join and post … how about you?
Also … a special surprise … my easy-peasy The (Almost No-Cook) Heal Your Gut Menu to get you started … complete with specific suggestions … some even from Trader Joe’s. Almost like the one I did for my long-ago client.
Please … please … PLEASE … if you don’t have exercise in your life, don’t start an action plan for it while you’re changing your diet. Have some patience and change only one thing at a time.
Do I need to tell you once again how important exercise is for your health? I don’t think so … you’ve heard it a thousand times I’m sure …
I’ve heard it sooo many times that “exercise” has become a dirty word for me. So I prefer “movin'” instead. And if … like me … movin’ doesn’t come naturally to you like it did to my Olympic-athlete gymnastics ex-boyfriend … you need to plan the change out.
I still have to do that. I schedule mine for a certain time in the morning every day. Otherwise I just won’t do it. And I wear my most-fun exercise clothes so I feel good when movin’. Make you own plan with behaviors that work best for you.
And your first step on your path to health … begin whichever health-supporting behavior … munchin’, movin’ or mindset … that you feel comes easiest to you. For example, if your diet is already fruit-and-vegetable-rich, going Gluten Free might be your next step.
Or … if you work out an hour a day, you might want to slowly change your diet. Especially if it’s less than great.
So ditch the MacDonald’s lunches a couple of times a week, buy a salad kit at the market, and eat that for your noon meal instead. Sistema has some great salad containers to make pack-and-go a breeze. And … if you add some meat and cheese to your salad … you’ll miss the burgers less. Watch the dressing though …
I can’t emphasize enough that having the right mindset for lifestyle change is crucial for doing this whole thing in the first place. Because you can’t move forward with anything if you’re not sure you want to …
So here’s what I’d suggest … buy my book, Gluten Free in 5 Days. Because it not only gives you great ideas about how to go Gluten Free … it gives you lots of lifestyle change tools too.
At the very least, get the free workbook that’s a companion to it. Because there are worksheets in there, as well as a quiz to find out if you’re ready for change. If you’re not, it gives you other tools to get you there.
I’d also suggest that you read some other articles I’ve put together. One … Magic Pill Mindset BEGONE! … explains that it’s time to take responsibility for your own health. Another … This is Your Body on Fear … gives you tips to combat the all-pervasive, health-challenging fear and stress most of us are experiencing these days.
Because that’s really what this whole article is all about. Yes, doctors can help. But, if you’re not informed and don’t have a plan (or take responsibility) for yourself, how are you going to avoid the frozen cookie dough at 2am? Let alone take decent steps to improve your health?
Also, I’d suggest that you practice some mindfulness. It gets you in the moment and more able to make those 2am decisions in front of the fridge. AND it’s lauded by lifestyle change experts around the globe to improve your health.
I have a whole program called Micro-Mindfuls to help you do just that. Just click on the name to access the whole video program.
Is the Bear in the Truck That’s Inching Up the Hill?
It just might be. The bear at the top of this article sums this whole “starting down the path to health” idea all up for me.
Sitting there, he COULD be overwhelmed at the vastness of what’s before him. And unable to move forward.
Or … if he DOES want to start down that path (or outa there and on to a new vista in general) … he could INSTEAD be challenged and filled with curiosity about what lies ahead for him. And get up and take some action.
Which path in a “yellow wood” will you choose? Which will make “all the difference”?