This is a guest post by Jennifer Shriver

Most of us feel we could be healthier eaters, whether it’s prompted by summer coming, holidays ending, or just wanting to better ourselves. The biggest problem a lot of us face is we do it all at once instead of easing into it and then it just becomes a burden to us.

If we take baby steps towards a healthy diet, it will be a lot more beneficial to make and keep good eating habits. It will seem like a slower process, but it will be a more lasting result.

In light of that, and from my own experiences, I have come up with six simple rules to make a healthy diet last, and at the same time keep you happier.

  1. Take away one food at a time: if you’re a heavy soda drinker, cut back until you quit. If you’re a heavy candy eater, cut back until you quit. Don’t say I have to completely quit everything right now. Take the time to make it a habit. Take one thing away at a time until you are comfortable with where you are.
  2. Add 5-10 minutes a day of exercise: don’t jump right in and say you’re going to work out an hour a day when you haven’t worked out in over a year. You’ll get two weeks into it and be ready to quit – just like the New Year’s Resolution people that buy a gym membership and only make it through January. Start with 5-10 minutes of something at least semi-enjoyable. When that becomes comfortable, add another 5-10 minutes and gradually increase the intensity. Again, make it a habit slowly instead of a fad that’s going to go away.
  3. Don’t make yourself miserable: if you go out – enjoy yourself. If that means having that margarita or slice of chocolate cake, so be it. Healthy eating doesn’t mean extreme deprivation. If you go out and all you can think is you can’t have what you want, you won’t enjoy yourself and you’ll revert back anyways.
  4. Plan ahead: plan meals at least a couple of days in advance, if not a week or two. When you have a plan of what to eat, it is easier to stick to it instead of saying, “Pizza sounds good and is quick and easy.” By planning, and having the ingredients, you should have time for what was planned. Having a plan makes it easier to stick to healthy eating and makes you less interested in unhealthy fare.
  5. Get a healthy eating “buddy”: Have a friend or your spouse or your parents or your kids or a coworker or anyone else work with you. Help them cut out soda while you cut out cake. Work out together. Plan meals together. Go out together where there will be no temptation.
  6. Be you!: Don’t let healthy eating change who you are – don’t let it change your life completely. I stopped letting my diet define me and let myself slowly get into good habits. It’s refreshing and freeing to not have to worry about dieting all the time. I feel good about myself now and don’t feel like I’m working hard at it.

I’ve tried all kinds of diets; gluten free, paleo, vegetarian, low calorie, low carb, low fat, high protein and I’ve given up on all of them.  Now, I eat what I want and I want things that are good for me. I cut out the “bad” things slowly and find myself rarely wanting them at all anymore because I’ve replaced them with healthier alternatives.

Same with exercising.  I work out now because I want to – it’s become a habit and I feel better when I do it.

We all want to be healthy but it has become so difficult in our go, go, go lives. Being healthy should never be a chore, it should be a part of you, who you are. All it takes is that decision to start changing the bad habits and making them good ones.  One step at a time, and you can be a healthier, happier you.

Jennifer is a wife, a mother, a coach, a dog lover, an accountant, a runner, and an adventurer.

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