Sunday eve rolls around, and we're determined. This is it, this is the week we kick our ass into gear. We're motivated, we've set goals, we head down to the supermarket, we fill our fridge with healthy delicious food, we lay out our gym gear in anticipation of our next sweaty work-out. We're ready, we're amped...only to find Monday afternoon arrives and we've demolished a chocolate bar by 2pm.
Don't feel bad if this sounds a little like you - we've all been there! Though we have our best intentions at heart, a variety of physical, emotional and mental barriers can block our attempts at forming healthier habits. Identifying these barriers is an excellent place to start when beginning to make lifestyle changes, as from this we can develop effective strategies to overcome temptation before it rears its ugly head.
Here are some common barriers to living a healthy lifestyle, and some tips to help combat them:
"I don't have enough time". With a to-do list as long as your arm and a seemingly endless juggle between work/relationship/family commitments, it can be all too easy to sneak through the drive-through after work for a Big Mac and fries for sake of convenience. A lack of time is a common barrier for many, but with a few simple tweaks to your day this will allow you to adjust your schedule to ensure healthier lifestyle choices.
- Try batch-cooking. This is a great one for all the busy bees - try cooking more than you intend to eat, and then freeze portions for quick and easy meals for nights you're too busy to cook. Try stews, soups, pasta sauces and curries - these all freeze really well.
- Select healthy convenience products to minimise prep time in the kitchen. Although I'm a big advocate for preparing/cooking for scratch, it's important to be realistic on a busy schedule. Tinned chickpeas, lentils and frozen veggies are excellent year-round options (and they're budget-friendly too!).
- If you truly feel you don't have enough time during the week to implement healthier lifestyle habits then it's time to get completely honest with yourself. Sit down with a pen and paper and map out your typical weekly schedule, hour-to-hour - it can be quite an eye-opener to see where your time is going! Chances are there's some space in your schedule to meal prep or do a healthy grocery shop. If you're still struggling it might be time to reevaluate your current lifestyle in favour of some healthier habits.
"I don't know what to eat". A knowledge deficit is a common barrier to healthy eating, and fair enough - there is so much contradicting advice around what we should (and shouldn't!) be eating, and it can be down right confusing to sift through it all!
- Remember to stick to the basics! We tend to overcomplicate/overthink nutrition. Focus on less processed foods and more whole foods and you'll be most of the way there.
- Avoid getting caught up in the latest dietary hype. So many of us are after a quick fix, an answer to all of our dietary prayers. Remember - if it's too good to be true, it probably is!
- If you're really struggling in this department it might be good to see a nutritionist/dietician who can assist you around what to eat.
"Healthy food doesn't taste good". There's a misconception that healthy food is about exciting as carrot sticks and wilted salad leaves - this couldn't be further from the truth! The most beautiful and flavoursome dishes can be whipped out of healthy foods, which both your taste buds and body will love.
- Go fresh, go seasonal. You can't get fresher and tastier than seasonal produce. When foods are seasonal they're at the peak of their quality, which also means at the peak of their flavour too.
- Use lots of herbs and spices. Not only are herbs and spices utterly nutritious for you, but they can really make a dish sing. Certain spices and herbs are famed in particular cuisines - try oregano, basil and parsley for Italian, rosemary, thyme and oregano for Greek, chilli powder, paprika and cilantro for Mexican, or cumin, coriander, garama marsala and cardamon for Indian style cuisine.
- Get inspired in the kitchen. Learning to cook is an invaluable skill to have, and it's great to get at least the basics under your belt. If your struggling with inspiration buy a few healthy cookbooks, surf a few food blogs, and don't be afraid to get stuck into it! Experiment with new recipes, flavours and cuisines.
"It's all so expensive!". If we're strictly purchasing organic foods, specialty ingredients or gym memberships, our weekly bill with likely get more expensive. However, for most of us it's far more important to just focus on getting the basics right, that is, a balanced wholefoods diet, regular exercise, and keeping a good mental mind frame, none of which need to cost a lot of money to do so. Remember, it's more important to ensure you're buying fruit and veggies in the first place, then to fret over whether their organic or not! If budget is on your mind, try adapting these simple tips and tricks.
- Firstly, allocate a realistic food budget and always try to make the best possible choices within it. I'd never advise a client to spend more on certain products if it's not realistic within their budget. Why? Because financial pressure causes stress, and stress is certainly not healthy. Stick to your budget, and just try to make the best possible choices within it.
- Buy seasonal. Out of season produce can climb tremendously in price due to the hefty food mileage fruits and veggies incur during their journey from the other side of the world to our supermarket shelves. Stick to seasonal produce, or canned or frozen when they're not. Better yet, why not grow your own?
- Try going meat-less a few times a week. I am a big fan of vegetarian proteins, which includes all of your lentils, pulses and beans. Seriously, canned lentils are so CHEAP and nutritious for you! I'll often halve the mince in a dish (e.g. cottage pie, spagbol, nachos), and instead add a tin or two of brown lentils - they adapt to flavours really well, and texture-wise you barely notice they're there.
- You don't need a gym membership to get fit! Hit the pavement, find a local hike-track, make a home gym using common household objects - canned tins make pretty decent weights!
"I've lost my healthy eating mojo!" We all fall off the bandwagon from time-to-time. We're human, it's okay! Remember, creating habits (both the good and the bad) take time - just as weight-gain/weight-loss doesn't happen overnight, forming new habits takes a while too.
- Buddy up. Having someone you're accountable too is a great way to stay on track. Find a buddy with similar goals, and organise regular exercise sessions to keep each other motivated. It's very easy to talk ourselves out of exercising, but far more difficult to let another person down!
- Start small. Sometimes we try to change too many habits at once and we end up overwhelming ourselves. Try focusing on changing one habit at a time and overtime you'll find that this will equate to bigger, more sustainable lifestyle changes.
"There's too much temptation outside of home" Keeping our home environment temptation-free can be quite simple - just don't buy junk food! However, outside of home is another story - between fast-food outlets and their enticing 2-for-1 deals, regular post-work drinks with colleagues and the candy-laden vending machine at work that screams your name at 3pm, it's near impossible to eliminate temptation from our external environment.
- Keep prepared. The most important tip of the lot. One of the main reasons we slip up in our goals is failing to adequately prepare. If you know you don't have healthy snack options available at work, bring some smart snacks to keep in your desk draw, such as nuts, seeds or small tins of salmon.
- Share your health and wellness goals with those around you. You might be surprised at how supportive your family, friends and work colleagues are of your goals. Don't be afraid to share what you're working towards, and if anything ask them to help keep you on track. You'll likely get a lot less hassle as to why you're skipping the cake if you're honest with those around you.