ditching the diet mentality (+ 6 tips to help you do it!)

The diet mentality is something that we see all around us every day. The magazines at the checkout stand with headlines like “Lose 10 lbs in a week with _____ diet!” and “___ lost 50 lbs fast with _____ diet!!” It seems like there is always a new hot diet that is just the perfect fix to help you lose all the weight and you don’t even have to work out! We are inundated with these messages, so it’s no wonder that many of us have an unhealthy relationship with the word “diet.”

Ditching the diet mentality can be hard, but you can do it! These 6 tips helped me to develop a lifestyle that included healthy eating instead of "going on a diet"!

First appearing in the 13th century, the word diet is defined as “food or drink regularly provided or consumed” (Merriam-Webster). But that is not the way that many of us think of that word now. Instead, when we hear the word diet, we think of whatever fad diet has hit the shelves lately or cycles of restrictive eating. For many of us, this word may even bring on stress, anxiety or guilt. I know it did for me.

In my late teens up to my mid-20s, that was me. I would try a restrictive diet, only to fall off the wagon shortly after, binge, and then feel guilty….which would end up with me binging more. The only “diet” that I had much success with was calorie counting. But because I didn’t really have an understanding of what I was doing, it was overly restrictive and stressful. I was miserable and very hungry, all the time. I did lose some weight, but in the end the high level of restriction was too much for me and I stopped, gaining all the weight back plus some extra!

Does this story sound familiar? I imagine it does, because I know many others that have been through the exact same thing. Many people cycle through periods of restrictive dieting for years with these results. They feel the guilt, shame and stress of “failing” at their diet, of not being able to lose the weight and keep it off. Much of this, to me, seems to stem from how we view our diets.

In today’s diet mentality, diets are temporary. They are viewed as the quick fix or magic pill for weight loss. The diet industry is a billion dollar industry for a reason. People will go on a diet to “lose the weight” but for many, that is as far ahead as they think about it. So the diet works (for the moment), they lose the weight, stop the diet because they have succeeded at their goal, and then they gain the weight back.

And that is even if they get to the point of losing the weight to begin with! If they don’t lose the weight quickly, they inevitably become frustrated with the diet “not working” and being too restrictive and they give up. Either way, it’s unhealthy, both physically and mentally. It promotes disordered eating habits and in many cases, associates negative emotions with food. This was something I struggled with a lot in my younger years.

Even now I still sometimes struggle with guilt and stress about eating healthy. It’s better than it was, but it’s still present sometimes. The difference is that I now recognize it and I don’t let it throw me off track anymore. Yes, maybe I shouldn’t have eaten quite as much of that treat as I did. But I did, and now I’m going to go back to eating like I normally do. One unhealthy meal does not you have failed.

So what do I do differently now? Well, for one, I don’t view myself as on a diet. I do watch what I eat, and I don’t just eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I work to make smart choices and to find healthy alternatives to unhealthy foods. But I also have a cheat meal each week (gotta have some pizza!) and I still eat foods I love. But to me, it’s not a diet in the modern use of the word. It’s a lifestyle. It’s just how I eat. And that change in perspective has helped me a lot when it comes to staying on track and eating healthy for over a year now.

Healthy eating as a lifestyle takes work and practice, along with a healthy dose of understanding towards yourself. I spend time every week planning out my meal plan and making my meal prep. And now I’m actually adding to that and starting to track my macros and planning my meal preps accordingly. (More on If It Fits Your Macros, or IIFYM, later on!)

So what can you do to shift away from the diet mentality and start looking at healthy eating as a lifestyle?

6 Tips to Ditching the Diet Mentality

  • Make it sustainable. Along with being unsustainable long-term, heavy calorie restriction and cutting out foods entirely can be unhealthy in many cases. Restricting your calorie intake too much can wreak havoc with your metabolism. And cutting out foods you love is not going to work for the rest of your life!
  • Don’t forget to have fun! You aren’t “on a diet,” which means that you can still go out with friends for drinks or dinner or have that treat if you want to. And it’s fine to enjoy the food at a family gathering for the holidays! Just make smart choices about it and remember that you probably don’t want to be doing that every day.
  • Moderation is key. Love Reese’s? (Can you tell that I do!?) You can still have them! Just moderate how much of them you have and how often. Whatever your favorite treat or food is, you can still have it, just in moderation.
  • Plan. Planning is key to success for me. It is very hard to eat healthy on a busy schedule when you haven’t planned for it! There are too many quick and easy options out there that are unhealthy, like fast food.
  • Have cheat meals. Okay, I actually dislike this term, but it is the easiest term for it. You can plan for unhealthy or “cheat” meals during your week. I have one a week. And even if you have one that isn’t planned for, remember that it doesn’t mean you failed! You can’t fail at this….you will be doing it for the rest of your life! One meal or even a week of meals isn’t going to be that big of a deal in the long run. Just start eating healthy again! (And you don’t need to wait for a Monday to start either 🙂 )
  • Food is not a reward. This is one of the most important shifts for me. When I was still back in the diet mentality, food was a reward. If I did well on my diet for a while, I deserved a treat! This is not a healthy attitude to have any more than the guilt was. Yes I love my treats and I do still have them. But it is because I want one, not because I did something to deserve it. Instead, I reward myself in other ways with non-food things, like workout gear!

Eating healthy as a lifestyle takes some time and work to establish, but it is well worth it in the end! And I can promise you, it is less stressful and guilt-inducing than any diet I ever tried!

How do you view the word “diet”? Have you had positive or negative experiences with a diet? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below!

Create a positive mindset and overcome your negativity

Frame of mind can be a powerful thing. Our thoughts alone can lift us up or drag us down, sometimes both within the same day. But we don’t have to be powerless to our thoughts and emotions. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t mean that you will never have a negative or doubting thought…but it does mean that you can learn to recognize them, deal with them and slowly start to counteract them.

Before I get going, I want to make this clear: Clinical depression is very real. Help from doctors and medications are very important. I am not talking about that here. I am not stating in any way that you can defeat depression through the power of positive thinking, or any other such nonsense. At different points in my life I have been in therapy and on anti-depressants, among other things. Medication is nothing to be ashamed of or ignored.

If that particular topic is something you would like to me to write more on, I can. But that is not the topic I am covering today. Today, I’m talking about everyday negativity and the issues surrounding it.

I’ve struggled with negative thoughts, self-image and defeating thoughts for most of my life. While these were particularly difficult to deal with at points and very damaging, I had a situation a few years ago that really caused me to feel lost, detached and overwhelmed with negativity.
set-positive-mindset
Past me was overwhelmed by negative thoughts and self-image, even during a once in a lifetime opportunity
I’m going to talk about something today that I’ve never talked about on here before. If it starts to feel too personal, feel free to skip this post and catch the next one! But I feel that it’s important to give some background into what started me on this journey and lead me to the life and the mindset that I have today. There some events in life that can really shape a person and how they view the world. One of those is divorce.
That’s right. I’ve been through a divorce. I’ve thought about talking about my experiences on here before, but it’s difficult. And very personal. Now, I’m not going to get into the details of my marriage, or my divorce. But it’s important to understand that my separation, my suddenly being single, really lead to that dark time period in my life. I had never been single or alone as an adult, having started dating my ex-husband in high school. We were together for 9 years. I was about to graduate college when we separated. All of my plans, goals and a lot of my support system fell away and I was left….stranded. My remaining friends and family were supportive, but didn’t really understand why I was having such a hard time adjusting to my new, single life.
I felt swallowed by the negative thoughts. My self-image had never been lower. It took almost a year and hurting a few people I really cared about before I realized just what that negative mindset was doing to me. And that’s when I realized that I needed to make some major changes in my life, a few of which are what I want to talk about today. Before I could make a lot of those changes though, I had to learn how to recognize when I was being negative towards myself and some of the particular activities that would trigger those thoughts more than others. I started to avoid those activities where I could, which helped.
Change and progress was slow. It was hard. It still is sometimes. But there are some things that I have found to help a lot.

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My Top 5 Tips for Setting Mindset and Increasing Productivity

I have this ideal in my mind….I sit down in my beautiful clean office at my nice, cleared off desk and just write. Everything flows, there are no starts and stops, no writing and then erasing, just wonderfully composed words on my screen. It’s easy. This scene is not reality. Not even close.

In reality, my office is a corner of my living room, my desk is never really cleared off (and is a bit too small overall) and the words rarely flow smoothly into the keys. And that’s ok. Even if someday I have that beatifiul office and big, cleared off desk, the words probably won’t just come to me. Writing is work for me. Enjoyable, most of the time, but work. This is probably a lot of people’s reality, not just mine.

So the question becomes “How do I make this easier? How do I get as close to that ideal as possible?” Because while I have a lot of things I do as a blogger, writing is a pretty big part of it! I can’t have this blog and get to interact with all of you without actually writing the content!

So you might be asking at this point “How does this apply to me?” Especially if you aren’t a blogger or writer! Well, maybe it doesn’t…but I think that most of us have some sort of task that we struggle with and I believe that most of these tips work for a variety of tasks! And I think most of us can agree that there is a lot of satisfaction and pleasure in finishing a day feeling like you were super-productive! I know I love that feeling and these are tips I’ve been using since college (WAY longer ago than I would like to admit!) to achieve just that feeling! They have helped me through a lot of different types of tasks.

 We all love that feeling of being super-productive and getting stuff done! These are my top 5 tips for increasing your productivity and setting your mindset! I use these all the time and they really help me get things done!
Top 5 Tips for Setting Mindset and Increasing Productivity
  • Use music to set your mind – This is a trick I’ve used for year, first in college for studying and now on the blog for writing. Pick a style of music that isn’t distracting to you and put that on every time that you work on that task. I love soundtracks, since they are instrumental and usually pretty uplifting! Only put that music on when you are working on that particular task. It takes time, but after a while you may find that putting on that music actually helps you focus and start working!
  • Declutter your workspace – I still struggle with this one on a regular basis! I am great at adding to my desk or workspace without even realizing it. Then suddenly I barely have room to work! But I know that when my space is cleared off I work better and am less distracted.
  • Turn off your notifications, phone, etc – This one is pretty obvious, but still needs to be said. It takes 20 min (Check for research source to back this up) to get into the “zone” and only takes checking one notification to pull you out of it. This can really mess up your productivity and make it harder to focus!
  • Don’t multi-task – This is one that has taken me the longest to figure out. When I started this blog I wrote most of my posts while sitting in my comfy chair with the TV on. I didn’t have a workspace set up and figured that since I always picked a show I knew really well it didn’t matter. I was wrong. It took me so long to write anything and the quality was probably lower than it should be. I will say, this one is mostly for things like writing, researching, correspondence, things like that. I do some of my more time-consuming creative stuff in front of the TV and it works fine!
  • Pick a day or time of day to work – This is probably one of the hardest for me and doesn’t always get followed, but when you can it helps a lot. I writing most of my posts on Wednesday nights. I’m also adding in a few other times throughout the week, but I know it’s easier for me to get in “writing mode” when I sit down on Wednesday because that’s when I always write.

I will admit, I’m better at some of these than others! Clutter and attempting to multi-task are my weak points and things I am constantly reminding myself about. I hope these tips can help you in being more productive and setting your mindset to what you need to work on!

Bonus tip! Make sure to schedule short breaks into your tasks. This Research News Post from talks about a research study showing improved focus due to short breaks during a 50 minute task. And it’s definitely not the only study out there! There are lots of studies showing that trying to focus too long on one task can decrease your focus and productivity.

Did I miss a technique you use to increase your productivity? Or maybe gave you a new one to try? I love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below!

 

Sara

Meal Prep 101: My Top Tricks and Tips to Make it Easier and Why I Love Meal Prepping!

With the new year upon us, many of us are motivated to try out new things to improve our lives. For me last year, it was meal prepping! I started out 2015 hopeful…but frustrated. I loved cooking good and healthy (or healthyish) meals for Draz and myself, but too often we would get home from work exhausted and reaching for quick and easy dishes like pasta or pre-made convenience foods like frozen pizza. I had tried planning out menus for us, but a lot of times this just ended up with some of the meals made and the rest thrown out after it went bad. This was definitely not the lifestyle I wanted for us.

I had started getting into reading blogs the year before and had seen some of them talk about meal prepping. I knew that this could be an option to help us get on track. I jumped right in…which definitely lead to some mistakes and some exhausting days in the kitchen. But there has been a lot of learning this year! 🙂 Now I want to share what I have learned with you, so here is my meal prep 101 to get you started!

Busy lives can making eating healthy stressful! But it doesn't have to be that way! Meal prep can be your solution to simplifying your life and still eating healthy, tasty meals every day! To help you along the way, here are my top tips and tricks I learned through over a year of weekly meal prep!!

Reasons to Meal Prep:

  1. Convenient. Yes, there is a time-investment, both on the day you plan and the day you prep. But that time is much less than cooking each meal fresh when you eat it!
  2. Healthier. If desired, you can make sure that eat food you prep is healthy, or in line with your desired diet. When you already have delicious, healthy food made, it lessens the temptation to go with frozen pizza!
  3. Saves money. You can prepare your grocery list based on your meal prepping menu. This saves so much! Not only does this lessen impulse buys when you are doing your grocery shopping, it also helps prevent those “Oh no, we are out of this ingredient I need for dinner!” trips to the store!
  4. Lowers stress. Ok, this might just be me, but the whole “What’s for dinner?” thing can be stressful. I have enough going on that I don’t want to worry about what I want to eat, how long it takes to cook, etc. And I don’t even have kids! I know there are tons of people out there that are busier than me, meaning that they would benefit even more!
  5. Healthier. Yup, I needed to say this one again! Meal prepping has made such a huge difference on my fitness journey! Quite possibly more than any other individual thing.

Getting Started:

  1. Plan, plan, plan. Set aside some time prior to the day you plan on prepping to make your grocery list and plan out how much food you will need for the week. Also take this time to decide what meals and/or snacks you are prepping. I use Wednesday of each week to lay out my recipes, check what ingredients I currently have, and write my grocery list. I like doing this a few days prior to actual shopping, so if I forgot anything I have a few days to think about it.
  2. Containers. Check how many containers you currently have and will need on average. It is incredibly frustrating to finish cooking and then be scrambling to figure out how to put it away. My favorites are mason jars for my salads and Pyrex!mason-jar-salads-food-prep
  3. Space. Along that same line, make sure you have enough room in your fridge and freezer to put your food away!
  4. Time. Plan for more time than you think you will need. This is especially true for the first couple months that you are prepping. The first few times I prepped I felt like I had spent the whole day in the kitchen and was exhausted! But even then it was well worth it. Now, even with prepping all of our meals and snacks, it only takes 4-6 active hours, and sometimes only 2-3. (Please, please keep in mind I prep a lot of food. You don’t have to spend nearly that long!)

Tips and Tricks:

  1. Batch process your veggies! If you have a bunch of veggies needed for different dishes, cut them all up at the same time! This cuts time getting supplies out repeatedly.food-prep-behind-the-scenes
  2. Know how your food is being cooked! I suggest varying cooking methods. Having everything needing to be in the oven or on the stove is difficult. And once I planned for 3 dishes needing a slow cooker! Granted, I have two, but this was still an unexpected difficulty. Now I try to pick a variety of cooking methods each week.
  3. Multi-task! While something is simmering you can be chopping veggies. The same rule goes for just about anything else. That being said, pace yourself. It can be very stressful if you try to do too many dishes at once.vegetable-food-prep-process
  4. Clean as you go! This is especially true if you are planning a longer prep session. I usually find 2 points while I’m cooking that are good “pause points” that I can use to clean up, load and start the dishwasher, handwash things, etc. This makes things so much easier and less stressful! I will admit, this took me a few months to figure out and a few more to put into regular practice!

 

Just a few of my meal preps over the last year!

Do you meal prep or are you just starting? If you do, what is your favorite thing or part of prepping? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me a comment below!

Sara (1)