The Key to Changing Your Diet – for Good!

The information provided in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.
It is not a substitute for your doctor's care plan or advice.

How to Change to a Healthy Diet for Good!

{Want to change to a healthy diet?  Please welcome back Ruth Almon from Paleo Diet Basics who is sharing her best tips for healthy eating – and making a healthy change–for good!}

Have you ever watched a reality TV show where a dietician arrives at someone’s home, goes on a kitchen rampage, wildly tossing unhealthy food products into garbage bags? Once the kitchen’s bare, a famous chef saunters in and teaches the excited, but somewhat overwhelmed dieter how to prepare several healthy dishes.

Well this makes for great TV, but is the Cold Turkey method really the best way to switch from a SAD (standard American diet) to a healthy diet?

I think not.

Making changes “Cold Turkey” can affect you psychologically and physically.  Here's how.

Psychological Effects of “Cold Turkey” Healthy Diet Changes

Your present way of eating, whether it’s a combination of takeout and microwaved meals or whether you cook from scratch but using less than perfect ingredients –

however you manage it now, you have a system in place.

It’s a method you’re accustomed to and it fits your lifestyle. But when you give your system up in one go, it leaves you with a void.

So if you take out the old ways are–then what?

In with the new, before out with the old!

I’m a big fan of adopting new healthy options before removing masses of bad ones. You’re less likely to crave those old, unhealthy choices when you and your family have delicious, new favorites. But building a repertoire of healthy recipes to suit your tastes, your budget, and schedule takes time.

There’s another problem with getting rid of old foods en masse. When you throw out the old products and make a great production of it, it creates lots of exciting, fresh-start energy.

That’s good.

But that can also work like a pendulum swinging right back in the opposite direction.

Sudden changes tend to disappear as quickly as they appear (New Year’s resolutions anyone?). These changes may feel more like a diet than a lifestyle change.

But let’s face it: if you want to have a real impact on your health and weight, you need to change your eating for good – not go on a diet for a few months or a year.

Physical Effects of “Cold Turkey” Healthy Diet Changes

We’ve looked at the difference between gradual change and cold turkey, with respect to psychological/lifestyle factors, but what about how your body reacts to slow vs. drastic change?

If you drink lots of coffee and stop suddenly, you’ll probably suffer from headaches until your body adjusts. If you eat lots of carbs and go low carb overnight, there’s a good chance you’ll get what’s called “carb flu” (a few weeks of brain fog, fatigue, cravings, headaches).

The body doesn’t take kindly to drastic change. The exception to this is if you have an allergy or sensitivity, such as to gluten, and then suddenly remove it. You may feel better immediately. But it’s also possible that a drastic change will leave you feeling worse before you feel better, even if the change is a healthy one. The danger here is that feeling bad for a week or two may discourage you from continuing your transition to a real food diet.

Don’t forget that the digestion process involves gut bacteria. Your gut ecosystem adapts to match shifts in diet. When you make sudden changes, though, there’s a period in which the bacteria haven’t yet adjusted to the new regime and you may feel the effects. The benefit to gradual change is in letting your gut ecology keep pace.

How can YOU make healthy diet changes stick?

Step. By. Step.

Well, it’s like this. You need to incorporate new ingredients in your cooking and add new recipes to your repertoire.

It’s not enough just to start experimenting with new ingredients here and there, they have to become part and parcel of the way you cook. Sometimes it’s easy. Other times, change takes a while, like:

My experience with coconut oil.

This was a definite learning curve!

1. I read all about this totally unfamiliar (to me) ingredient and decided to try it.

2. Bought coconut oil. It smelled foul and tasted like petroleum jelly. Oops. Turns out I had bought one that wasn’t food grade.

3. Bought the right product. No idea how to use it. Just looked at it for a week.

4. Experimentation. Tried it with stir fry (great!), tried it with eggs (didn’t like it), tried it with stew (perfect), and so on.

I figured out where it works and where it doesn’t – for me.

5. Incorporation. Today coconut oil is just a regular ingredient I use in my kitchen, like butter, salt, or chicken. I don’t give it a second thought. That’s your goal. Make healthy ingredients a regular part of your cooking.

It’s the same deal with recipes. Maybe you’re used to preparing ground beef with Hamburger Helper®. So you might have to experiment with a few whole food ground beef recipes before you find something that works for you, but when you do, chances are excellent it’ll be much tastier than that Hamburger Helper processed-food meal ever was.  {From Adrienne: if you like Hamburger Helper®, try this Homemade Chili Mac on for size!}

So–What’s best for YOU?

Does one size fit all?

While I do believe that for many people, the best course of action is a gradual change, people are individual. Cold turkey changes do suit some people’s personality, and if it’s right for you, then go for it.

Pay Attention to Your Body

If you opt for gradual changes, pay close attention to improvements along the way.

As you slowly feel better and better, you might not even notice symptoms disappearing! It sounds hard to believe, but I’ve heard people describe how they suddenly realized that they haven’t had a headache or some other symptom for a year, though they had them regularly before.

Gone and forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind.

It’s great to make your health problems a thing of the past, but don’t overlook the fact that their disappearance occurred after your switch to a whole foods diet.

What tips do YOU have for transitioning to a healthy diet?

Ruth Almon of Paleo Diet BasicsRuth Almon is a big fan of the paleo diet, having regained her health after decades of living with chronic fatigue syndrome. She’s the author of Step By Step Paleo, a guidebook that takes the guesswork out of transitioning to paleo.

Ruth blogs at Paleo Diet Basics.  


These comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Whole New Mom, LLC.


    Speak Your Mind


  1. I love this post so much! This is the exact approach I’m trying to take. Sure, I’d love the pounds to come off a little faster, but my main goal is to create healthy habits for my kiddos. I’ve done the all or nothing approach – I gave it my all, and then when I slipped I gave it nothing for a long time until I could get back. I also love to try to add healthy habits and watch those unhealthy ones get squeezed out of the equation. GREAT post! Thanks so much for this! We have a {Healthy} Tips and Tricks Tuesday and this post would be so valuable to others like myself – I’d love for you to share it! Thank you!

  2. I totally agree, Ruth! Big diet changes require a slow transition. It’s not only better for your body, but it allows you to gradually learn new things and adjust to your diet and habits as well.

  3. Tired of not feeling well for most of my life I am always in search of why. Can’t say I was sick, just didn’t feel like I think I should. Did a raw fruit and vegetable diet for 3 weeks one summer. Since I was spending the time at home alone I thought it would be a perfect time. I had so much more energy and lost weight at the end of three weeks. But that is a tough thing to follow especially when there are others around. I know that is not practical but I keep making choices now. Such as coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, yogurt and a few other things. I believe I have figured out what the problem is and now it is just a life style change I will have to work into gradually. I do monitor how I feel and when I don’t feel so well I look back at what I ate and realize where I slipped up. Hard to give up somethings but also know the consequences if I don’t at least cut back.

    Great to know that going cold turkey is not a wise choice. Besides I would never go for throwing out food. But making smarter choices when shopping is important. I eat beans, so I can have salmon.


  4. I agree with your outlook and advice. My husband Alan is always telling people to stop looking at food for “entertainment” and start to look at food as “Fuel” for this most magnificent miracle called “the human body”. We believe 85% of illness is the result of wrong eating.
    Thanks for your effort and this site!
    Alicia H