The Hard Truths I Had to Face to Get Healthy Without Dieting

Most of my Mondays start the same: with a vow to recommit to my health. I make that early morning yoga class, dive into hard-boiled eggs and avocado for breakfast, stick to one cup of black coffee, stay off the booze, and hit the hay early. Good-bye, indulgent weekend; hello, healthy week.

There’s nothing wrong with a Monday reset, right? In my case… there started to be.

Two months ago, I realized it wasn’t an unhealthy weekend I needed to recover from, it was an unhealthy five months. An international move and a whirlwind trip across Asia had rocked my world, and in the process, my healthy habits were aggressively thrown out the window. Though there’s very little I would change about my experience, there’s also no denying that I’d taken giant steps backward when it came to my health—and was slowly but surely suffering the consequences. I didn’t just need a Monday reset; I needed about 100.

Confronting My Demons

As I lay in bed after another restless night, waking to another upset stomach, I decided it was time to get real. Dear body, it’s not you, it’s me...

After past indulgences—like bachelorette weekends or the holidays—I’d often turned to cleanses, detoxes, and other quick-fix diets to whip me back into shape (and fast). But surprise surprise, they never set me on the right track. Instead, they often sent me into a spiral of binging, which I really didn’t need considering I’d been doing that for the past five months. I think I’ll pass.

So, what was a good option?

I’d done Whole30 before and loved it, but knew I’d struggle without my own kitchen to cook in (I'm currently living with my in-laws—that’s a story for another time) and a limited budget for buying high-quality produce and protein. Without a diet that seemed suitable to my living situation, I had to look elsewhere: deep inside myself. (Oh boy.)

Though I’m all for focusing on strengths, I knew I had to confront my inner demons and focus on my weaknesses. So instead of having a pep talk with myself, I had a real talk with myself and was honest about where I was struggling:

  • I was an overeater.  (What does being full even mean?!)
  • I loved eating out... all the time. (But it’s a celebration!)
  • I #treatyoself daily (All day, every day, right?)
  • Exercise, what's that? (Insert every excuse imaginable here.)

Phew, now that I had the hard part over with (ya know, being honest with myself), I just had to figure out a way forward—and a way to decrease my desire for "just one" last glass of wine. Because confronting your inner demons is hard and it’s just one glass and red wine is healthy and… stop right there.

Let the Training Begin

When training for a marathon, you don’t start with a 20-mile run. Instead, you start small, gradually adding distance and weaving in strength training to increase endurance and decrease risk of injuries. Though I’ve never actually trained for a marathon, I knew my road to a healthy, happy me was going to be a similar effort, requiring serious mental stamina and the right kind of training. I also knew it wasn’t realistic to expect change overnight. So I started small.

1. Overeating

When it came to overeating, I decided to stop going back for seconds. Whether enjoying a meal at home or treating myself to a night out, I gave myself one plate to make the most of it—which, as it turns out, was more than enough. I didn’t start measuring my portions, counting calories, or chewing 100 times before swallowing. I just kept it simple—and doable. 

2. Eating Out

When it came to eating out, I set a soft rule of sticking to high-protein entrées with a side of veggies. Considering I love chicken, fish, and getting down with greens, this change came easy. And restaurants often cook protein in copious amounts of butter, oil, and salt, so even selecting the healthier options still felt like a splurge. With a glass of wine in my hand—a rich red that made sticking to just one easy (well, easier)—eating out still felt fun, which was key to making me stick with these healthier choices.

3. Treating Myself

Living with family meant a chocolate bar was always stashed somewhere and that there were bottles of wine to crack open at a moment’s notice (and people who were willing to enjoy them with you). Normally I’d go cold turkey and make “no” my favorite word. But this time, I did something unexpected: I said yes—a few times a week. And when I did say yes, I tried to make smart choices. A nibble of chocolate? Make it dark. Beer with dinner? Let’s share one. Matcha latte on this cold and dreary day? Hell yes, but with almond milk, please.

4. Exercise

The exercise was the real battle. I was motivated to move, but the act of moving didn’t feel good. My body was stiff and weak, and most of my runs ended with bags of frozen peas draped over half of my body. Even my trusty barre videos stopped doing the trick. They became boring—as they do when you’ve done them 50-plus times—and I stopped pushing myself. Then I stopped turning them on. Even dog walks started to feel tedious and tiring.

Though I’d initially talked myself out of buying a gym pass or class pack at a studio, I realized it was the best way to hold myself accountable—and make exercise enjoyable again. So I went back to yoga. First I went twice a week, then three times, then four times. A lot of my sessions still ended in ice—holy cow, I’d let myself get out of shape—but each morning I woke up stronger, more limber, and more excited about moving my body.

A Strong Finish

If this were truly a marathon, I’d only be at mile 13. Though I’m two months in and have made strides toward a healthier me, I have a long way to go. But by introducing small changes and incrementally improving my habits over time, I’ve stuck with them. I’m not starving like I’ve felt during juice cleanses. I’m not low energy, which I’ve felt on low-carb diets. I’m feeling good—and better every day. The best part: This healthy track that I’m on still includes all of my favorite things. And now that I’m consuming them less, I actually appreciate them.

It’s easy to want to see change immediately. I’m going to a wedding in two weeks and want to look my best! (Been there.) Summer is near and I want to finally feel confident on the beach! (Yep, been there too.) I finally want to commit to just being healthy! Well, if you’ve gotten this far, you know I’ve been there.

And what I’ve learned is that change doesn’t come quickly and that I shouldn’t force it. It took me five months to get off track; it’s not going to take two weeks, or even a month, to turn back time. It’s going to be a long journey, but for the first time, I’m confident I’m going to stick to it.