This is one of those subjects that has been around for a while now. There is a ton of information out there and it can get pretty intense and overwhelming. This article is meant for people who struggle to eat clean consistently, don’t know where to start, or give up at the first moment of perceived “weakness”. I’m not going to tell you that you must cut out all of your favorite foods. The goal is to make progress no matter what.
Ultimate health and longevity is impacted depending on our lifestyle choices. How we live, eat, manage stress and other emotions, as well as environmental factors either turn off or on certain gene expressions. Depending what genes are on or off determines how much disharmony/dis-ease we experience vs. how much harmony and balance is created in our physical body. Want to learn more about how our nutrition affects our gene expression. Click here.
The intention is to keep it super simple and really dial into the beginning stages of eating clean in the most fail-proof and sustainable way.
I’m not talking about some extreme diet, cleanse, fad, or trend. I’m talking about being real and taking small actions that lead to big results in the end. This isn’t about depriving yourself of anything, or shaming yourself when you don’t follow through. This is a complete breakdown of how you can go from where you are now to where you want to be one meal at a time.
Mindset Is Everything
Without the proper mindset, motivation will ebb and flow depending on our emotions. It’s easy to reach for whatever’s closest when we are hangry, experience cravings, with friends or family, or whatever is convenient. Our mindset has to come from inner motivation as we build the discipline to continue to improve our health no matter what.
Start by figuring out why you want to eat clean in the first place. I can go on and on about the toxicity levels in processed foods and the amount of pesticides, fungicides, hormones, and genetic modifications that go into our food supply but that information alone doesn’t always seem to work as a catalyst for eating clean.
It’s worth mentioning that the ‘why’ serves us best when it comes from a genuine place of wanting better for our health and well-being. In my experience progress is so much faster when it’s motivated from a place of gratitude and love. In today’s society the standard of “beauty/attractiveness” is not set by our own standards and does more harm than good. If you’re experiencing self criticism or loathing around your body image it can help to start to notice what all your body does for you without any real effort from you.
We have skin that sweats, eyelashes that protect our eyes, a heart that beats, lungs that breathe, a liver that protects us and keeps us well. It’s pretty incredible that our bodies do all of this for us so that we can live our lives. Eating clean would begin setting up the space for our bodies to thrive vs. survive the processed junk we put into it. If that acknowledgement of our bodies helps to find your ‘why’ then feel free to use it!
Any way you do this is okay and will evolve. Just make sure you are clear on ‘why’ you are beginning this journey or deepening it so if there’s any “setbacks” you can reconnect to your motivation and stay on track no matter what.
One Meal At A Time
Cultivating the ‘one meal at a time’ perspective will help keep you present and in the moment. This concept is so powerful, it can curb any overwhelm or frustration when practiced continuously. I’m not suggesting you plan for one meal at a time, because shopping once a week and meal prepping are serious time savers in the big picture. This is just a motto to approach the lifestyle changes that are being made.
What does one meal at a time mean? Well, it means that every meal is an opportunity. An opportunity to put more greens on your plate and a little less empty carbs. It’s an opportunity to cut back on radical fats and replace them with fruits and veggies. I will give you a personal example of how I began my journey 5 years ago using this perspective.
Some of my meals looked like choosing a specific meat as the main food group and picking complimentary sides such as macaroni, boxed rice-a-roni, and canned beans. Or pasta and garlic bread, pizza galore, lots of processed foods, and not much fresh fruits and vegetables. Going from eating out all the time and making food that had ingredients I couldn’t even pronounce seemed like too big of a switch to make to completely eating clean, whole foods.
What I did was, at every meal, I lessened the amount of processed foods on my plate and replaced them with vegetables. One meal at a time. I still allowed myself to have some of the processed foods but the serving size got smaller and smaller as the clean foods began to fill up my plate. Before long, processed foods weren’t on my plate at all. I began to get curious about what’s actually in my food and how the body works to make sure I get all the proper nutrients.
It was one of the easiest hacks that compounded over time to make the biggest changes in my nutrition. I rarely got overwhelmed because all I had to focus on was making sure at this one meal, I am moving towards my goal. My taste buds began to change and my cravings for processed foods started to disappear!
Read Labels And Shop The Perimeters Of The Store
One major wake up call is to begin reading labels. If you don’t understand the first 5-6 ingredients that the food contains, it’s easiest to just avoid. Clean whole food has a very small ingredient list if they even have one. You don’t find ingredients on fresh fruits and vegetables. Meat doesn’t either- unless it’s been severely processed. If you’re worried about flavor learn about seasonings and alternative options as you baby step into healthier eating.
Shopping the perimeters of the store is also helpful because usually processed foods are in the middle aisles and end caps. I know this isn’t true for every store so be mindful to not miss the organic sections that may be hiding somewhere else depending on the store.
Have fun, try new recipes, and look for food that has a lot of naturally occurring flavors that you enjoy eating. It’s all about listening to your body and not forcing yourself to eat stuff you hate, just improve one meal at a time.
Celebrate Every Victory
Self acknowledgement is huge when we begin anything new. It’s not very often we actually do it though. In the beginning it’s way easier to focus on the setbacks or the frustrations but this one practice will speed up your progress!
Acknowledge yourself for every choice you make that’s aligned with your goal of clean eating. Big or small. Every meal you put more whole clean foods on your plate, reached for whole foods vs. junk food, or even when you notice you crave fresh fruit. Acknowledge yourself for being willing to try a new recipe even if you ended up hating it. The practice of acknowledgement does wonders on our self esteem and ability to continue moving forward. It’s a complete lifestyle change from what we eat, to how we view ourselves, to how we view the food that fuels us. It’s a big deal! Celebrate every single victory along the way and watch how your motivation and discipline sky rocket!
Let Go Of Doing This Perfectly
Any improvements made are doing more for you than you can realize. Give yourself some grace if you experience a setback. So what if you ended up grabbing a burger from a fast food restaurant- don’t chalk your whole day or week up to failure because you had one meal that didn’t match your goal. Acknowledge it and eat clean the next meal or snack. There is absolutely no reason to let yourself fall so far off track that you give up.
I get it, life happens and it can seem like we don’t have the time, energy, or resources to continue clean eating. Give yourself some grace, and choose your goals when you can again. Do not let your self talk or any perceived limitations be the thing that stops you from achieving your goal. If you get set back for any reason, as soon as you notice, choose your goal again. Don’t waste any time feeling bad about it.
Time is going to pass either way, so spend it empowering yourself and your journey rather than self sabotaging. Which I know can be difficult at times but that’s a part of the journey!
The Point Of It All
These are merely suggestions. The point of it all is to empower you to make this process work for you. Make it feel good and have fun. Keep an eye on your mindset so you know what you need to do to make healthier choices. Keep it simple and stay present throughout the process. Baby steps compound over time and lead to HUGE results. Spark your curiosity and learn as you go! Most importantly, listen to your intuition and discover what your body needs more of and what to let go.
Tried anything else that helped you eat clean!? Share below, we’d love to hear from you!