Q: Do you have any advice for how to eat well and get healthy? It feels so overwhelming sometimes, and I don’t really even know where to start.
First, I’m proud of you for wanting to make a change and start taking better care of your body! You’re right—it can be overwhelming at first, not knowing where to start. So here are ten simple changes that you can start working on right away:
#1: Don’t use food as an escape.
God didn’t make food to fill emotional holes in our hearts or to keep us busy when we’re bored. Eating sweets when we’re upset, browsing the snack cupboard when there’s nothing else to do, and social eating are all unhealthy food escapes. Breaking an emotional eating habit takes determination, and it takes turning to God with your pain instead of to the fridge.
#2: Don’t torture yourself.
I have the willpower of a starving elephant trapped in a field of peanuts. I’d like to think I’m strong and self-controlled and all that, but put me in a house with chocolate-chip cookies or salt-and-vinegar chips, and they’ll be gone before dinner. I know this about myself, so I no longer keep them stocked in the cupboards. Know your limits; then replace the tempting foods with healthy ones. (You might need to solicit your parents’ help on this one. If you tell them your reasons, I’m sure they’ll be happy to help you on your road to healthy eating. They may even join you!)
#3: Eat just enough.
Live by the maxim “Don’t eat until you’re full; just eat until you aren’t hungry anymore.” Most of us are blessed not to have to wonder where we’re going to find food tomorrow. We know that when we next get hungry, there will be food enough. So there’s no point in stuffing yourself at any meal. These two verses are worth memorizing:
A righteous man eats until he is satisfied.
Proverbs 13:25 (HCSB)
Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little. If I’m too full, I might get independent, saying, “God? Who needs him?”
Proverbs 30:8-9, (MSG)
#4: Keep a water bottle with you.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. If you’ve always got water on hand, you’ll not only stay hydrated but also eat less and drink soda less frequently. Bonus points: When you do get stuck without liquid, choose water over juice, sports drinks, or soda.
#5: Just say no.
Discipline yourself to say no to good treats every so often just to remind your body who’s in charge and to practice the fine art of self-control.
#6: Say good-bye to cravings.
The best way to break a cycle of cravings is to reset your palate. How? The only way I’ve found is to just say no to whatever it is you’re craving. Keep saying no, and before you know it, you won’t even be thinking about those cookies!
#7: Plan ahead.
Pack your own lunch and snacks so you don’t have to decide what to eat while you’re hungry and staring at a fast-food menu. The best time to pack your food is right after you’ve eaten breakfast or after dinner the night before, when you aren’t hungry. It’s amazing how much more wisely we choose when our stomach isn’t grumbling!
#8: Stay true to God’s food.
Eat foods as close to the way God made them as possible. I like to call it “original food.” For example, instead of a packaged fruit cup, try an actual piece of fruit, like an apple or peach. Instead of an energy bar, reach for a handful of almonds and raisins. If a food is alive, or was a short time ago, you have a winner. On the other hand, think twice if you can’t pronounce most of the items on the ingredients list.
#9: Find a friend.
You’ll be more motivated and successful and have more fun in this process if you join forces with a friend. Studies show that accountability is a huge factor for success when it comes to just about every positive life change, including healthy eating.
#10: Ask God for help.
Not only should you find human help, you should solicit divine help too! This should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately we often forget that God actually cares about our health and well-being. Ask Him to help you stay disciplined and motivate you to eat right for the right reasons.
To truly look and feel your best, eating right has to be a lifestyle, not a fad you try out for a season and then donate to the Salvation Army. You’ve got to pace yourself. And if you fudge a little every so often, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Tomorrow is a new day!
For the full list of my “10 Tips to Eat Right,” or if you just want to dig deeper into all things beauty and body-image, grab a copy of my book Backwards Beauty: How to Feel Ugly in Ten Simple Steps. I want to help you feel like the beautiful girl you are—and (of course) give you a few good laughs along the way!