The overwhelm of how to eat healthier descends once again as New Year’s resolutions are still nice and fresh. But the “highs” of that anticipated new path plummets quickly when we see how complicated we can make it.

The energy to rigidly adhere to this diet or that one spirals down fast, finding us discouraged long about mid-January at which point we’re dangerously close to resigning ourselves to chips and dip or Little Debbie’s as food groups.

But our lives are complicated, and so trying to insert too detailed an eating plan into the context of our everyday activities can be like trying to plug round pegs into square holes.

But I’ve found that the simpler the approach, the greater the success.

Nixing sugar is no huge revelation to anyone, yet, because it’s virtually as addictive as cocaine not many people can easily resist it. But tackling that alone is a good place to start.

When I was in college, I consumed huge amounts of sugar via desserts with every meal and an open bag of cookies always available in my dorm room. From September to December I packed on 25 pounds, as did many of the freshman girls at this all-girls Catholic school in rural Kentucky. I attributed it in large part to boredom and sugary, high-calorie food was a logical diversion.

I still remember that a single vanilla wafer had just 19 calories and I’d dole out just two or three as a portion. But the more calories I counted, the more weight I gained. I wasn’t sure that I could ever stop.

There came a point when I knew I was just going to keep eating, but because we had an abundance of apple and pears trees on campus, I started eating those because I knew that, regardless of the calories, they were healthier choices.

My epiphany was when I noticed the sugary stuff gradually became less appealing until it finally had no appeal at all. And so I just kept eating that fruit.

Now, of course, I know why that happened. It was all that fiber I was consuming from whole foods. It was literally helping me to detox from the bad stuff I had been eating.

The takeaway here is the more good stuff, as in whole, plant-based foods, that you eat the more nutritionally balanced you become. Calories don’t really have to figure into the equation if you’re eating mostly those foods.

The weight will come off.

You’ll know you’re on the right track when you no longer crave the foods that aren’t good for you. Then you can give up the emotional struggle surrounding food and let your body direct you.

The secret is to keep it simple, even if you just begin by eating an apple or two a day. Then start adding more and more plant-based foods. Just access YouTube and you can find lots of quick and easy recipe options.

My default when I can’t think of anything to fix is to always have some potatoes, carrots, onion and cabbage on hand. I just cut them up (using fewer potatoes than the rest of the veggies) and them boil or steam them. I add a little salt and pepper and that’s it. It’s not exactly a taste festival for the palate but it’s both nourishing and satisfying.

We can spend a lot of time, energy and money on foods that provide that cozy familiarity of sugary, salty, fatty foods, but the sad truth is, once it’s cleared our tongues and hit our stomachs, the taste party’s over.

To eliminate sugar, fried foods, gravies and burgers may feel like you’re missing something, especially if it’s been a big part of your diet.

But I suggest you try mostly plant-based eating for just one week and then notice how you feel. I’m certain you can find someone in your social media circle or maybe at work who’s benefitted from it and would be happy to talk about it.

True story; it really is affordable health care.

Paula M. Anderson is a certified Health & Wellness Coach. She has written and presented on health-related topics in the Grand Valley for many years. Email her at paula.anderson46@gmail.com

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