Once we have identified the changes that need to be made, we face the most difficult part: implementing them. This is the hardest part indeed, as changing our current diet or lifestyle normally involves many sacrifices, and there are numerous obstacles that may prevent us from carrying out the initial good intentions.
The easiest changes to implement are the basic ones: finding new foods and products to replace the ones that must be removed from the diet, discovering healthier cooking methods, and learning to understand the labels of the products in the grocery store.
The hardest changes mainly include the lack of time, lack of financial resources, family conflicts, food addictions, sabotage by the subconscious mind, lack of perseverance, and lack of confidence in the diet. However, most of these obstacles, are surmountable.
Lack of time
In order to implement a change in your life, the first requirement is that you dedicate time to it. If you want to change your diet you will most probably need to learn to cook differently, attend cooking lessons, find new products in the shops, find specialist shops with high-quality products, spend more time in the kitchen, eat consciously, learn to know yourself, etc.
Likewise, if there is an imbalance in another spiritual, emotional, or physical aspect of your life, you will need to dedicate time to it in order to bring about improvement – whether you need to work on your own or go to some kind of therapy. Therefore, lack of time and the associated stress are the first enemies to overcome in order to recover good health.
If you cannot avoid stress at work, it is advisable to find a method of stress management. The immediate objection is: “Where do I find the time to learn and practice the method, if I have no time?”
Maybe you can start with a few simple exercises that do not require much time, and can be done at home: techniques based on meditation, listening to relaxing music, reading, taking a bath, praying, etc. There are many wonderful mediation and relaxation videos on YouTube.
By practising some of these activities you can "kill several birds with one stone":
* Cooking: nutrition, exercise (yes, it counts!), saving money.
* Outdoor activities (walking, hiking, biking, swimming, etc): enjoying the sun, exercising, contact with nature, stress management. Instead of going to the cinema or watching TV over the weekend, you could rather go out and about!
* Listening to a podcast, a YouTube video or lectures while moving about your day: you can learn about nutrition, psychology, health, education, or any other topic that interests you.
* Buying food at traditional markets rather than supermarkets – or better yet – buying directly from the farm. By doing this you could improve the quality of your food, enjoy walking outdoors, get some exercise, build social relationships, get in touch with nature, be ecologically aware, and save money.
* Attending religious celebrations (if you are a believer) and/or volunteering at a non-profit organization: spiritual growth, social relationships, stress management, etc.
* You could reduce the time you spend on social media. When you do not have much time, it is better to have fewer encounters with real friends in real life than to spend many hours following online acquaintances or friends of friends of friends ... Even better would be to engage in a beneficial activity when meeting your friends, such as walking, cooking, attending a course or therapy together, etc. Friends are often the best psychologists! They know you better than a psychologist. Before social networks and psychologists existed, people used to share their joys and sorrows with good friends or family members, with neighbours, the hairdresser, or barber .
* Reduce your children’s extracurricular activities, where you often have to play the role of the taxi driver, and invest that time and money on improving your children’s nutrition. It’s laudable that you want your children to develop their abilities and skills to the fullest. However, it can sometimes turn out stressful for both them and the parents. Children also need some free time for unstructured play. Spending some time at home after school and after work is necessary for children to relax, and for parents to be able to prepare a nourishing dinner.
* Prioritize the most important things. Think about what really matters in life. Surely many things can wait, and some things can remain undone. Perhaps you could bear to have your home a little untidier, for instance, while you devote some extra time to establishing better nutrition habits – just until your health has recovered a bit.
Cravings, food addictions, and overeating
All of us are faced with temptations on a daily basis, dangled before us by the food industry. They create highly attractive packages, adverts, and flavours to lure us into craving their food, to lock us into addiction.
How can we resist? How can we manage to follow a healthy diet? How can we control our cravings, and get mastery over our food addictions and habits of overeating?
Changing a diet when one has addictions can be extremely difficult – addiction to certain foods, such as sugar, can be stronger than addiction to cocaine.
Firstly, it is important to identify the cause behind the craving. These are some of the most common causes of cravings and food addiction:
* Compensation for an emotional or psychological problem: loneliness, lack of love, grief, boredom, separation or divorce, lack of self-esteem, depression, anxiety, annoyance, etc.
* Compensation for a physiological problem: tiredness, stress, nervousness, lack of sexual pleasure, sleeping problems, etc.
In above instances, the person tries to evade the problems of life by eating “comfort food” of one kind or another, which in turn produces a “high” in neurotransmitters or endorphins, leading to a state of pleasure. The problem is that, in order to keep getting the same amount of pleasure, the person needs to consume more and more of the “comfort food” each time, creating an addiction to the substance contained in that food, such as sugar, fat, salt, monosodium glutamate, chocolate, coffee, tea, gluten, dairy, etc.
* Food is used as a reward for having been a “good girl/boy”. This is a habit that may have been formed during childhood. Unfortunately, many parents use candies and sweets as a reward when a child is well behaved.
* Food is used or withheld as a punishment for having been a “bad girl/boy”. In this case, food is used as an auto-destructive punishment – a kind of slow suicide for having done something wrong. This usual in the case of people with very low self-esteem, or with depressive tendencies.
* Food takes a person back to childhood. Some food, such as milk or sugar, functions as a ‘safety blanket’, linking back to childhood. It happens to people with the “Peter Pan syndrome”, who can’t face the problems of adulthood.
* The person was made to finish a whole meal in childhood, or encouraged to eat a large amount of food in order to grow “big and strong”. The person may also have been fed a steady diet of candies and cakes, or junk food.
* A person may have suffered a traumatic experience, such as rape. This person then builds a shield to protect themselves from being abused again. The body unconsciously decides to be unattractive, or even repulsive, so that it feels protected.
* A lack of nutrients. Unhealthy dietary habits may lead to cell starvation, which sends messages to the brain asking for more food. Even if the person eats a large amount of food, if this food is devoid of nutrients, it is as (or maybe even worse than) if the person is not eating at all.
* Hypoglycaemia. A high intake of products that are very rich in sugar or refined flour makes a quick rise in the insulin levels followed by a quick decrease below the normal level, which creates a hypoglycaemic state. Then, the body asks for more sugar, creating an infinite loop of hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia with the consequent effects on the mood, appetite, and health in general.
* Leptin resistance. These same products (sugar and refined flour) also lead to leptin resistance, which is the hormone that indicates that someone is full and must stop eating. When a person has leptin resistance, he can’t stop eating, because he never feels satisfied.
* Candidiasis. The gut can experience an overgrowth of bad bacteria and fungi. This happens when they are fed on sugars and carbohydrates that can’t be digested by the person’s digestive system. These fungi release neurotoxins which reach the brain and ‘kidnap’ the person to ensure the survival of the fungi, convincing the person to eat more sugars and carbohydrates to feed them.
Once the problem has been identified, we can address the solutions. Some possible solutions:
* Identify possible food intolerances that lead to a bacterial or fungal overgrowth.
* Slowly decrease quantities to minimize the withdrawal effect.
* Write down any feelings at the moment of the craving. Strong emotional responses should be addressed with psychotherapy.
* Replace some products with others that have a similar taste: sugar with honey, or even better, with fruits; chocolate with carob; coffee with decaf coffee at the beginning and with chicory later on; cow’s milk with vegetable milk; etc.
* Plan your meals ahead for the whole week and make a shopping list before going to the grocery store or supermarket.
* Practice an alternative activity instead of eating: sport, relaxation, music, reading, resting, etc.
* Avoid risky situations: don’t go past bakeries, or into a tearoom or coffee shop, etc.
* Post encouraging positive messages in the kitchen: “I eat healthy food”, “I only eat my main meals”, “I eat the right amount”, etc.
* Think about the negative consequences of satisfying the craving: “I will feel sick”, “I will gain weight”, etc. Reflect on whether a few minutes of pleasure is worth days, weeks, or even months of feeling unwell.
* Set small goals which are relatively attainable. Instead of removing all sugary products at once, start with just one kind – ice cream, for example. Then follow by removing cookies, and finally, chocolate. Amount and frequency can be slowly decreased too.
* Investigate therapies that can help to reprogramme the subconscious, overcome bad habits, and heal past trauma: hypnosis, EFT, psychotherapy, visualization/meditation/prayer, PSYCH-K, PNL, coaching, etc.
* Investigate spiritual therapies: they give you the inner strength to control your desires and give greater willingness to set and achieve goals.
All people are resistant to change – but children are especially so, particularly if they have a psychological or neurological problem of some kind.
Dr. Campbell-McBride proposes an authoritarian approach, where children are forced to eat what the parents believe is best for them. When trying to introduce a new healthy food into the child’s diet, the parents should try to keep the child at the table until he has sampled a bit of it. Once the goal is achieved, the child should be praised and hugged, and given a small reward (not food). One should remain firm and determined for as many hours as necessary – whether for the whole day, or the entire weekend. It is an extreme method, but it does work.
Another more gentle method proposed by Julie Mathews is to try to and make healthy food more attractive to children in some of the following ways: preparing crunchy vegetables, hiding vegetables in other dishes, introducing new foods at snack time, and making healthy dishes as appetising as possible. All this is done with the hope that at the end, after eliminating all foods which the child is addicted to, he will start to accept the new, healthy food.
Another idea is to involve children in food preparation. They will love making artistic creations with vegetables and fruit!
When it comes to children, dealing with their food addictions and removing foods that cause intolerance is usually very difficult. Typically, when food that the child is addicted to is removed from his diet, he begins to enjoy other types of food, so that it becomes easier for the parents. Children often want to eat only carbohydrates, sugars, and dairy products – which are the most addictive kinds of food. When these products are removed, children begin to accept food options such as vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and eggs, etc.
It is very important to help the child see the relationship between food and health. So, when a child becomes sick, think about what food could have caused the disease, and explain it to the child too. Maybe he couldn’t resist the offer of a cookie or a candy from his friend at school… At the beginning it is normal for him to sometimes ‘cheat’ at school. But it is important that he begins to realize that when he cheats he risks feeling sick afterwards.
It is, therefore, sometimes necessary to embark on a somewhat healthier diet for a while, so that the child gets better. Then, both parent and child can isolate the cause of ill-health when it occurs and relate it to a certain food or dietary lapse. This method worked wonderfully with my daughters! Holidays can be a good time to start a diet and see some improvement.
Forbidding a child from eating food that he loves is a tough experience for him and the rest of family. Besides having to overcome an addiction or an intolerance to certain foods, it is very hard for him to see people around him (mainly at parties) eating delicious food which he is not allowed to eat. There is also the additional challenge of the child of having to say not to food that other children offer him.
While this can be an ordeal for children, one can also see it from a positive point a view – as a test that will strengthen their character. Learning to say "no" will help them to be able to refuse other harmful things later in life, such as drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
At the very least, however, the family should try to avoid making the child feel left out, or deprived, so that they prevent as much as possible the temptation of going and searching for food secretly, at least at home.
In any case, whether dealing with an adult or a child, I think it is positive if there is family solidarity at home. The whole family wins when all are healthy! When at work or school, and out of the home for other reasons, the other members of the family can continue to eat the same way as before.
Another obstacle to getting a child to a place of nutritional health is when the parents don’t agree on their children’s nutritional needs and diet. In this sense, medical analysis can often help to guide couples into the best approach.
Our beliefs, customs, and all the automatic behaviours we learned (mainly) during childhood reside in the subconscious. As Dr. Bruce Lipton explains in his book, Biology of Belief, 95% of the time our subconscious is responsible for our behaviour.
If we do not succeed at following a diet or making the desired changes in our life, it may be that our subconscious is hijacking our minds with ideas that are contrary to what we consciously espouse.
Our subconscious harbours beliefs about food that are rooted in our childhood, which we acquired by the following means:
* what our parents, teachers, and doctors told us about food;
* what we ate as children;
* what we saw our parents and immediate family eating;
* what we saw people around us, such as friends and classmates, eating;
* ideas that the media (mainly TV ads) managed to deposit in our subconscious;
* our experience about how our body reacts to certain foods (allergies, intolerances);
ideas that our religion has about food;
What is more, the smell of food travels directly to the subconscious part of our brains, so the sense of taste affects our instinctive decisions.
The subconscious is also responsible for many food-related habits we may hold, without prior reflection. For example:
* how we eat: the speed at which we chew and swallow;
* the number of courses, the amount of food;
* the amount of water or other beverages we drink during meals (and during the day);
* what we do while we eat: watch TV, talk;
* if we sit quietly during the meal or get up to collect the plates after each course; if we prepare all the food we put on the table beforehand, or if we continue to bringing dishes to the table as we eat;
* even what we buy!
There is an endless list of other habits.
Regarding the food we buy, I would like to add that most decisions we make in the supermarket are automatic. Most people buy the same items year in, year out. We also buy things impulsively and this is the reason the placement strategies for certain products and advertising work so well! Adverts, which contain repetitive ideas and messages, remain anchored in our subconscious.
As a nutritionist, I find it interesting to see that the great majority of a person’s breakfasts (and other meals) are the same every day! For example, one person’s breakfast consists of coffee and croissant every day, changing only the type of croissant; for another it is orange juice and cereals with milk, only changing the type of juice or cereals; for someone else it is a yogurt with muesli and tea, with only the type of tea or yogurt changing.
Some typical myths, such as the fact that we must drink milk because it is good for our bones, are deeply rooted in our subconscious from childhood. When we come to consciously understand that these myths are not true, our conscious and subconscious beliefs come into conflict, which does not help our physical and mental health in any way.
Given this conflict, there are three solutions:
1) reversing our conscious thoughts about a specific myth regarding food
2) trying to change the subconscious to match our conscious thoughts
3) reducing the impact of the subconscious
The first solution is impossible, because once our reason has been convinced about what is right, it is not possible to deny what we think to be right and return to a previously held idea, which we now know to be incorrect.
The second option, changing the subconscious, is one possible avenue of action.
The third option is possible, using the technique known as mindfulness.
Let’s explore the second option:
The ideas and thoughts of the subconscious can be changed when a fact (idea or action) is repeated several times. A fact can finally be anchored in the subconscious through conscious repetition. This is how we all learn the times tables, cycling, driving, or song tunes and lyrics. But our conscious mind has to be in control, and needs to rule our actions in order to repeat the new idea or action numerous times. This requires strong willpower, which is not always easy. Another easier way is to repeatedly imagine this new action being performed so that it can be incorporated into the subconscious, using meditation and/or visualisation. There are many therapies that propose a more direct and easier way to "re-programme" or change the subconscious, including hypnosis, PSYCH-K, PNL and EFT.
The third option – reducing the impact of our subconscious through mindfulness – posits that our actions and decisions are made consciously, and that consequently we should try to avoid reacting impulsively and irrationally. It is about self-control, so that we follow the wishes of the conscious mind. The control of our behaviour will substantially improve practicing mindful meditation or praying. However, this is only to a limited extent, as we act instinctively by nature 95% of the time, and it's not easy to reduce this percentage .
In mindful eating the intention is to eat healthily and to resist impulses created by the subconscious to eat sugars, alcohol, chocolate, etc. Eating consciously means being present, making decisions rationally. It means making the right choices before eating, and thinking about what we are eating instead of being distracted by our worries, arguments, the news, etc. Mindful eating also entails listening to the body in order to identify what we really need. We have already explained how engage in mindful eating in the second principle of Living Fully Nourished - know yourself.
Limited financial resources could present an obstacle to changing to a healthy diet, but it is possible to find cheaper alternatives in order to improve your nutrition:
1.- Decrease the amount of food and increase quality.
2.- If you invest in nutrition, you prevent diseases and consequently save money on doctors and medicines.
3.- You don’t need to eat tenderloins every day. According to some nutritionist, such as Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (1), the less popular kinds and cuts of meat are equally – or even more – nutritious, and less expensive: liver, bones and meat for broth, fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel, etc.
Regarding fruit and vegetables, there are chains selling increasingly affordable organic products and sometimes it is possible to purchase them directly from the producer at a cheaper price. Some products do not have the organic labels, but the producers don’t use pesticides, or only do so when necessary and in very small quantities. In some countries, there are some farms offering self-service at low rates.
4.- Organic food contains more nutrients, which cuts out the cost of expensive supplements. Also, when you follow a proper diet, the nutrient absorption is optimal, and there is no lack of vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients.
Another common obstacle to change is when there are other priorities, such as career, social life, travelling, going to restaurants, etc. Following a healthy diet means eating home-made food. This means that food needs to be prepared at home and taken to work, school, etc. This can take time, which the other priorities may not allow for. Depending on the individual case, a person could consider going off the diet from time to time if food tolerance levels allow for it. Or they could simply run the risk of eating something that is not permitted in their diet. Gluten, for instance, could find its way into a restaurant meal if it is prepared using the same oil as was used for frying food in batter.
But the most common cause of failure in the implementation of a diet or healthy lifestyle is the lack of conviction about the effectiveness of the approach, and whether the sacrifices will be worth it. Although there is always a scientific explanation behind every nutritional therapy, there is unfortunately not yet enough research in the field of nutrition to guarantee results. Most diets that have led to a recovery of health can offer at best numerous testimonies of success.
A lack of perseverance may also be a problem. We are accustomed to conventional medicine, where the symptoms can be quickly alleviated. However, nutrition is a long-term treatment, where recovery is usually very slow, and it is often difficult to track progress. Moreover, the improvement is irregular and many people are discouraged right at the start of the treatment, when the condition worsens during the first phase of detoxification.
Unfortunately, because of all these obstacles, we often do not prioritize health. We don’t take a treatment seriously until our health is severely compromised. And the longer we wait, the more our health condition deteriorates, and the harder it is to recover.
Booking into a health centre
It may happen that one member of the family decides to embark on a diet or lifestyle change, while the rest of the family remains the same. This can make it difficult for the person to succeed at attaining his health goals. Or, the person may have the family support, but he may find it impossible to overcome his addictions.
Under these circumstances, a person could consider the possibility of spending some time in a health centre where he could make the necessary changes away from an environment where temptations surround him continuously. Once the detoxification has been finished and new habits have been established in his daily routine, the person can return to his everyday life.
There are an array of health centres following all types of diets, and offering a range of treatments, wellness activities, and regimes (including fasting). Prices vary greatly, and although they seem expensive, they are no more costly than taking a holiday away from home. And sometimes, going to such a centre may be the only solution.