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I was inspired recently to write up a different kind of diet. As a nutritionist and health coach, I’m passionate about eating nourishing foods and living a healthy active lifestyle. But there have been times in my life, and it still happens occasionally, when my commitment weakens and I could easily slip into bad habits if I don’t pull myself out of my funk quickly.

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Looking deeper, I recognize that my habits are highly correlated with my self-esteem, and the choices I make on a daily basis are based on how I feel about myself (and my experience tells me that this is a natural part of being human). So when I notice that I’m slipping out of my good supportive habits, I immediately put some pratices in place to help me get back in the groove – which is the basis of my self-esteem diet.

The Missing Piece

My belief is that most people know intuitively what their body needs to feel good, and the reason they don’t do what supports them has very little to do with lack of knowledge. Most people know that fresh, whole, natural foods are good for you, and refined, processed foods are not. Most people know that physical activity is crucial for good health, and being sedentary is not. But if everyone followed the basic guidelines, we wouldn’t have the overweight and obesity rates that we currently do, and the diet industry wouldn’t be the giant that it is.

There’s a foundation missing, and no one is immune to it. There are so many distractions in our environments that can pull our focus away from who we are and what we want to accomplish. We can easily become disconnected from ourselves if we don’t have the proper structures in place to maintain a strong foundation, which is our core self-esteem.

Important Note: No two bodies are alike. Therefore, a huge aspect of lifting your self-esteem and setting your foundation is to learn what’s best for YOU. No diet book or menu plan can tell you that. You can certainly learn great information through them, and try things out to explore your best solutions, but it’s important to remember that the best food and lifestyle habits for you are the ones that make you feel the best and give you the most energy. Truly listen to your body, and it will not steer you wrong. The higher your self-esteem, you better you will be able to listen to it.

Diet Guidelines

These guidelines are designed to help you decrease the “noise” in your environment so that you can listen to what your body is telling you. They are simple, and great to incorporate every day, but not always easy. I suggest that you start with three days of total compliance and see how you feel. Then extend it. The idea is not necessarily to do this “perfectly” every day for the rest of your life, but to simply become aware of these factors so that you have the tools to get yourself quickly out of a funk, should you need them (and if you are human, you probably will occasionally). So here they are:

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Avoid:

Gossip

It’s not a good strategy for feeling good about yourself to hear about the misfortunes of others. It’s also bad karma, and a poor investment of your energy. There is no such thing as healthy gossip in my opinion, especially if you want to keep your self-esteem high.

Comparisons

Remember that there is absolutely no one, I repeat no one, on this planet who is going through, and has been through, the exact same situation as you, and who has the exact same set of skills and limitations as you do. Your situation is unique to you, and your successes and setbacks cannot be fairly compared to anyone else’s – in a good or bad way. Even comparing yourself to your old self is not encouraged, because you are a different person today than you were then. Look to others for inspiration, not comparisons.

Negative People and Situations

When you only have so much time and energy in a day, why waste it with those who you don’t feel good around? People who can tend to bring you down – either by minimizing or putting down your achievements or efforts, or just by being pessimistic and negative – are not worth investing a lot of time in, if any. Guard your energy carefully or you’ll risk having others pull you down.

Limit or Severely Restrict:

Time On Social Media

Minimize your time spent online browsing through photos and status updates – this can lead to harmful comparisons (which you want to avoid), and lowered self-esteem, as supported by multiple recent studies. Try to spend more of your online time browsing through inspirational and informative content that can support you towards your goals, and less time concerned about how many ‘likes’ you get on your posts. Real self-worth does not come from likes.

Alcohol

Being under the influence of alcohol does not make you a more confident person, even if you may feel that way at the time. It is in fact a depressant, whether the effects are felt during or after drinking, and can sabotage your efforts toward your health goals if consumed any more than in moderation – which in turn sabotages your self-esteem. A healthy balanced lifestyle can include moderate amounts of alcohol, but excess consumption can definitely put you several steps back.

Saying Yes!

A new commitment is a big deal. Rather than agreeing immediately to all requests and then having to back out and apologize when you really aren’t able to follow through like you said you would, thoroughly evaluate them, and only say yes to the ones that feel good and will provide value. If you follow your “gut,” most often that initial instinct will be the answer you should go with. Saying “no” when you mean “no” and taking control of your schedule will give you an immense lift in self-esteem. In contrast, saying yes to please others, when you really don’t have the time or energy or other means to follow through without added stress, will impact your integrity and your self-esteem negatively.

Enjoy Moderately:

Journaling

Journaling is a great way for you to acknowledge your progress and challenges, which are both important to track when working towards goals. Nothing helps with solving life’s problems better than writing them out and talking (on paper) to yourself about them; it helps you gain clarity and perspective, and even develop strategies and actions to tackle them. Writing them out by hand has the added benefit of downloading them to your subconscious, which gets to work on them right away. You’ll start to notice solutions and opportunities appearing, that you never noticed before, once you start journaling about things you want to change. Get comfortable talking to yourself, a little bit every week, and you’ll become your own best counsellor, which inevitably makes you feel more confident. You’ll also be able to look back on your journey in writing, and see how far you’ve come.

Discomfort

When you step outside of your comfort zone, even though doing so can seem stressful at the time – the very act of being afraid and doing it anyways has an amazingly positive impact on self-esteem. Take a look at areas in your life where you’ve been playing it a little too safe. This inhibits growth, and stagnation can lead to lowered self-esteem. Make a list, and a plan of action to do something at least once a week that’s a little bit uncomfortable. You can start small and build up – the bigger the action, the bigger the boost in self-esteem.

Meditation

Although meditation is most effective if done regularly, it’s in the moderate category because it doesn’t have to take a lot of time to be effective. You can benefit from just 5-10 minutes of quiet meditation daily. If meditation is new to you, start by simply taking a few minutes out of your day to spend in silence. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and simply let thoughts pass through your mind without giving them any attention. This simple practice can do wonders for getting re-grounded and re-focused, and lifting the spirit significantly.

Enjoy Often:

Good Quality Sleep

Have you ever noticed how much your mood and motivation can be impacted by the quality of sleep you’ve had? Unfortunately, caffeine highs are just not as good for you, or your self-esteem, as the high you get from a good quality night’s sleep. Here’s something that not everyone may know: not all hours of sleep are equal. The hours of sleep you get before midnight are exponentially better than the hours of sleep you get after midnight. Bad news for night owls, but it’s important to note. So, if you’re not in the habit already, try going to bed before 10pm for three nights in a row and see if you notice a difference. Who knows, it may even free up some early morning time to squeeze in a meditation or a workout (and eliminate some late-night status-update surfing)! Only good things can come from good sleep.

Positive Environments and People

This one’s pretty simple: spend more time in places where you feel good, and more time with people with whom you feel uplifted, supported, and inspired. Being around positive people encourages and nurtures positive thoughts and feelings. It’s the exact opposite of the feeling you get around negative people or situations. You may also have your favourite places that give you feelings of calm, safety, nourishment, and inspiration. Make a point to spend more time in these environments – and for added benefit, journal or meditate while there!

Gratitude

Everywhere you look, there is something to be grateful for, so make a habit of practicing gratitude regularly. You can do this by listing 5-10 things daily that you’re grateful for (and why), or you can simply practice it on-going throughout the day – like being thankful for your legs when you get up, for clean water when you’re showering, for electricity when you’re cooking… you get the point. Focusing on the things that you have, rather than what you don’t have, is a great exercise for lifting you out of a funk, and keeping your spirits high. It can also positively affect your self-esteem, by helping to shift your perspective from looking at how far you have yet to go to reach your goals, to how far you’ve already come.

Self-esteem and healthy habits work hand-in-hand to get you where you want to go: when your self-esteem is high, it’s easier to keep up your healthy habits, and when you keep up your healthy habits, you feel better about yourself and your self-esteem is higher. So, whether you’re on track to reach your goals, or you’ve hit a roadblock, why not devote a few days to trying out some things that can purely lift your spirits and self-esteem? Your mind, body and spirit will all thank you.


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