It can be overwhelming when you are faced with making changes to your diet. You can go through a sort of grieving process where all kinds of mixed feelings and thoughts pop up. However, with the right mindset and preparation, you will be surprised how achievable this can be, and how much you can improve your health.
Is diet even relevant?
If you’re anything like I was before I discovered natural therapies you may have doubts about how changing your diet is going to help. Think about this: imagine your body is a furniture factory. If your tools and materials are all of poor quality or damaged, what do you think the quality of your furniture will be like? Would you trust that the chair you’re sitting on isn’t going to collapse underneath you? I certainly wouldn’t!
Well, this is exactly what happens when you provide your body with a poor diet. The tools represent the food you eat and the materials represent the nutrients your body gains from digesting that food. Your body needs nutrients for every single function it performs, and it constantly makes new cells to replace old ones.
Think about the food you have been providing for your body. Do you think have provided the right tools and materials for it to be able to function well and make good quality cells? If not, is it any wonder you ended up feeling the way you do?
My personal experience:
In my early 20’s, I was told to give up gluten, dairy, sugar, coffee, AND go paleo all at the same time! I had a really hard time at first and felt like I was losing out on something (especially seeing it was a time in my life when I was very busy socially). Most social get-togethers were centred around food, coffee, or alcohol; how was I going to fit in with my ‘hippie’ new diet? Would I even be me anymore? What would people think of me? Was it all too hard? Was I going to fail? Was it even worth it? How could I still have fun with my friends while they were all partying, drinking, and eating whatever they liked?
The truth is, yes, it was hard. Yes, I did fall off the wagon a few times. Yes, there were times I felt incredibly awkward bringing my own food along or asking restaurants to cater for my needs, BUT I gave it a go AND I began to feel better!
Once I began to feel better, it didn’t seem so hard. I adapted to my new diet, my friends understood and supported me (well mostly, but hey, those that didn’t obviously were not my true friends), and most of all, I still had fun! I remember being out at a club all night, drinking nothing but water with some fresh lemon, and at the end of the night when all of my friends went to MacDonalds, I went to the service station and bought an apple. You know what? This might sound hard to believe, but I was happy, satisfied, I had a great night, and best of all I saved so much money on drinks and food! Much to my surprise, I really didn’t notice that I wasn’t drinking, and no one seemed to care either. I was still me, I was still having fun with my friends, and I felt a million times healthier. I was proud of myself and proud of the person I had become.
Your taste buds will change:
When changing your diet, your taste buds need time to change and adapt. No, that chicken salad you swapped your meat pie for isn’t going to be as satisfying at first, but you know what, once your taste buds adapt I promise you it will taste EVEN BETTER!
Real, whole foods will start to taste amazing and the salt and sugar laden junk foods you thought you couldn't live without won't taste so wonderful anymore. When this happens, you are home free because you will see your new diet in a different light. You will feel better, you will look better, and real food will taste better. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things that I just cannot live without *cough* coffee and chocolate *cough*, but it's all about being realistic and all about doing your best with what you have.
The keys to dietary success:
Realise that changing your diet can be daunting, but give it a chance.
Address the thoughts and feelings that pop up as they can be incredibly insightful. If you need to, talk them through with someone you trust or even with a counsellor.
Be realistic and set realistic goals. Maybe you are a go-cold-turkey kind of person, or maybe you are a remove-one-thing-at-a-time kind of person. Do what works for you, and don’t set yourself up to fail.
Be prepared. Having meals and snacks organised in advance will make it easier and you will be less likely to fall off the wagon, especially when hunger hits and you don’t have any suitable options around.
Don’t be shy about asking restaurants to cater to your dietary needs. Most restaurants are really understanding and happy to help you out, especially if you call ahead of time.
Give it time, your taste buds WILL adapt.
Don’t expect substitutes to taste like the real thing. Sorry to say, but soy milk will never taste like dairy, and gluten-free bread is far from the taste and texture of regular white bread. You will be bitterly disappointed if you have this expectation. Instead, when trying substitutes for the first time, try to think of them as something completely new rather than a replacement for something you love.
Remember why you are doing this. Change can be slow and go unnoticed. Find a way to remember how you felt at the beginning so you can see how far you have come. Try rating your symptoms out of 10 and then reassessing them each week to see the subtle changes happening.
Have a support system. Tell your friends and family about your new diet and ask for their support. This will increase your chances of success.
And finally, be gentle with yourself. Know that you will have off days but just focus on doing your best. That is all you can ever ask of yourself.
If you find yourself really struggling with your dietary changes, contact me. Together we can find a way to make them manageable and achievable, giving you the best possible chance of achieving your health goals.
Photo credit: Anh Nguyen on Unsplash