Get Rid of the Junk
This is the hardest step. You have to remove everything from your home that may be a temptation to you. Your self control can only do so much.
You cannot stay positive about changing what you eat while thinking about that candy bar sitting in the cabinet. You cannot watch your kids eating your favorite kind of dessert without wanting it yourself. You cannot make drastic changes to your own diet while watching everyone else eating things you are “not allowed”.
And I want to make something clear. When I use the word diet, I am not meaning depriving yourself of a major food group or eating tasteless foods that are difficult to choke down. There will be no powdered shakes and absolutely no skipping meals! When I use the word diet I mean “the kind of food a person eats”. This is not a magic weight-loss solution, this is a lifestyle change for you and your entire family.
It’s going to be hard, but getting your whole family on board and the junk out of the house is the best way to do it. Not the easiest short term, but it’s one of the only ways to make cheating harder and keeping temptation out of sight. You can do it if someone else is doing it with you.
Here is something that needs to be brought to light: If you are overweight, chances are someone else in your household is. Seeing the statistics about those who are overweight and obese is staggering. When I started making changes, I weighed over 220 pounds. My husband weighed over 220 pounds. My children were both well over the healthy BMI range. You are making a healthy change for your family, not just for you. The first few days and weeks will be hard as you make these changes, but you are doing them for your family.
But I’m not saying that you can’t have treats in your house for your kids or your spouse (or even occasionally for you!). One option is to choose things for your family that you can live without: I could not care less about most cookies (unless they’re homemade). I buy Trader Joe’s Cat Cookies for special treats for my kids (and they only get 5 at a time while a serving is 15). Another idea is to change the whole idea of what a treat is. My kids know that strawberries are a special food, we don’t eat them on a regular basis like apples and grapes. To them, strawberries are dessert!
Another point to realize: treats should not be a daily occurrence. Save them for a certain night of the week, for a special occasion, for holidays. There is no need for an adult or a child to eat sweets or salty snacks every day.
Desserts are much more special when they are anticipated, not expected. They are also much “healthier” if you make them from scratch and control the ingredients (I will have a whole post on healthy ingredient swaps). This is another way to build the anticipation and make a treat more special: make them yourself.
You can donate (or return) any unopened packages of chips, desserts, candies, and anything else you realize won’t fit into your new healthy lifestyle. Involve your kids in throwing away open packages and talk about why you are making these changes. If you can’t bear to throw things away, give them to a friend or hide them away to pull out at agreed upon times, but I don’t recommend this and here’s why:
Sugar is devoid of any nutritional benefit. Examples of refined sugar are white sugar, powdered sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose. And I know this from personal experience, refined sugars can cause addiction. I used to think I was hypo-glycemic because I would have headaches and exhaustion when I did not eat every few hours. If I didn’t have a daily piece of chocolate I would think about it all day. When I started the weight-loss challenge I’m in and only had one day a week that allowed sweets, I was miserable for the first week. On the day of my grandpa’s funeral I allowed myself to have a few desserts over the course of the day. Not worth it as I CRAVED chocolate in the 3 days following. Plain and simple, I was (and am) addicted to sugar.
Artificial sweeteners are even worse. The most common are Sucralose, aspartame, saccharin. Beyond the dangers of cancer, birth defects, headaches and diabetes, they are devoid of any type of nutritional benefit. At least sugar provides energy. They are finding that those who consume items that are artificially sweetened actually weigh more than those that consume regular calorie items. It is probably because your body is expecting energy when it tastes sweet, though some artificial sweeteners may have long lasting effects on your body including your digestive system and how it metabolizes your food.
Salt is important, but most people consume too much. Salt is added to most processed and packaged items you buy at the store. Sodium levels are very high in foods purchased from restaurants. Some of the dangers of too much salt include water retention (bloating and extra weight), high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues and heart failure. So cutting out the excess salt from pre-packaged junk food and meals can make the biggest impact on your weight and overall health.
So instead of nutritionally devoid sweets, treats, snacks and desserts that only provide an energy spike; focus on nutritionally dense foods. Ideas to get you started while clearing out your cabinets are to fill your refrigerator with fruits (and veggies). Put a big bowl of fruit out on the counter where anyone can grab something if they are hungry. Most fruits are sweet, full of fiber, contain substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals, and provide energy. And there are so many more to choose from than the typical apples, grapes and bananas! So get a little creative in the produce aisle, and try something new as you start making a change to a healthier eating lifestyle.