by Julie Cornelius, MS
It happens to everyone.. life gets crazy, and our good intentions to eat well get off track. Sometimes its stress induced eating, sometimes its travel. Other times, its too many things going on to get to the grocery store, or being polite when someone else makes you dinner that is less healthy.
As a nutrition expert, I am very conscious of what I eat and make a big effort to eat healthy. But I’m human, and my life gets crazy too. I have had all of those situations above happen to me, and so many of the athletes I work face these little challenges as well. So I wanted to take some time to discuss some different strategies for sticking to a healthy diet when life deals you an unexpected card and you are trying to stick to a healthy nutrition plan.
- My first word of advice- just breathe and accept the craziness of life. We all have good intentions with staying on track, but realizing and accepting the fact that nothing ever goes as planned helps to lessen expectations of things being perfect. This is something that takes a little bit of time. I have always been a planner by nature, but have learned over time that its good to make a plan. And its better to know that plan is flexible and its ok if it changes. You can prepare meals and have everything ready to go for the work week… and then your boss tells you last minute that you are being sent out of town. It happens to all of us at some point. Learn to accept that life is never going to be perfect and do the best that you can to plan healthy meals and make healthy choices.
- Along the lines of tip #1- Because life gets crazy, plan ahead with always having some healthy snacks available. I always keep a few healthy energy bars or some dried fruit with me. They don’t go bad and they are great when I get tied up with something longer than I expect, delaying a meal. Just remember to re-stock when you run out!
- Do some research when you will be traveling. One of the things I love most about traveling is trying new foods. But I always like to know what is going to be available where I am headed to be able to stick to a healthy diet. If I know there are not going to be as many healthy options, I will pack more snacks with me. Be prepared for no healthy options during travel! I have done plenty of road trips over the year, and I learned pretty quickly that it is REALLY hard to find healthy options on the road. Gas stations, convenience stores and road side stops all offer less than ideal foods, so when road tripping, stock a cooler full of healthy snacks. See my full post about eating well on the road for a lot of suggestions!
- If you get off track- its ok! Sometimes, you will get off track- maybe its for a meal, maybe its for a whole day, maybe its for a whole week. Its ok, the key is just getting back on track. Especially if you are just starting to adopt a healthy lifestyle, it takes time for those changes to fully become habits. New research shows it could take up to a couple of months. Don’t get discouraged, do the best you can to keep on a healthy track, and over time, it gets easier and becomes part of your lifestyle.
- Adding in some “treats” is actually an important part of a healthy diet. Food is an enjoyable part of our culture and lives. Having some less than healthy “treats” on a somewhat regular basis helps to quell cravings and can actually prevent us from overeating on those things if we feel deprived. Just keep in mind, that many of these less than healthy things can actually become addictive if we have them too often. There is a lot of research that shows sugar is addictive, so try to keep it a limited part of your diet.
- Find your favorite ways to reduce stress and do these regularly. Going for a bike ride, walking the dog, yoga, meditation, laughing with friends- these are all great ways to reduce stress. Figure out what works for you, and when life gets crazy, make time to reduce stress. A lot of us reach for unhealthy foods when we get stressed, so making it a priority to reduce stress can help keep you on track. And when life gets crazy and you find yourself reaching for food to help reduce stress, learn to recognize the triggers, and get out for a 15 minute walk instead or take a break and play with the dog. Most importantly, go back to step 1 and repeat 🙂
Julie Cornelius, MS is Co-founder of Potential Energy Training & Nutrition. She has an extensive background in nutrition and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ with both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition. She has worked in fitness studios helping clients achieve their nutrition goals, spent two years teaching college nutrition courses, and was the founder of Julie Bar, an energy bar company. Julie is a long time cyclist and mountain biker who loves being outdoors. Julie helps individuals to meet their nutrition goals, whether it is eating to win an endurance mountain bike race, losing weight, or just eating to be healthier. Connect with Julie: firstname.lastname@example.org.