Now more than ever, people are starting to realize how important it is to have a well-balanced life. The hectic tempo of life that has been forced on us is making us less attentive to our well-being and our health. We are constantly trying to achieve certain goals, meet the deadlines and impress somebody, whether it’s our boss, colleagues or people closest to us. In all of that mess, we slowly forgot how to take care of ourselves. We don’t put ourselves first anymore, and we should – in order to be of service to others, we need to take care of our needs first.
Luckily, more people are trying to look after themselves in the long term. Our well-being is dependable on our mental clarity and physical health, which are both directly influenced by our nutrition. Achieving a healthy diet throughout our whole life isn’t easy, but far from impossible. You just need a good plan on how to get rid of bad habits and how to stick to good ones.
Challenges of a long-term healthy diet
Achieving long-term goals is not an easy thing to do. However, there are people who manage to do that by breaking those long-term goals into a couple of smaller short-term goals. So, they actually have small chunks of work that they finish in a week or two, and at the end, they have the whole project done and they feel good about themselves.
Good eating habits work the same way – it’s more effective to break the long-term plan on healthy eating into small behaviors that you can concentrate on every single day. To put it simply – you should focus on your lifestyle choices, not on a life-altering, long-term goal.
Eventually, you’ll realize that those little actions that you have been doing on daily basis have slowly turned into habits that you live by. It means that you completed a huge journey by making a lot of small steps.
Issues with short-term restrictive diets
When we hear the word “diet”, most of us think of a restrictive eating regime that bans us from a lot of types of food, strict eating times and military discipline. In the long run, these types of diets have never brought anybody any benefits whatsoever.
Firstly, people find it really difficult and stressful to obey the rules of a specific short-term diet – making yourself quit completely from the food you enjoy is hard.
Secondly, the report that was published in American Psychologist stated that majority of people who were on a strict diet eventually regained their initial weight, and worse – they gained a couple of pounds more.
Thirdly, most short-term diets don’t do any good to our body – they are usually very extreme when it comes to how much and what to eat, which puts big pressure on our organism and could leave you with serious health consequences.
How balanced eating affects our physical and mental health
Nutritional psychiatry has done numerous researches on correlations between our eating habits, our feelings, and behavior, as well as the type of bacteria in our gut. To be more precise, people who take probiotics have much lower anxiety levels, and their mental health and attitude towards stress are improved, compared to people who don’t take probiotics.
Furthermore, there are studies where traditional diets, such as the Mediterranean diet and Japanese diet, were compared to a typical Western diet and the results were astonishing – people who follow any of the traditional diets had a lower risk of depression, even up to 35%. Scientists explain this by the much higher presence of fruits, vegetables, seafood and unprocessed grains in traditional diets, while refined food and sugars (basics of Western diet) are mainly avoided. What’s more, the majority of unprocessed food in traditional diets is rich with natural probiotics.
So, what you should do is to start paying attention to how a certain type of food makes you feel, both physically and mentally, and not just after you have just eaten it, but also the next day. For example, you could try a “clean” diet for a couple of weeks – this means avoiding completely any processed foods and sugar while taking more fermented foods, rich with probiotics, such as pickles, kimchi or kombucha. Another option is to give up on dairy products for 2 or 3 weeks – some people notice they have more energy or they find it easier to digest the food. There are others who realized they feel better when they are on a grain-free diet. In short, experiment a little and always note down how you feel while trying a specific diet. You will find a perfect balance just for you.
Whole foods and healthy alternatives
Whole foods are the basis of a healthy, life-long diet. It means eating unprocessed food or processed as little as possible, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and tubers. Of course, small deviations from time to time are allowed and understandable – eating a dairy product, processed meat or taking a sweet from time to time is harmless and understandable. There are rare people who can completely give up on anything besides whole foods for good. Also, there is the issue of our hectic lives, where we sometimes don’t have the time for our basic needs like enough sleep or catching up with the people close to us. So, it’s understandable we occasionally won’t have time to prepare a healthy meal. Luckily, there are excellent alternatives in those situations, like a high-quality protein for making healthy shakes in the morning to prepare you for a hard-working day.
On the every-day basis, eating whole foods means taking starchy carbohydrates, legumes (like beans, peas and lentils), potatoes, seeds, and nuts, herbs and spices, as well as olive oil. You also need your share of protein every day, so make sure you eat fish at least twice a week, as well as eggs or poultry. Foods for you to indulge yourself, like sugary and salty foods or food high in saturated fat and processed meat, are allowed from time to time, meaning as little as possible.
It’s important to note that every person is specific, and every organism has specific needs. Everybody who is looking for a healthy nutritional path has to find their own way. You need to experiment, to make mistakes and adapt your steps. It is a process, not a one-time event.