One thing I love about this website is the opportunities it creates to talk to people about their lives. People tell me what they made for dinner last night (and often text pictures). They ask what I recommend for nutrient dense foods that kids will actually eat. They tell me about their health issues.
I’ve also had a number of people tell me that they want to change their diet but don’t know how. Whether it’s eliminating a group of foods (meat, dairy, sugar) or a behavior change like cooking at home more often, their question is always the same: how do I start?
If this is you, congratulations! You’re already implementing the first step, which is changing your mind. When you begin thinking differently about how you nourish your family and yourself, your actions will naturally begin to shift.
Body follows mind.
Here are a few more ideas to keep in mind as you make the change:
- Start small.
Instead of plunging headfirst into becoming a vegetarian, start by cutting out red meat. Then eliminate pork. Then poultry. Eventually maybe you cut out shellfish and fish. If your goal is to cook at home more, aim for once a week, then twice…
- Go slowly.
Give yourself time to adapt to the change. I think a month is a good amount of time to try something out, get used to it, and make it a habit. (At least a month…your mileage may vary.) In other words, it might take you six months or a year to become completely meat-free, dairy-free, whatever it is.
- Practice and progress, not perfection.
A new dietary lifestyle is a marathon (i.e. the rest of your life), not a sprint. It’s practically inevitable that you’ll fall into old habits from time to time, at least for a while. That’s okay—it’s commendable that you’re trying.
- Be compassionate.
When you do inevitably fall back into old habits, notice what’s going on for you and let it go. Typically we slip when we’re stressed or triggered somehow, overwhelmed, or exhausted. The last thing you need then is to be hard on yourself. Be gentle with you. Be kind.
- Make it work for you.
Maybe you realize you can manage the change—say, being vegan—when you eat at home, but when you’re out to eat you’re willing to make exceptions. Or maybe you start calling ahead to the restaurant to see if they’re willing to prepare a vegan meal for you. Give yourself the permission and space to do what you need to do for yourself.
- Be curious.
“What happens if I quit eggs and dairy?” feels way better than “I have to quit eggs and dairy or I am a bad person.” You’re not bad, you’re human, and thinking it’s as simple as making up your mind and going cold turkey is ignoring the rich complexity of your complete self. Instead, turn your process into an experiment and a discovery—it’s way more joyful and fun!
- Find support.
Sometimes our friends and families aren’t so kind about a change we decide to make for our own good. Though it’s not personal, it feels bad. If that is your experience, you might have to look elsewhere for encouragement, ideas, and inspiration. Social media is great for this—there are all kinds of online communities for consciousness-raising people like yourself. Look for Facebook groups, Pinterest boards, Instagram feeds, etc. that share your values and your intention, and use that when you’re discouraged by the naysayers.
If it were easy, more people would eat better.
And speaking of eating better…