TW: The following blog talks about healthy eating and may not be suitable for those struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating.
Oftentimes, when trying to better our mental health, the common suggestion is to eat healthy. If you read my previous blog, I spoke about the difficulties and conflicts of changing your lifestyle while battling mental illness. It can be demotivating to want change since it requires big actions like exercising daily, eating healthy, and being mindful. If we take the advice listed as what they are, it is easy to feel defeated and more hopeless when our mental illness doesn’t allow us to accomplish even the smallest goals with ease.
Lifelong change starts with small steps. The smaller the better. It may not feel like you’re moving very far or very fast, but remember, these steps add up. As mentioned in my previous blog, there is power in one degree turns. So here are some small but powerful steps for the big goal of eating healthy. I recommend choosing one step to focus on for a month or two and then slowly adding more, or simply doing these small steps whenever you can. If your goal isn’t healthy eating, try using this as an example of breaking down your big goals into small but mighty steps.
A good start to a healthy diet is drinking more water. Here are some small changes to make with water (pro tip: try to connect these goals to an existing part of your current routine) :
- Start each day with a glass of water
- An example of connecting it to an existing action in your routine would be to drink a glass right upon waking up or after brushing your teeth or after your shower or before you leave the house
- Bonus: add a slice of lemon to the water (pro tip: cut lemon slices ahead of time and leave in fridge for easy access)
- Fill up a water bottle everyday and carry it with you wherever you go
- Drink water with every meal (cutting out soda, juice, alcoholic beverages)
Snacks may seem like the smallest part of your diet but small change is what we’re looking for. Small change can be more impactful than big change, especially in the long run because it is easier to maintain small change over a longer period of time. It’s better to do one small positive thing consistently for a month than one big positive change for a week.
- Grocery shop for lightly salted chips or veggie chips instead of the regular kind
- Reach for hummus and radish/carrots/pita/celery or nuts
- Choose sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes or fries when you can
- Start eating your current savoury snacks in a moderate sized bowl instead of the box or bag they come in
- Reach for a fruit instead of a sweet snack in the afternoon/once a day
- Have fresh fruit washed and ready to eat in the fridge at the beginning of the week
- Switch to dark chocolate
- When grocery shopping, compare sugar content to make decisions
- Use the nutrition label to check how much sugar per cup or serving (but double check how big one serving is)
- Replace current sweets with:
- Almond butter and apple slices
- Almond butter and banana sandwiches
- Homemade granola
- Rice cake, almond butter and raspberries
- Frozen banana dipped in dark chocolate/almond butter
(If you can’t tell already, I love almond butter)
Now, small changes for big meals like breakfast, lunch, and dinner:
- Try whole wheat instead of white bread
- Bonus: choose whole wheat bread where the first ingredient listed is whole wheat
- Just try to add colour to each meal
- Brown bland cereal? Add one or two blueberries
- Normal potatoes? Choose sweet potatoes
- Add your favourite vegetable to every dinner
- Love cherry tomatoes? Add a small bowl every dinner
- Again, choose water as your beverage
- Before reaching for seconds, wait 5 minutes
- At the grocery store, choose lean meat or chicken breast
Taking one little step every day or once a week to achieve your overall goal can help you feel really good and boost your self esteem. Trying to better yourself everyday and reaching for big goals can become taxing. So, notice how you feel after making a small change. Moving forward, no matter how small, can feel much better than being stagnant. If the habits get forgotten after one week, try adding the smallest one again. And let’s try to never underestimate small victories, small steps, and small changes. Let’s enjoy the journey by savouring each small step!
If this sparked the desire to talk to someone to organize your thoughts or to vent, book an appointment at Vent Over Tea.