We understand that what we put into our body has a direct impact on how well it performs. We all want to be healthy, right? So, if we know that we want to be healthy, and we know how to use diet as a tool to improve our health, why is it so hard?

Look, no one is perfect – as for myself, I am highly imperfect! Often, my patients start off their appointments with a run-down of the ways that they’ve slipped up on their diets. It’s ok to slip up on your diet or grant yourself an indulgence from time- to-time! Good health isn’t about perfection, it’s about taking active steps to be as healthy as possible and enjoy life along the way. Most of us find adhering to a healthy diet to be one of the most challenging aspects of following a healthy lifestyle.In this post, we’ll explore the major healthy eating obstacles and how you can overcome them in order to achieve optimal health.

Obstacle #1: Knowledge

Knowledge is a major component in healthy eating. It goes beyond knowing what’s healthy (and what’s not). It is also how to cook and prepare meals so that you enjoy what you are eating. After all, food should be enjoyed! Overcome this challenge by taking advantage of the many resources at your fingertips. Explore cookbooks focused on the anti-inflammatory diet, clean eating or vegan cooking. Surf the internet for food blogs that are focused on your dietary guidelines, food allergies or favorite types of cuisine. Pinterest is always a great resource for creative meals and snacks – be sure to connect with us while you are there! www.pinterest.com/trilliumnatural

Obstacle #2 : Willpower

On the surface, willpower seems like the most difficult healthy-eating obstacles to overcome, but there are some tools that you can put in place to help yourself resist the urge for that brownie or bag of chips. First, use logic in your favor. Learn as much as you can about healthy foods and how they contribute to your health. When you are tempted to make an unhealthy choice remind yourself of your reasons for pursuing a healthier lifestyle and why that food does not contribute to you achieving your health goals. Also, make sure that you have a plan for the week. Make a grocery list based on a couple of healthy meal ideas and prepare as much as possible in advance. If you have healthy options in your fridge, you are less likely to allow yourself to get too hungry and be swayed to order a pizza!

Obstacle #3: Food Cravings and/or Addictions

Food cravings and addictions can really stand in the way of healthy eating and the path toward optimal health. In many cases, cravings and addictions are related to the desire to suppress emotions. In order to manage this, it’s important to let go of unresolved emotional conflict and take active steps to manage your stress. With any dietary change (or any behavioral change, for that matter), it’s the first 30 days that really matter. Know that your taste buds will change after 30 days on a healthy diet. In the beginning, your taste buds may be accustomed to chemical preservatives and artificial sweeteners. Over time, you’ll see how your taste begins to appreciate the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables. Soon, your body and taste buds will adjust and you will find yourself craving healthy foods. Many people are delightfully surprised by this!

Obstacle #4: Finances

Not everyone can afford to eat all organic, all the time. When it comes to eating organic or investing in a high-powered blender and other cooking equipment, the cost of healthy eating can add up. In this case, do the best you can. Be strategic about which types of produce you buy organic and which you do not. Check out the dirty dozen for guidance on the most important foods to buy organic. You can also save money by purchasing seasonal and local fruits and vegetables. One of my favorite ways to save money during the summer months is to sign up for a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Other benefits of joining a CSA are the ability to support local farmers, access to fresh-picked produce and the opportunity to try fruits and vegetables that you may never have selected at the grocery store. For CSAs in Southwestern Pennsylvania, check out this list. Also, don’t be afraid to keep things simple! You don’t need to cook complicated gourmet meals containing several ingredients. A fresh, simple-fare diet makes for enjoyable, nutritious and economical meals.

Obstacle #5: Family Traditions

This is a tricky one. Relatives can be offended if you won’t eat their traditional meals. For most patients, eating really well 80% of the time allows 20% of time to splurge. Perhaps family get-togethers featuring your favorite comfort food are one of those times that can allow yourself to indulge. To keep things under control, be sure to eat a snack at home before you go to the party or event. When you arrive at Aunt Norma’s house and she’s serving your favorite Mac ‘n Cheese, you can enjoy a small serving without temptation to devour the entire serving dish.

Obstacle #6: Having a Social Life

Having a social life is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. However, if you are meeting your friends at a restaurant, healthy choices aren’t often available. It can be frustrating, but there are always options! The best thing to do is to plan in advance. Seek out restaurants that prepare fresh food on-site (many restaurants, especially major chains, use a lot of processed food and prepared meals on their menu). Look at the menu in advance to determine if there is something that you will be able to eat and try to plan your social engagements at establishments that make dietary accommodations or have healthy options available. When all else fails, if you are able to follow the 80/20 rule of healthy eating, then social time with friends might be a time that you allow some slippage!

Obstacle #7: Husband/Wife, Kids Not on Board

At first, this can be really challenging. Change is hard for everyone, but especially for those patients who are meeting resistance at home. It’s easy to lose motivation to follow a healthy eating plan when you feel as though you have to cook a separate meal for your spouse and/or children. The best advice that I can offer is to persevere. While your family may be resistant at first, remind them how important these changes are to your health and the health of the entire family. Also, involve your family as you embrace a healthier lifestyle. Hold a family cook-off to compete for the best healthy meal. Challenge each other to reinvent your favorite recipes into healthier versions. Eventually, they will come around! Another option is to get a Vitamix and disguise vegetables in sauces, soups, dips and spreads. Many people find them to be a worthwhile investment.

Adopting a new lifestyle is challenging. Food is a source of comfort and most people don’t like change, so it can be hard – but it’s worth it! Engage your support network of friends and family that want to eat healthy so that you can encourage each other and share recipes, tips and advice!

Which obstacles have you faced on your journey to a healthier lifestyle and how have you overcome those challenges? Share your experience in the comments below.