How to change your diet when no one else is (especially for moms)
How many times have you wanted to/tried to make changes to your diet only to be stymied by the people surrounding you? These could be your kids, spouse, coworkers, other family members, friends...basically anyone you share space and meals with. Sometimes they can guilt you into not changing (which can often reflect more about them than you) and sometimes we guilt ourselves into not changing because of what we perceive is the cost of those changes. These perceived costs can include: time or money spent on making changes (i.e. time taken away from everyone else or money taken away from our children), the appearance of “rocking the boat” (no one wants to be ridiculed for their food choices), or the message it can send to our kids, especially (“I don’t want my desire to lose weight to influence how my daughter thinks about food”). While all these thoughts are reasonable, at some point we must own the fact that our health is important. Spending time and money on our health isn’t selfish...it’s necessary if we want to keep being all these things to all these people.
Hopefully now I’ve convinced you that it’s worth the hard work and extra effort. Let’s talk about how to do it.
Feed yourself first.
I don’t mean to literally feed yourself first. What I do mean is to always consider your nutritional needs first when you’re making plans (especially if it is not your habit to do this). When you’re planning for dinner or meals for the week, don’t just plan for what your family wants. Take the extra steps to make sure that what you’re preparing will get you closer to your goals, not further away.
If changing all the meals you prepare is out of the question (cuz who wants to do that anyway), brainstorm ways to add to components of that meal that more reflect how you want to be eating. See this post for taking basic (i.e. kid friendly) ingredients and making it more interesting for you.
When in doubt, choose more fruits and veggies.
Without having to overthink how to make your family’s favorite meal healthier, consider this. Serve yourself a palm-sized serving of whatever the protein is and make the rest of your plate fruits and veggies. This recommendation is appropriate for anyone trying to lose weight, eat more whole foods, following an elimination diet, or even just trying to increase dietary fiber. It’s a simple recommendation that really “solves” a lot of problems.
Talk about why you are making changes.
Be transparent with those you are close to. Instead of hiding the fact that your plate looks differently from you kids, explain to them how your body is different than theirs. It’s relevant for them to know as we get older, we use the nutrients from our food differently. Explain it more from a scientific view than a body-shaming view.
As for everyone else in your life...feel free to share what you’re doing, but don’t feel like you have to explain yourself. Also, I would suggest not evangelizing for your new eating style either. Keep this mantra in mind: “you do you and I’ll do me.”
Finally, if it still feels overwhelming, start small.
I know most diet books out there want you to adopt all the changes all at once. There is benefit to this for someone who can commit that much time, energy, and resources. But we’re not all there all the time. If the thought of committing to a diet overhaul makes you break out into nervous sweats, then give yourself permission to start small. I’ve said this before, but I’ll keep repeating it: consistent small actions trump inconsistent positive OR negative actions.
Think about who it is you want to become. For instance: “ I want to be the type of woman who always has a lot of energy.” Then consider what some of her habits could be. To have more energy, you could choose: eat more fruits and vegetables, get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, drink a moderate amount of caffeine, or limit refined sugars. Now choose one of those to focus on. Let’s say “limit refined sugars.” Step one could be to pay attention to the amount of refined/added sugars you currently consume (do this by reading labels and using something like MyFitnessPal to track). Step two could be reduce and/or eliminate any daily sources of added sugar (maybe you slowly scale back the sugar in your coffee or you start buying plain yogurt vs. flavored yogurt).
Even if you keep moving slowly toward your target of limiting refined sugar, you’ll still get there. Not only will you get there, but you’ll have gotten there by creating new habits. Those habits will now be part of your life, not just something you’re trying for 28 days.
As a final note, get real about your goals and why they're important. Instead of a goal like "lose 10 pounds," how about "lose enough weight that I can run around comfortably with my kids." Or instead of "try the Keto diet" consider "experiment with different ways of eating to determine what makes me feel energetic and healthy." By figuring out what it is you really want, you'll have an easy(er) time committing to the steps above.