3 Small positive changes that will improve your diet

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Moving through the first week of January and into a new year, all of the conversation is around resolutions, how and why to make them and why we mostly fail! We talked previously about how to make your self-talk positive and supportive of your eating pattern and health. Following on from this, our encouragement now and indeed at any time is to make small changes in your diet that will help build strong nutritional foundations towards improving your health. Small changes, that allow a nudge toward a modification in your behaviour, which are often easier to do consistently and will in the longer-term give better results.

 

Focus on the Positive!

Thinking positively can improve wellbeing, as it strengthens our ability to define and achieve goals or changes (1). A more positive approach, influences our perceived control over outcomes, resulting in a higher sense of wellbeing (2). As it’s often easier to achieve success with smaller changes, this in turn can result in greater positive emotions and an increase in motivation to continue and possibly even take on more changes.

Reframing the changes we are striving for, to a more positive approach like “I want to eat better to have more energy” is more motivating to us as individuals. While we may at times fail to achieve a positive goal or make a change, it can be viewed as an indication that while we may have failed, at least we are still on the right path towards a healthier change.

 

Consider these Positive Changes in your eating pattern.

Here we invite you to consider three positive changes to your eating pattern. While these are all small changes, they have the capacity to influence your eating pattern.

1. Be inclusive rather than excluding what you eat!

Think in terms of what you can add to your plate at each meal, rather than what you are removing. Adding a healthier option to your plate is of more benefit than, for example, removing a food group, which can have a significant impact on health in the longer term(3).

Some examples of this are: “What fruit or vegetables can I add to this plate that will bring colour, variety and added nutrients to this meal?” At breakfast, “could I add a handful of berries or chopped banana to my porridge, cereal or smoothie? Could I also add some milled seeds or nuts? Could I add some salad, chopped tomatoes, peppers or cucumber to my lunch or dinner plate?” All of which, increase the nutritional content of the meal.

 

2. Embrace and be aware of what is on your plate and how you speak to yourself about the foods available to you.

Become aware of the critical voices that admonish your meals – you know that voice that says this should be healthier. Many of us consciously or subconsciously label our foods as “good” or “bad”. This sets us up for a destructive cycle of behaviour of restricting and overeating/binging.

When we have food on a pedestal, we fear it and counterproductively think about it more than, if we just labelled it as food. The result might be that you want the food even more, you struggle to be present when eating and you notice feelings of guilt and shame when we eat it. Over time as you drop the labels, you become more in tune with how much of a particular food you really want to satisfy your needs.

 

3. Allowing yourself time to eat.

Food is a source of fuel for your body, providing the energy and nourishment required for it to function. It can take your brain up to 20 minutes to register that you are full. Hence, it’s important to take time when we eat, allowing time to chew properly rather than gulping down where we can swallow air, causing problems in the gut.

Taking time to chew can also influence our satiety and how much we eat (4), and it provides time to listen to your body for the following cues:

– How does it taste?

– Is it filling me up?

– Is it providing what my body needs?

 

Focus on the positive of the bigger picture…..

We all have busy lives and there are often times when we have had to eat on the go. Rather than indulge in the guilt of eating something that is not as healthy as we would like. We suggest that you focus on the bigger picture of what you eat over the day, rather than that one meal.

Each meal is an opportunity to provide the nutrients that our bodies need, enabling us to achieve what we need each day. Consider your intake over the day rather than each meal – if you didn’t manage to have the breakfast you had planned, then try in the next meals for example, to increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and fibre, so that overall for the day there is a balance.

Taking a more positive approach to our eating pattern and the changes we can make, provides us with a greater opportunity to succeed and increase our overall well being. It’s about having a mindset that motivates us to continue, especially on the days when we slip. A mindset that realises that we are on a journey and it’s more important to stay on the right track rather than finish the race faster!

References:

  1. Macleod, Andrew & Coates, Emma & Hetherton, Jacquie. (2008). Increasing well-being through teaching goal-setting and planning skills: Results of a brief intervention. Journal of Happiness Studies. 9. 185-196.
  2. Vincent, Paula. J., P. Pradeep Boddana, and Andrew K. MacLeod. (2004). Positive Life Goals and Plans in Parasuicide. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy 11:90-99.
  3. Oh R, Gilani B, Uppaluri KR. Low Carbohydrate Diet. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing, Treasure Island (FL); 2021.
  4. Hollis, J., 2018. The effect of mastication on food intake, satiety and body weight. Physiology & Behavior, 193.