So You’re About to Start A New Diet?

I can appreciate all the sides of the “dieting” arguments out there, and it’s no secret that many in the health and wellness community would disapprove of any form of a constricting diet regimen. I, on the other hand, strongly disapprove of closed-mindedness – on condition. When I think about restricting what you consume, I frame it more as a way of preservation. I don’t remove things from my diet to punish, or torture myself – I choose to remove what I believe (based on research and communication with my own body) actually causes more harm than good. Ideally, once these foods are removed, they stay removed. Therefore, I am not simply participating in an elimination diet, but I am embarking on the first step of a journey toward understanding more about my body.

I strategically plot to improve my overall wellbeing by structuring a dietary regimen that will support the areas through which I define such a state: stable mood, quality sleep, energy level, comfortable digestion…to name a few.

To be perfectly honest, I think it would be difficult for me to support any kind of diet-altering plan that wasn’t backed by some kind of research, be it personal at the very least, but I can whole-heartedly and confidently stand behind any well-organized and thought out attempt to feel better.

With the new year off to the races, and many of us “trying new things,” read on for my top 5 tips for switching up your diet/nutrition, not just for a moment, but in order to cultivate a serious change in your relationship with nutrition + everything else. After all, food is fuel – might as well customize what drives you.

1.     Make Sure It’s Healthy

A healthy eating plan should include foods you enjoy, along with plenty of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, etc. And take note on what ‘healthy’ means in that previous sentence. It depends greatly on your overall goal of dieting as to what ‘healthy’ might mean to you. If you are attempting to lose weight, maybe these healthy foods include low-fat diary, and whole grains. If you are attempting to uncover potential trigger foods that could be the root cause of a perpetual discomfort in your body, maybe you stick to all natural substances like nuts and beans, instead. The only way to actually feel good is to make sure you are consuming a healthy amount of nutrients that your body needs in order to survive, and the only way to make sure you are in tune with this information is to read, and learn, and be open to the discovery. Don’t start a new diet without knowledge of how it might affect you.

2.     Take Baby Steps/Track/Prepare

Change is hard. The ideal approach to creating new habits it replacing them gradually, and experts agree, this is actually the best way to overhaul your diet. If a goal of yours is to simply drink less soda, then maybe the goal today should be to drink less than you did yesterday, and so on. Don’t stress yourself out by attempting to quit something you love cold turkey – spoiler alert: it’ll be incredibly difficult to maintain, and you’ll likely end up feeling disappointed and discouraged if you’re not successful right away. I wanted to stop drinking coffee, which I LOVE, and averaged 2-3 cups of every day. It took me almost 6 weeks to even completely ween off of it, and every single day that I turn down a cup is a successful day to me. I’m still taking baby steps, even after it seems the goal has been reached. Track your progress using your phone, or a note book, or even a handy tracking app like My Fitness Pal or Fat Secret. Even if part of your diet is not necessarily focused on calorie/macro counting, having the ability to actually see what you’re consuming and how it adds up can be extremely powerful, and encouraging. Write everything down! From how you’re feeling to what you did that day. You will be surprised looking back at the progress you’ve made internally from improving your diet. Consider it like progress photos for the mind.

Overall, the most important part of this step is to be prepared. Similarly to doing your research ahead of time, make sure you are prepared for any potential obstacles that may present themselves to throw you off course. Have a company happy hour coming up? Know ahead of time what you can get from the menu, or pack a snack/eat before you go and politely sip on soda water at the event. Plan your shopping trips so that you have plenty of time to get everything you need, and then plan your meal-prep day so that you are not stressed out, or end up going hungry because you didn’t make enough food for lunch AND dinner one night. Prepare until you feel over-prepared and then prepare some more.

3.     Set Realistic Goals

It often seems that those who wish to change their lives the most are the ones who set the most lofty, unrealistic goals. What you may not realize is that even a 5-10% change may make a huge difference in how you feel. Set realistic goals so that you can feel accomplished when you reach them. If you are attempting to lose weight, keep in mind that it’s recommended to strive for shedding no more than 1-2 pounds a week. Slow and steady…or rather, focused and consistent wins the race in developing habits that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

4.     Clean Out/Start Fresh

As it reads, if you’re attempting to switch up your diet, then you might as well actually do just that. Not only will cleaning out your kitchen prevent you from feeling tempted by the sugary snacks you’re used to having, but it will support the overall fresh start that you are attempting to give to your health. Donate the foods you don’t want to a food bank, or neighbor. Don’t put them in the bottom of a closet – get them out of the house! Eliminate the possibility of having a crutch, and simply dispose of anything that doesn’t fit into your new lifestyle. This will be HUGELY impactful to making changes that remain consistent, and not just for a phase.

5.     Experiment and have fun!

Finally – the most important of all – have fun! If you find yourself miserable, hating the idea of every new day, you’re definitely doing something terribly wrong. Use the new opportunity to get in touch with yourself – try new things, explore more about yourself and your surroundings. DON’T sit at home on the weekend sulking because you can’t go out with friends due to your new diet…instead, use the opportunity to see if there are any cool restaurants around town where you can enjoy healthy options. Invite friends out for a movie instead of drinks. Experiment in the kitchen – maybe buy a new cookbook and play around with recipes. Whatever you do – take advantage of this time. You’re not just doing a thing, you’re creating a chapter of your life which has the potential to affect the entire rest of the story. Make it your own, be proud of yourself, and enjoy it!

Good luck!

(Sort Of) Summer Soup

I am sure by now you may have caught on to the idea that I’m typically up to something, even when I might not actually be up to anything specific. And if you really know me, then you know despite the vagueness of that statement, it somehow perfectly sums up my journey in discovering the healthy lifestyle that best works for me. The choices I make may not make sense for you, or anyone else, but that’s the fun part – you can always try new things and figure it out along the way.

I recently challenged myself to cut back on fruits, and implement more vegetables, and non-meat protein in my diet. I am used to eating a decently high-protein diet, but I’ve found most of my protein intake comes from eggs, chicken or beef, and my pre/post-workout shakes. There are so many other forms of protein out there, and while I am always a fan of fruit, I wanted to balance out the sugars and carbs from those with some of the important nutrients of yummy veggies.

What better way to do this, I decided, than with a summer-time soup! I know. Soup? In August? In New York City? Yeah, I am a little crazy…and my apartment doesn’t have air conditioning haha but man, was this recipe worth the sweats! I’ve included the details below, with a few additional recommendations/substitution options. The best part? This recipe made enough soup to feed me (by myself) dinner for the next two weeks! I put a container in the fridge for this week, and one in the freezer for next. 🙂

1/2 onion (chopped)
6-8 medium sized carrots
1 quart vegetable broth
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1/2 can or 5-7 peeled crushed tomatoes (w/juice)
2 stalks bok choy
2 cups red lentils
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Saute the chopped onion in olive oil, adding in salt and pepper.

2. Add in the chopped carrots and continue cooking for a few minutes, making sure the vegetables are all coated.

3. In a separate pot, heat vegetable broth. Add in carrots and onions and cook until the carrots begin to soften – about 6-8 minutes.
*If you are not a fan of vegetable broth, or would just prefer avoiding it, you can also just use water!*

4. Add the bok choy, then top with the chopped zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes (I did this backward in my photo, but would recommend adding the bok choy first!). Mix well, so that everything is covered with the broth.
*I used a large stalk of bok choy because that’s what they had at my Farmer’s Market that morning, but would have preferred baby bok. Some ideas other than bok choy include string beans, spinach, or another leafy green*

5. In a separate pan, prepare the lentils. This can be done simply by heating a small amount of olive oil, then tossing the lentils until they are completely coated.
*You can also use mung beans, or another bean instead of lentils*

6. Add the heated lentils to the soup and mix them well. Keep in mind – they will expand a little bit in size!

7. Allow everything to simmer for about 12-15 minutes, or until the vegetables and lentils are tender.

8. Enjoy! 🙂