Forget Dieting: Try These 12 Positive Lifestyle Changes Instead

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Science has pretty much proved that for most people, dieting doesn’t work. In fact, 95 percent of people who lose weight will gain it back within one to five years, according to Psychology Today. The whole act of dieting — that is, depriving yourself of food on a consistent basis — is harmful to your body and won’t create lasting results. So what will?

An overall healthy lifestyle is the answer to dieting: a combination of reasonable exercise, healthy eating and not starving yourself… and sticking with these changes for the rest of your life. If you maintain a healthy way of living, you’ll likely stay healthy for as long as you live!

1. Eat Whole Grains

Whole grains are good for you. They reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease, reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, aid in digestion and may even help people live longer, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. In today’s food-obsessed culture, it’s the easiest thing in the world to replace refined grains with whole ones. Do you like pasta? Buy whole-wheat or quinoa pasta. Like bread? Buy whole-grain bread. Like rice? Buy brown rice or try quinoa, bulgur, barley or one of the many other whole-grain alternatives widely available in stores.

2. Reduce Sugar

Many people trying to eat healthier set wild, sweeping goals for themselves, such as vowing to stop eating sugar. They swear they’ll eliminate every grain of sugar from their diet and drive themselves into a frenzy trying to decide between agave, honey, Stevia, date sugar, coconut sugar or one of the many, many other sweeteners out there. Which one is healthiest? Which ones will kill you? It doesn’t matter, because you’ll probably end up stuffing some kind of sweet substance into your face when you finally snap and need a fix. Or you could slowly, slowly wean yourself off sugar, allowing your body and taste buds a chance to adjust, which will lead to a permanent reduction in the overall amount of sweeteners you ingest.

3. Eat Less Packaged Food

Replacing just one packaged item a day with something fresh is a good way to encourage yourself to adapt to eating more “real” food. Instead of throwing away everything you like and trying to force yourself to eat broccoli, take small steps and make fresh foods a habit rather than something you feel obligated to eat.

 4. Try a New Style of Cooking

Embarking upon a health kick can either mean buying a bunch of new food that will slowly rot in the back of your refrigerator because you don’t actually like it and never intended to eat it, or it can mean the opportunity to learn a new style of preparing food. For example, the Mediterranean Diet is a heart-healthy way to eat that allows for plenty of flexibility and experimentation in the kitchen.

 5. Exercise To Be Healthy, Not Just to Lose Weight

When you haul your tired, flabby butt to the gym every day and tell yourself sternly that you need to work out because you’re fat, you will make yourself feel like a failure before you’ve even started. Exercising is a lot more tolerable when it’s something you want to do rather than something you have to do, and you’ll be a lot less stressed out when you don’t beat yourself up for missing a day at the gym.

 6. Make Room for Small Indulgences

A healthy lifestyle is a happy lifestyle, and denying yourself food is not going to make you happy. A few squares of dark chocolate or a small scoop of ice cream is also not going to completely derail your newfound healthiness.

 7. Explore Healthier Versions of Favorite Foods

Lots of corners can be cut simply by eating lighter versions of the things you love. Instead of chugging a glass of ultra-sugary, high-calorie chocolate milk, for example, try chocolate almond milk. Those who can’t imagine a salad without delicious chunks of fatty blue cheese can replace it with a lower-calorie cheese like feta. Snack lovers can replace high-calorie chips and dips with things like hummus and whole-grain tortilla chips. Food is very flexible, and many healthier options taste just as good as the less healthy ones.

 8. Explore Healthier Versions of Standard Foods

Things that don’t necessarily fall into the category of junk food can still be pretty unhealthy. Take a look at everything you’re eating — even normal, unexciting foods like milk and cereal — and determine whether they’re actually adding good things to your body, such as healthy amounts of fiber and protein, or just adding unnecessary carbs and sugar.

9. Don’t Cut Out Bad Foods

Instead, slowly reduce the amount of junk food that you eat. If you love pizza, for example, eliminating it from your diet entirely is only going to make you want it more; pizza becomes a forbidden delicacy that you desperately need, and your cravings will consume you until your every waking moment is devoted to dreaming about pizza. However, if you slowly eat less and less pizza until it becomes a special occasion food that you eat every now and then instead of every other day, you’ll still get to eat the food you love without leaving the door open for an impending heart attack.

10. Don’t Skip Meals

Skipping meals does not make you lose weight, and it certainly doesn’t make you healthier. In fact, it makes you less healthy. Skipping meals causes your blood sugar to crash, your metabolism to slow down, calories to be burned less efficiently and your body to start breaking down your muscles for fuel.

11. Try Not to Use Fancy Diet Products as a Substitute for Exercise

Protein powders, green tea fat burners, weird meat bars and bottles of supplements can seem like exciting, purposeful things to buy and cram into your mouth, but they are not a replacement for getting an adequate amount of exercise, nor will they counteract the effects of an unhealthy diet. Save the money you were going to spend on wheatgrass and chlorella pills and put it toward a gym membership or a new pair of sneakers instead.

12. Don’t Buy “Health” Food

Sometimes, unhealthiness lurks in unexpected places. Many products that are marketed as healthy are really not all that good for you; when you see things labeled “whole-grain” or “low-fat” or “natural,” your instinct is probably to grab them, but these foods can often be misleading. Greek yogurt can be packed with sugar, while many cereals are nothing but processed carbs and artificially sweetened beverages can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Make a habit of reading nutrition facts and get acquainted with the right balance of nutrients; you’ll be a pro before you know it!