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  • Writer's pictureSandhya Gokal

6 ways to kick start your healthy eating journey

Remember the first time you tried to change your eating habits? 

It was kind of like playing a game with no rule book, no instruction guide, no helpful little animated character holding a light up in front of you to let you know which was the next step to take. 

I felt like that the first time I played Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time.

My friend told me it was the greatest version of Zelda yet. To this day, I hear the same thing.

To me, it is the game I stopped playing because I couldn’t get past the tree in the first hour of the game. 

I tried. I truly did. I jumped, attacked, died, tried flying, everything I could think of.

But because it was my first time playing Zelda, and this was a time before you could stream Twitch and google game guides and magically learn exactly what to do, I quit. 

The same thing tends to happen with a healthy eating journey.

You go in with high hopes, and with a fridge and pantry full of healthy foods and a vague idea of what your journey is going to look like. You research recipes, determined to cook new foods everyday that incorporate 5 vegetables each. You may even glance with interest at foods in the fresh food section that you have never seen before! 

But inevitably, without a proper guide, no clear rules and a fog obscuring the obstacles ahead, you are highly likely to quit the game. 

But fear not! Below, I've outlined 6 clear steps to kickstart your healthy eating adventure, with specific challenges to experiment with. 

The 6 steps

Step 1. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake. 

Smallest iteration: Add 1 extra vegetable to each meal, and 1 extra fruit to your daily intake. Choose fruits and vegetables that you are familiar with and enjoy, and are able to cook with easily. 

Some suggestions:

  • Spinach is easily cooked on the pan with butter and salt. 

  • Pumpkin - great roasted in thin slices or wedges with cumin, paprika, salt and cinnamon. Great to add to eggs, make soup and eat as a side to any meal.

  • Carrots - great eaten raw, with dips, in salads and in sandwiches. Try changing the shape! Sticks, slices and grated - all give different textural experiences

Step 2: Go from zero to one

We actually had this car, and I loved accelerating hard in it!

Instead of revving from 0-100, start by adding in 1 day of completely healthy eating, then increase the number of consecutive days you eat completely healthy

Smallest iteration: In order to become a healthy eater, we want to increase the proportion of healthy days to less healthy days. Aim for 2 healthy days followed by 1 less healthy day.

Step 3: Slow down - eat slowly.

Chewing helps Breakdown food, which helps with digestion. It also allows your stomach to catch up with your mouth. This step will start training your brain to eat to 80% fullness, and be more mindful about the taste of your food. You might surprise yourself by enjoying something you previously disliked!

Smallest iteration: chew 10 times per mouthful of food, for 1 meal or snack per day. 


Step 4: Link your food and body

A lot of the time when we talk about food, we talk about how it makes us feel, emotionally. It's easy to ignore how it makes us feel physically. No-one talks about gut eating, but we're all heard the terms comfort food, or stress eating. So this step is to counteract that and start listening to our body again!

Smallest iteration: In the first week-10 days, record how your body feels after eating something you don't want to include in your dietary guidelines, eg. Chocolate.

Record at these intervals: immediately, after 30 minutes, 1 hour and 2 hours.

By tuning into your body, you will start to identify if something is helping or hindering your body, giving you a deeper reason to add or takeaway something from your diet. 

Step 5: Hear your hunger hormones

Eat with no distractions so you can start to let the hunger hormones be heard. The two hormones that we really need to listen to are ghrelin and leptin.

Did you know that if you have ignored these hormones for a long time, it can take up to 45 minutes for your hunger hormones to speak up? We want to give them space to start being louder faster.

Once you've done this step for a few weeks, you'll find your sensitivity to these two hormones will increase, and the time it takes to feel full will be quicker.

Smallest iteration: Create a hunger scale from 1-10. After each meal, assess your hunger/fullness level at 30 minutes Create and adjust your scale for a few weeks until you have a fairly dependable measure. 

For example: 1 = starving, 10 = fullness to the point of sickness. 

My personal hunger-fullness scale

Step 6: Increase your water intake.

If you are upping your vegetable and fruit intake, this is a MUST!

Fibre is fantastic for bulking up the stool and keeping you regular. However if you are suffering from acute constipation, it is the worst possible option.

Imagine you have a pipe stuffed to the brim with fudge. What would you do to get rid of the fudge? 

Not stuff more fudge down there! It'd just clump together. No, the better solution is to find a way to dissolve the fudge. Or lubricate the sides of the pipe to let the fudge slide down more easily. 

The fudge is your body's waste, the pipes are your intestines. Yes, my analogy was so sophisticated, I know :)

When  you increase your fiber intake, it is IMPERATIVE to up your water intake. Water acts as a lubricant for your stool. As well, it makes your skin glow, it soothes your hunger signals and helps with IBS symptoms like heartburn and indigestion. 

Smallest Iteration: add 1 extra glass of water or herbal tea to your daily intake. 

For those of you who don’t like the taste of water, try adding one of these things to it

  • Lemon

  • Cucumber

  • Mint

  • Strawberries

  • Flavourings for water (usually found in the tea aisle)

  • carbonation

Bonus levels - the challenges

Below you’ll find 5 fun challenges for those of you who are just starting out on their journey and want some training levels. Have a go!

Weapons drill

Boycott the aisles in grocery stores that contain foods you do not want to consume. Eg. Chocolate aisle, chips aisle, soft drinks aisle, baking aisle. Remember layout of grocery store! The managers at supermarkets are now wise to the “shop on the perimeter” rule and have begun to sneakily place highly processed foods in these areas. To be one step ahead of them, have a list, go into the store, ask for guidance from the NPC (aka the workers in the store) and get what you need without venturing into the lands of temptation.

Shield exercise:

Practice setting boundaries with friends and family by gently refusing food that does not adhere to your personal rules. remember to be kind but firm. Repetition is key - the more you say it to yourself and out loud, the more it becomes true. Use words such as I Don't and I won't rather than I can't. 

Berry Basket:

Have a fruit on hand each day and make sure you eat it.

(Intermediate: bring Fruit platter to share. Advanced: consume at least 2 fruits a day for 10 days coupled with healthy fats - yoghurt, nuts including nut butter, cheese)

Potion Power:

Drink a glass of water before each meal to alleviate symptoms of thirst. Symptoms of thirst can mimic symptoms of hunger. If you are at the beginning of your journey and unable to extricate the two, this is an easy way to make sure that you are actually hungry! As you continue into the forest of healthy eating, you will start to differentiate between the subtle nuances of thirst and hunger, and then this power potion will wear off. Until then, drink up, my friend, and be merry!

Turbo boost:

Recruit a fellow healthy eating partner. Research shows that social accountability has powerful benefits in any habit change journey. It is easy to skip a day here or there if you are only accountable to yourself, but when you add another party into the mix, your sense of responsibility increases and you start feeling obligated to win, for their sake and for the sake of your honour.

Using these rules and implementing these challenges, you’re going to find yourself rocketing towards being a healthy eating superhero!

The secret level

Lastly but definitely not least, remember to celebrate every win throughout your journey! Stepping on the path of becoming a healthy eating superhero can have it’s dark moments, especially when you venture further into the world and become surrounded by media, social events and work urging you to stray off the beaten path and enter the world of temptation. 

By celebrating your wins (with non-food based rewards), you are much more likely to reinforce the benefits to yourself, until one day you will find yourself unconsciously reaching for the fruit platter instead of the brownies at dessert. 

And if, along your journey, you realise you need a guide, a cheerleader, a mentor or a friendly rival to keep you on track, you might find one here. 

Good luck, worthy traveller. May our paths cross again along the journey!

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