Okay, you have now imagined that your diet is completely healthy and delicious, and that you are the best version of yourself. But how do you translate that into real life? Nutritionist and health coach Eveline Keus, plans her life around her meals, loves to cook delicious food and travels the world for inspiration. In this monthly column, she will share her knowledge on how to eat healthy, without having to give up on great taste. And as a bonus, you will find easy recipes that even the most inexperienced cook can master!
Every year we make New Year’s resolutions and more often than not (if not always), they’re about our health. And how likely is it we’ve ditched those good intentions before January is over? Well, we all know the answer to that question: Very! This year, instead of setting the bar unrealistically high, set intentions you can actually stick to and improve your health by making small tweaks in what you eat and how you cook. Not a clue where to start? Well, that’s where I come in: helping you make healthy choices without giving up on tasty food!
“Instead of setting the bar unrealistically high, think of small steps you can take to reach your goals. Set intentions you can actually stick to”
To be honest, setting New Year’s resolutions has been something I’ve intentionally skipped on every year over the past decade. I mean, why bother? I’m not doing it anyway. But times have changed and instead of dwelling on my previously failed attempts to live my best life, last year, I started a new tradition: Instead of making resolutions, I decided to write down goals for this upcoming year. Why? A goal is something you can actively work towards. Plus, they are less flexible and easier to stick to. Sounds simple right? Well, we all know it isn’t.
Research shows that 80% of the people who set intentions for the new year, already ditch them after just two weeks. But why is it so hard to stick to living a healthier lifestyle? Let me explain why most people have so much trouble sticking to their goals.
Science tells us we have created certain patterns in our brain; they have formed over the years. Changing a long-lasting habit is as difficult as crossing the ocean in an egg shell, and what is most needed is the formation of a new, more desired habit. Once our brain will have that new alternative – which has been practised over time – it will eventually trust and automate this new behaviour.
It takes about 60 days to learn a new pattern. So, the fact that you have been giving in to your unhealthy habits for months, maybe even years, eating that piece of chocolate, drinking that extra glass of wine, and maybe went crazy on one too many cheese platter’s – in my mind I’m already walking towards my fridge again – isn’t entirely your fault. In fact, it explains why it is so hard to rewire your brain: It has become a stubborn pattern. Though it is possible to make a new pattern, this process takes time and most of all, discipline: It requires some action on your front. And even though at times it seems impossible to leave the sweets and chocolates for what they are, you actually can do this. I promise.
To take the example of eating sugary foods. Your brain is wired to feel great all the time. Sugar takes easy care of that, it’s a quick fix. Usually only short term though, which leads to you wanting and eating more and more. You know, walking back to the same cabinet, opening it, closing it again and repeat 15 minutes later. You know you shouldn’t, though you keep convincing yourself that “this is the last one.”
We all know sugar is bad for us, but what many of us don’t realise is that long term overeating on sugary food can result in all kinds of misery. Some things you might already notice, others will pop up as you get older. You feel unhappy, your cravings become more frequent, your brain and memory aren’t what they used to be, you start feeling more and more insecure and maybe even become overweight. Is that daily brownie really worth it?
Truth be told, we all fail from time to time when realising our goals. It is easy to fall back into old patterns, especially when it comes to food. Even I fall for this every now and then. Especially during the past holiday season, I allowed myself to enjoy all the ‘good foods.’ I lost quite some weight this past year, so I felt that I deserved a break. However, we are half way into January and I’m still talking myself into deserving that piece of chocolate every single day. So, I am back to focussing on what my body needs. No sugar for at least 10 days. Yes, that does mean I still eat fruit, but no unnatural sugars. No cookies, no brownies, no caramel in my coffee. Because I know that if I can manage to do this for 10 days, my brain will stop asking for it.
The most important thing you can do is to recognise that failure is not a disaster, but a lesson that pushes you to keep going. It only takes 60 days to make a completely new pattern in your brain. So, give yourself that time for all your New Years resolutions. My advice is to write down your goals, focus, and live your happy healthy life to the fullest!
To help you get started here is one of my favourite recipes at the moment: a green wintery soup. Stir in a cooking pan a sliced onion and a clove of garlic with some oil. Add 2 handfuls each of spinach and kale and stir in 300gr of (frozen) peas. Add some chilli flakes if you like. Pour over 500 ml of vegetable stock and boil for 5 min. Then put everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Add water if the soup is too thick. Pour into a bowl season to taste and add your favourite toppings, like pumpkinseeds, pickled onions or a spoon of yoghurt and enjoy!
Find out more about the author and how to improve your lifestyle at healthyhabitsbyeveline.nl