Making diet or lifestyle changes is no easy task. Habits can be hard to break, and living in a fast-paced and stressed-out culture can drain you and make staying focused on your positive changes more difficult. I have so many people ask me for advice on how to actually make these changes and stick to them. After years of failed attempts at changing my lifestyle, the success I’ve found now was made possible through a few key attitudes and consistencies. I’d like to share some of these with all of you, with hope that these ideas may help you find success, too.
1) Start Slowly
You don’t need to make all the changes overnight. You can find success even when you take it slowly! I’ve found that when I try to make too many changes at once, it’s hard to stay very committed to any of them. But, when you incorporate one or two small changes at a time, it becomes a lot easier to stay consistent.
Over time, you will notice that these changes become new habits and your old, destructive habits have left you. Then, you can re-evaluate what changes you need to focus on now as you continue to progress towards your goals.
2) Enjoy Yourself
Change is hard enough without making it an unpleasant experience for yourself. You’ll find a lot more success when you allow yourself to enjoy the changes you’re making. If you’re not ready to cut something out yet, don’t (unless it’s absolutely necessary for health reasons – in this situation, your health should really come before your taste buds). I’m the first person to admit that, despite all the great changes I’ve made and will continue to make, I also allow myself to indulge when I feel it is necessary.
Some people might argue that allowing yourself to indulge will make it more difficult to cut out entirely eventually. I disagree. I’ve found that over time I indulge myself less and less because I don’t have the cravings or needs for these foods anymore. For example, at first it was very difficult to cut out chicken, so I continued eating it whenever I really felt I needed it. Eating chicken once every two weeks slowly turned into once a month, which turned into even less often. Now, I don’t find myself wanting or craving it at all anymore and I don’t eat it.
3) Be Good to Yourself
Remember that slow progress is better than no progress: instead of beating yourself up or feeling bad about changes you’re not ready to make, or slips that may happen along the way, feel good about the changes you are making! A negative attitude will hamper your success, but an open mind and a kind spirit, especially towards yourself, will strengthen your momentum despite whether or not you’re doing everything perfectly.
Reading is essential to combating ignorance and all of the diseases (both of the mind and of the body) associated with a closed mind and lack of knowledge. A very wise and successful person once told me that who you are and where you are at in life are based on two things: the people you surround yourself with, and the books you read.
George Ohsawa used to read a book a day. I read a lot – not a book a day yet – but I make time for it every single day. This includes reading from books as well as researching online sources. I aim to spend at least 2 hours a day reading. It’s impossible to make reading a daily habit and not see continuous personal growth.
Pick up some Macrobiotic books and start reading them (see the Macrobiotic Book List). Even if you don’t begin incorporating everything you read about, you’re still building a solid foundation of knowledge and wisdom within yourself for a future of health and wellness. I remember when I first began reading the macrobiotic books – the information was very new to me. Looking at the ‘suggested pantry’ section of ingredients and tools to have on hand was a bit overwhelming at first, because most of the things on the lists were very new to me. Three months later, however, when I re-read each of the books, it was a very different story: suddenly, everything that had once been foreign and intimidating in those books was comfortable and familiar. Thus, reading is also a great tool to gauge progress.
Tips to Get You Started:
– The first change I suggest to people is to incorporate 1 cup of a whole grain every day. Don’t cut anything out; don’t avoid anything else if you’re not ready to. Just eat an extra portion of whole grains every single day (brown rice, millet, etc.). Try this for three or four weeks. By that time, and probably sooner, you’ll already be ready to take things further yourself.
– Keep chewing in mind: chew each mouthful at least 50 times. I get a lot of shocked reactions when I talk about this but there’s really no reason to be so alarmed. The research into proper mastication as part of the digestive process is great, and I intend to write an article all about chewing one day soon. It will help clear up your skin, it will help clear up any gastro-intestinal issues you may have (including excess gas), and it will allow you to taste the difference between good, whole foods and lesser-quality, processed foods in ways you probably can’t yet imagine.
– Begin buying local, organic produce. Local because it helps you stick to what’s in season, avoids high transportation costs, and is better for both our environment and our local farming communities. Organic because anything non-organic is coated in pesticides and other harmful chemicals that we don’t want to put into our bodies. Also, as GMO foods become more and more prevalent, buying organic ensures you will not eat anything GMO (coupled with avoiding processed, packaged foods). Organic foods isn’t as expensive to buy as some people think – in fact, we spend considerably less buying all organic food than we used to before we switched to organic. If this is an issue for you, feel free to e-mail me with your questions or concerns. I may be able to help!
– If you continue to eat meat, eggs, or dairy, always choose products which are organic, free-range, and free of any kind of antibiotic or hormone. Yes, the price will be higher: this is a wonderful opportunity to cut back on your consumption of these calorie-dense animal foods.
– Try to cook home-made meals from real ingredients rather than going out for meals or using pre-packaged ingredients. A good place to start is learning how to make your own soups!
– Try cooking one complete, balanced macrobiotic meal at an interval to start (e.g. every week or every two weeks). This way, you start getting used to the preparation and cooking techniques, as well as planning for balanced menus.
These changes really are quite easy to make with a little bit of patience and commitment. They will help you build momentum, ensuring that your future changes build progressively on all the work you’ve already put in. Everything in life is better when you enjoy it, so make this experience enjoyable for yourself!
Best of luck to all of you on your journey to health and happiness.