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How to Find a Healthy Eating Plan That Actually Works for You

How to Find a Healthy Eating Plan That Actually Works for You

So many of us want to lose a little bit of that extra weight and maybe fit into those pants from a couple of years ago. Every year, we make a resolution to eat healthier but somehow each time we end up losing our motivation.

This is not a question of our willpower or discipline though. The biggest reason we are not able to stick to our resolutions is because we make change too hard for ourselves.

I understand first-hand how hard this can be. I yo-yo dieted for years, each time seemingly gaining more weight than I had lost. I finally found success when I realized that I had to find a way of eating that personally worked for me, not just some diet program in the news or a cleanse that my friend was doing.

In this article, I’ll show you the 4-step process to design your own personalized healthy eating plan, one that actually works for you.

What is a healthy eating plan?

The first step in designing your personalized eating plan is to understand what “healthy” looks and feels like.

Eating healthy should help us feel stronger, happier and more vibrant. A healthy eating plan should help us feel good in our bodies and at peace in our relationship with food.

Feel good physically

When we eat in a way that is right for us, we feel more energetic and satisfied.

Eating healthy gives us the fuel to sustain our energy levels on a busy day. It makes us feel mentally alert with no mid-afternoon slumps making our mind feel foggy or clouded.

We feel satisfied with the food we eat and have no cravings. We also feel strong without any physical or mental lethargy. It gives us the energy to move in a way that we love, be it walking, dancing or lifting weights.

Feel good mentally

Healthy eating also means having a healthy relationship with food.

We feel happy when we eat instead of worrying about gaining weight or feeling guilty for eating “bad” foods.

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We stop trying to have the perfect diet days where we eat only “good” foods and try to control ourselves from eating sweets, chips or chocolates.

We have a healthy love-love relationship with food. We find eating to be an intuitive, easy and natural process – just a part of our day – not something to fight with ourselves over.

We feel relaxed and at peace around food, without any obsessive or intrusive cravings popping into our mind.

Feel healthy overall

People with a healthy relationship with food talk about eating healthy in a completely different way versus dieters. They say:

  • “I just don’t obsess about the number on the scale any more. I just try to eat well, live healthy and go by the fit of my clothes.”
  • “I try to focus more on giving myself what I need than on how much I weigh.”
  • “I’m not very intense about food anymore. I still eat candy and drink sodas sometimes. It’s not good for me but I enjoy eating it and I like it this way because it is stress free.”

Notice how this is not about just weight – more of what successful people address is how they feel free and relaxed around food. This, more than fitting into a certain size, makes them happy and healthy from the inside out.

What is NOT a healthy eating plan?

A plan that prioritizes physical well-being at any cost is not healthy. Many people do this by going on restrictive diets again and again until they develop a love-hate relationship with food.

This leads to:

Emotional or binge eating

When we severely restrict foods like many diets do, our minds start to crave the foods we cannot have (like chocolate, chips and cookies). Studies have shown how cravings are a result of dieting and how dieters crave foods they cannot eat (like chocolate) more than non-dieters.[1]

When our cravings get too strong, they take over our minds and we end up binging on sweets or chips. This hurts our confidence and makes us feel guilty. When this happens over and over again, we risk it becoming a habit that we feel like we have no control over.

P.S.: A lot of us today don’t diet but we try to eat healthy – in doing so, we are still engaging in the same restrictive behaviors and labelling food as “good” and “bad”. This is why we end up binging on the foods we cannot have and feel like we are sabotaging ourselves.

Judging our self-worth based on our body size or weight

Because we struggle so much with staying at our happy weight, we make weight loss our most important life project. We get so involved and think about it so much that it starts to take over our lives.

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We judge ourselves based on how much weight we lost, we punish ourselves if we don’t and our self-esteem revolves around the size of our clothes rather than our life’s achievements.

Thinking about food this way takes away our mental peace. We lose confidence in our own abilities and we get depressed – the complete opposite of the happiness we were aiming for in the first place.

A healthy eating plan focuses equally on how you look and how you feel – it doesn’t involve eating boring foods or cutting out the foods we love. It doesn’t promise magical weight loss results like “lose 40 lbs in 4 weeks”.

Eating healthy is a way of living life, and we need to love it to make it a part of our lives.

3 principles of a healthy eating plan

Bringing together all that we know about physical and mental health, there are 3 key principles to keep in mind as we build your healthy eating plan.

Principle #1 – Balance physical and mental health

The first principle is to prioritize mental happiness over physical happiness. We can think of our relationship with food as a spectrum between a hate-hate relationship and a love-love relationship.

At one end, we might be feeling anxious and guilty around food, questioning our eating choices all the time. We may binge eat once in a while and overeating to soothe ourselves may be common. If you are at this end of the spectrum, focus on developing a healthier emotional connection with food before embarking on your weight loss journey.[2]

    If you feel like you have an okay relationship with food but are letting your weight or clothes size determine your happiness, you may be more susceptible to developing binge or emotional eating. Before making health all about weight loss, realistically assess how important weight loss is in your overall happiness – if you had an amazing family, friends and career, should losing weight determine how you feel about yourself so much? If not, then why are you letting your weight lower your self-worth?

    If you have a positive relationship with food, then you are ready to move onto the next step.

    Principle #2 – Long term and sustainable

    The second principle is to design a plan that you can incorporate into your day to day life that is easy to do and doesn’t require too much willpower.

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    None of us want to keep dieting for the rest of our lives. We just want to find a way of eating and living that works for us. The only way to do this is to fit it into our already busy lives instead of trying to re-design our entire lives around food. This is why following a weight loss plan off the internet isn’t sustainable. Creating a customized plan for yourself is your best shot of finding a method that actually works for you.

    We’ve learned to expect that eating right has to be difficult and that without a lot of effort, we can never succeed. Weight loss companies and social media have made millions of dollars selling us these beliefs (the diet industry is worth $70 billion in the United States alone).

    In fact, the key to successfully eating healthy now and forever is to make it so simple that it fits right into our everyday lives.

    Principle #3 – Minimize deprivation

    The third and one of the most important principles is to minimize feelings of deprivation. This means eating everything we love like cookies, chocolates and chips without any restrictions and without feeling guilty. It means eating out at restaurants, going out with friends and having Friday night drinks.

    Food is so much more than physical fuel for the body. Food brings people together and using food in this way helps us feel happier. Food that we love (like grandma’s apple pie for instance) refreshes us emotionally and makes us happier. It’s only by embracing all the loving aspects of food can we be successful in having a healthy and happy life.

    Your personalized healthy eating plan

    Putting the 3 principles to use, let’s design a healthy eating plan that works for you.

    1. Rate your relationship with food with the following questions:

    • Do you think about food — what to eat, what not to eat and have cravings more times than not?
    • Do you feel guilty when you eat cake, chocolate or chips and do you try to punish yourself by trying to diet even more strictly the next day?
    • Do you feel out of control around food and regularly overeat past fullness?
    • Do you wake up wondering when you can lose that tummy and does your mood depend on how well your pants fit for the day?

    If you answered yes to 2 or more of these questions, then learn how to feel more relaxed and happy around food first before you move onto the following steps.

    2. To feel good in your body and eat healthy, use the ancient principle of “Hara hachi Bu” or “Eat up to 80% full”.

    Many Asian cultures like Japanese, Chinese and Indian practice this habit of eating until they are just satisfied. Transition from where you are today to 80% full by getting in touch with your physical hunger and fullness cues. Start by eating slowly and noticing how full your stomach feels and stop before you are too full (or until just satisfied).

    P.S.: This can be difficult when you start out and will be even more so for emotional or binge eaters who use food to soothe themselves. Trying to practice 80% full before establishing peace with food will only worsen the binge eating.

    3. Build a healthy and happy diet with foods you love.

    Start with a balanced plate for main meals consisting of:

    • 1-2 palm-sized servings of protein
    • 2 fist-size portions colorful vegetables
    • 1-2 cupped-hand size portion of grains or fruits.

    Women can start at the lower number while men can start at the higher end. If you get to 80% full before being able to finish the food in your plate, then just pack them up as leftovers.

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    Here’s an infographic to show you how to do it:[3]

      Allow room for snacks depending on your fullness – feel like eating a muffin? Go for it. Craving some chocolate – don’t hold yourself back. Enjoy what you’re eating instead of feeling guilty and you’ll automatically find yourself feeling satisfied with fewer bites.

      P.S.: Eating this way does two things. First, getting sufficient protein and vegetables helps you stay alert and avoid the fogginess so common after 3pm. Second, when you stop trying to control the so-called “bad” foods, you stop craving them and you are not likely to binge.

      4. Start small and build on

      If transitioning to step 2 and step 3 is a huge jump from where you are, don’t try to make the leap in one step. The key to successful healthy living is to add on small healthy habits that slowly build on each other.

      Start with adding some vegetables next to your lunch sandwich and two weeks later, start eating some eggs with your breakfast instead of muffins. Don’t force yourself to cook, just buy a chopped salad at the supermarket instead.

      Remember, make healthy living easy and it will become part of your daily life.

      Summing it up

      Eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. Health is not about eating the latest super foods or enjoying avocado toast while doing yoga. The basics of healthy living are simple, things even our grandparents can do.

      Make change easy for yourself and fit healthy eating into your everyday life. Focus on feeling good physically and mentally, eat all the foods you want (vegetables and cake alike!) and live your life happy with who you are.

      Featured photo credit: Kaboompics via kaboompics.com

      Reference

      [1] (James A.K. Erskine, Division of Mental Health, St George’s, University of London  & George J. Georgiou, School of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, U.K.: Effects of thought suppression on eating behaviour in restrained and non-restrained eaters.
      [2] My Spoonful of Soul: Weight Loss & Freedom From Obsessive Food Thoughts – Can You Have Both?
      [3] Precision Nutrition: The best calorie control guide. [Infographic]

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      Sai Khanna

      I aspire to help you enjoy food without obsessing over it, deal with stress better and empower you with the mindsets so you can chase your dreams.

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      Published on June 29, 2020

      8 Best Air Purifiers for a Healthy Home

      8 Best Air Purifiers for a Healthy Home

      Whether you suffer from allergies, have pet friends, or live in a climate where bacteria thrive, the best air purifier will make sure that your home’s air is clean and fresh at all times. We all clean our houses regularly, but it is easy to look over the most important element in our homes, apart from the surfaces, and that’s air. Thanks to the best air purifier, the air in your home will be more breathable and cleaner.

      Why You Should Trust Us

      If you are looking for which best air purifier is for you, we here at Lifehack have put in the time and effort to find it. There are so many to pick and choose from, so we sifted through dozens to find purifiers suitable for many people.

      For these air purifier reviews, we will be suggesting home filters based on three criteria:

      • CADR: The rating that’s used to determine an air purifier’s effectiveness.
      • Room Size: The area that an air purifier takes up in a room.
      • Noise: How loud and distracting it can get.

      With these in mind, here are the suggestions for the best air purifiers you can get.

      1. Winix 5500-2 Air Purifier

        If you’re looking for an ozone air purifier, this is a solid option. The HEPA filter is capable of capturing up to 99.97% of airborne pollutants, dust mites, and more. The filters provided are able to be washed, and the air purifier has a CADR of 360 square feet. It’s suitable for kitchens and medium to large bedrooms or living spaces.

        That said, the air purifier does have some issues with the sensor, particularly in the auto mode. You’re also stuck with the color of this air purifier as is: black.

        Buy this Air Purifier!

        2. Blueair Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier

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          When considering an alternative, we suggest Blueair’s air purifier. It’s an air purifier that addresses allergies and is safe for pets. It’s able to capture 99% of airborne pollutants and is capable of filtering odors from smoking, pets, cooking, and wildfires. Even the sound it makes isn’t loud. The lowest setting is a sound equivalent to a whisper, and the highest is a sound equivalent to rainfall.

          One downside is the fact this filter is relatively small and is meant to be stationed on the floor. It’s about as tall as a small child, so it’s easy for children to stick their fingers or other objects into the air cleaner. Also, considering the size, it’s not built to handle larger rooms unless you get multiple. Even then, customers noted that the sound could be irritating when using multiple filters in a room.

          Buy this Air Purifier!

          3. Hathaspace Smart True HEPA Air Purifier

            For the best air purifier for your money, the Hathaspace air purifier is a good option. It allows you to adjust settings manually and works well as an air purification system capable of capturing 99.97% of air pollutants, gas, and more. It also comes with a 2-year warranty, so it’s not as risky as other brands that may only have a month or three-month warranty.

            That said, many customers noted that it’s not good at keeping back odors as much. The air purifier has a tendency to shut off when the air quality is good, regardless of if the room smells bad.

            Buy this Air Purifier!

            4. GENIANI Home Air Purifier

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              The air purifier from Geniani is another solid option for those looking to fight off allergies and want efficiency in their air purifier. The air cleanser comes with a 2-year warranty and is known for its power while still remaining quiet. You can choose between three speeds, and it even has a nightlight option, too.

              All in all, it’s a great product, though people struggled a little bit with the nightlight option. The light is a little too bright when it’s in the dark, making it disruptive if you’re the type of person who prefers completely dark rooms when sleeping.

              Buy this Air Purifier!

              5. Honeywell HFD-120-Q QuietClean Oscillating Air Purifier

                Another consideration for air purifier home use is Honeywell’s air purifier. One of the big perks from this air cleanser is that the three filters are able to be washed and used permanently, saving you the struggle of buying additional filters. The company also provides replacement filters should the filters perform poorly or get worn down. Beyond that, it’s capable of capturing 99% of air pollutants and is energy efficient, too.

                The air purifier itself is quiet, however, and if you allow it to swivel, the parts themselves could make a loud squeaking sound after a while. It’s also not as strong as other air purifiers around, with customers noting that a ceiling fan may be better.

                Buy this Air Purifier!

                6. PARTU Air Purifier

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                  Another cheap option is the PARTU air purifier. Some of the main selling points is that it has an ultra-silent sleep mode, a 4-step filtration process, and serves as a night light thanks to the color ring on it.

                  Similar to other small filters, this filter isn’t going to be very strong. Furthermore, many customers noted that the filter emitted a sweet scent from it after a while.

                  Buy this Air Purifier!

                  7. LEVOIT Air Purifier

                    The LEVOIT air purifier is a compact air cleaner that actually is actually quite strong for its size. Its CADR is high enough it can cover a 219 square foot space. And although it’s strong, it’s designed to make minimal noise. Pair that up with it being ozone-free and energy-efficient, and you have a solid air cleaner.

                    However, like most other air filters you’ll find, it is good at cleaning the air but isn’t as strong when dealing with odors in particular. Furthermore, despite its strength, it struggles to handle larger rooms, making it more suitable for small rooms.

                    Buy this Air Purifier!

                    8. Coway White HEPA Air Purifier

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                      The final filter that we have found is this one from Coway. It’s designed to handle room sizes of up to 361 square feet, offers a 4-stage filtration system, and also has an eco-mode to conserve energy when it’s done filtering.

                      One of the largest criticisms for this air purifier is that the fan settings range widely from the noise pollution. Some customers compared the settings between 2 and 3 to a weaker version of the 1st setting (barely making a sound) to a jet engine starting up. Some people also noted that the air purifier tends to wobble and shake, too.

                      Buy this Air Purifier!

                      FAQ

                      Q: Do air purifiers really work?
                      A: In short, yes. An air purifier consists of one filter (or more) and a fan that pulls in and circulates the air. Exactly like water filters, the idea is that the home air purifiers will capture all of the pollutants and particles before pushing out the rest of the air.

                      As for the filters, depending on the brand, you’ll have different kinds of filters. Filters can be made of paper, fiberglass, or mesh.

                      So long as you are taking care of the air purifier by replacing the filters on occasion, an air purifier should work smoothly and without any major issues.

                      Q: Can HEPA Air Purifiers prevent Covid-19?
                      A: Unfortunately, there is no air purifier that can do anything to prevent or kill the coronavirus. As mentioned above, air purifiers focus on collecting particles and pollutants. 

                      As such, an air purifier, HEPA or any air cleaner, can capture the virus, but the virus will be able to live within the filter for a period of time.

                      Final Thoughts

                      The market is filled with all kinds of air purifiers, and overall, many of them are capable of handling air quality. That said, there may be slight issues depending on what you’re looking for. No matter the case, you are taking the risk of potentially getting a purifier that may run into issues with smells or making too much noise. It’s part of the territory it seems. However, any one of the above air purifiers will help clean up the air and leave your house at least a little fresher. 

                      More Tips on Improving Air Quality

                      Featured photo credit: Progressive Insurance via unsplash.com

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