As a health and wellness coach Joanne Henson spends a lot of time listening to people talk about their health, fitness and weight loss goals, and about why they are struggling to achieve them. Joanne has found that the same excuses come up over and over again, and as a result her focus as a coach is generally on analysing what’s behind the excuses, gently challenging them, and then helping clients to overcome them with some creative thinking and an open mind.
Joanne is author of ‘What’s your excuse for not eating healthily’ and here are the top five most common excuses for not eating healthily, plus some suggestions on how to start thinking differently and put the excuses behind you:
1. Healthy food is boring
Most people think cottage cheese (particularly the low fat version), rice cakes and low calorie ready meals are healthy foods. But they aren’t. They are more processed than the normal versions, have less flavour and have more sugar, artificial flavourings and sometimes salt – none of which is healthy.
If you find a food boring, don’t eat it. Look around your supermarket and try something new and natural – fruits, vegetables, nuts, pulses and lean proteins. Buy a healthy cookbook. Healthy food can be tasty, varied and satisfying if you look beyond the usual (not healthy) suspects.
2. I don’t have time to prepare healthy food
Food is advertised as “Ready in a few minutes”, “For snacking on the go”. The implication is that we are all too busy to prepare and sit down to eat real food.
Stop believing this and write down how you spend a typical day – getting up, showering, working, drinks after work, watching TV, checking Facebook and Twitter, chatting, painting your nails, gaming…..? What activity could you remove or reduce to make time to prepare real food?
And healthy food can be quick; you could do a stir fry, make an omelette, assemble a salad, grill or pan fry some meat or scramble some eggs – and it won’t take you any longer watching a ready meal rotating in a microwave or fetching a takeaway.
3. I can’t stick to diets
Being on a diet will always be hard. You’re following a set of rules devised by someone who doesn’t understand your lifestyle, you’re restricting your food intake and you’re going without foods you love. That’s never going to feel great.
Diets are not the same as healthy eating. Diets are restrictive, and when something is declared off limits, guess what? You can’t stop thinking about it.
In contrast, healthy eating is about improving the quality of your food, rather than reducing the quantity. It’s about nurturing your body not punishing it. Eating well improves the way your body functions and changes the way it stores or burns fat, so if you do have excess weight to lose, you will lose it.
4. I’m eating out
Do you see eating out as a break from “normal” eating? It’s not. Your body doesn’t process the food eaten in restaurants any differently to the food you eat at home.
So whilst you might not want to abstain totally, you don’t have to have everything you like. You don’t have to have several pieces of bread from the bread basket, you don’t have to choose three unhealthy courses, you don’t have to order a side dish of fries to accompany your main course, you don’t have to steal fries off your partner’s plate, you don’t have to eat everything on your plate(s) despite being full.
Instead, try reaching a compromise with yourself. If you want a burger, have it without the bun, ask for salad instead of fries, or share a portion of fries. If you want a dessert, don’t have a starter. If you want a stodgy main course have a salad for starter. Make some healthy choices to give yourself permission to enjoy an unhealthy one. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
5. I just can’t resist…
Many salty and sugary foods are purposely formulated to be moreish. The problem isn’t you, it’s the food. Don’t be duped into feeling you’re powerless to resist!
Remember you only need to resist something if it’s there to be resisted. So whilst you shouldn’t attempt to give up your favourite food totally, neither should you keep it around at all times. Make it an occasional treat rather than a constant temptation. And when you do have it, really savour it, without a side order of guilt. It’s amazing how many of my clients lose what they thought were uncontrollable cravings when they know they are “allowed” something they love.
If you find yourself using the same excuses over and over again, whilst kicking yourself for not being as healthy, slim, energetic and happy as you want to be, ask yourself if you are accepting your own excuses as insurmountable truths, when really they are just one view of a situation which you can change if you open your mind and get creative with your thinking. Overcoming your excuses is the key to your success.