Lets get one huge point out of the way first; your diet is more important than the time you spend in the gym. Even the strictest gym routine can be killed by a diet filled with fast food runs, skipped meals, and sugar overload. You will not lose the fat. You will not maximize your muscle growth. You will still feel slow and sluggish. It has been said that achieving a lean, fit body is 60% diet and 40% physical exercise. We need to first recognize the significant part that your diet plays in your overall health and well-being.
Having gotten that out of the way, two of the biggest reasons people can’t or won’t stick to a healthy diet is because they a) don’t know what a healthy diet entails and/or b) have become so conditioned to sugar, salt, fat, etc. that anything lacking high-levels of these compounds comes across as tasteless, boring, and bland. Just because that stick of celery doesn’t satisfy you like that fried fish stick does, doesn’t mean it never will. The key to healthy eating comes from deriving satisfaction from the (healthy) things you eat. It is simply a matter of conditioning your body and mind to feel satisfied when you eat healthy.
This isn’t about convincing yourself that you love the taste of tea without any sugar added. It’s about taking a much more calculated approach than that. For instance, lets take green tea for example. Green tea is filled with tons of great anti-oxidants that help contain free radicals and do a bunch of other great things inside your body. Maybe you are already a green tea drinker. Odds are you load that cup of tea up with a lot of sugar. Despite creating optimal conditions in your body for cancer cells to grow (they thrive on sugar), you are also ingesting many more empty calories that are only going to lead to excess body fat.
You need to condition your brain and taste buds to enjoy that cup of green tea without all the added sugar. Just like a drug addict, you need to ween yourself off that sugar satisfaction high your brain gets. Instead of two teaspoons of sugar, bring it down to one for a month or so. Slowly go down to half a teaspoon for another month. Ultimately, get yourself to the point where you are adding no sugar and drinking straight tea. At first, you will think this will never be possible. You will never be able to enjoy your tea without an added sweetener you may be telling yourself. Trust the physiology of your brain and the power to re-wire how you think and taste. Three to four months out, that sugar-less green tea is going to be just as satisfying to your brain as the sugar-laden one once was.
This is the ultimate key to discovering a lifetime of healthy eating habits. By progressively re-wiring your brain to receive satisfaction from healthier foods you will no longer view “healthy” foods in an unfavorable light. Don’t like Brussel sprouts? Slowly work them into your diet. If you are determined, continue to eat them even when your brain may be telling you that you don’t like them. Over a period of just a few months, you will no longer dislike them. By introducing new foods to your diet, you will start phasing out foods that are less than ideal for your health and fitness goals.
This phenomenon has a reverse effect as well. Try abstaining from making that Taco Bell run for a few months. While you may experience serious cravings for quite a while, they will subside with time. If you ever do make it back to Taco Bell, you’ll likely be able to tell by taste alone, just how cheap and unhealthy their menu items really are. Most likely, you will be turned off to whatever it was you used to crave. By making healthy substitutes at home, you will further cement in your brain that the stuff from Taco Bell is just fattening junk that should be avoided.
Eating healthy isn’t a huge mystery that so many “experts” make it out to be. The process of re-wiring your brain to turn on to healthy foods and off to unhealthy foods is a slow and steady approach to developing lasting eating habits. Anyone can jump on a diet for a month or two at a time. Unfortunately, 90% of those who go on diets are right back where they started from after going off the diet. Anyone can force themselves to eat healthy or not eat unhealthy. The problem is, we are all human and no one can force that upon themselves forever. The key is to teaching our brain to receive satisfaction from the foods we know we should be eating. You do this, and that whole diet thing just got a lot easier.