Changing your Diet Successfully to Improve your Skin: My Experiences and Tips

So for some people, following a healthy diet is simple. But if you are anything like me then the idea of eating healthily and cutting out all junk seems beyond achievable at first but trust me I got there and so can you.

I am lucky that I have always had a fast metabolism (thanks mum!) and stayed slim at an 8 no matter what I have ate or drank over the years, but this has negatively led me to never watch what I eat and  frankly eat a bunch of stuff which is definitely not great for my skin! I have always known deep down that my junk food loaded diet with hardly any fruit or vegetables cannot be doing any good for my skin but I put the guilty thoughts at the back of my mind thinking it would just be too hard to change the habits of a lifetime. I attempted (and failed) many a time to change my eating habits so lost hope in myself but I have now reached a stage where I eat well, don’t feel restricted and feel that my eczema stays that bit calmer and so I wanted to share with those of you who struggle too!

Rules of Thumb when Attempting Diet changes

When changing your diet, I think there are some general rules to follow which will help you achieve that better diet you want, rather than fail and lose hope that it can be done at all. Now with my failures over the years, I began to reflect on what was going wrong and came up with these rules of thumb which may help you. Nothing is out of reach when changing your diet, but taking the wrong approach can hinder your progress.

1) Don’t try and revamp your whole diet overnight: Think more slowly but surely than fast and furious!

That motivation to want to change for the better is amazing, you think yes I can do this, I need to do this, how hard can it really be and go full throttle into the change. You see the ‘perfect’ diet in your mind and attempt to overhaul all your current food habits into this new diet plan all at once. STOP. Change is hard. Let’s face it, giving up our favourite foods (for me my chocolates, cakes, muffins) isn’t easy at all so how can we expect ourselves to forbid all these foods and be happy with it all in one night? I found that giving up multiple foods at once led me to feel more negative about change, I craved the foods, I felt annoyed when I couldn’t eat them when others could and god did I hate my eczema for ‘making me do this’. The negativity associated with such change isn’t going to lead to long term change because food is a huge part of our lives; the negativity will be there at every restricted meal, every time you don’t feel satisfied. I love food and when change to my diet became negative I just resorted back to usual and basically gave up. It just seemed like added stress I didn’t need.

I found slow but progressive steps can help build towards that diet you aim for without feeling too hard or out of reach. Achieving each small goal also fuels you on to the next because you’ve accomplished something, you realise actually you can do this. That’s my opinion anyway! Yes patience is necessary but you will get there and this way, the change is positive rather than negative.

2) Write down the changes you want to achieve and organise them into practical steps to follow

So when I began to change my diet I had many different factors to incorporate: eat more fruit and vegetables, drink less caffeine, eat less junk i.e. sugar loaded food, limit my dairy intake, limit my gluten and wheat intake, drink more herbal teas and the list could go on….Now you can see how changing this all at once was going to be a burden and so instead I had to think about how I was going to make each of these changes in a successful way.

Firstly, it is important to organise all your wants or changes into a list so that you can see what it is you want to change, then break down each change into smaller, simpler steps. Think about how you can progressively shape your diet to achieve each of your change goals. Just saying I will eat more fruit and vegetables isn’t helpful, it is important to have real, practical steps to follow in place. What I did was add one apple or one banana to my diet each day and add 2 to 3 handfuls of green salad to my dinner every evening. Now this wasn’t an amazing change, but I added in more fruit and veg than I was currently having easily and that was great! I ensured I continued this for at least 2 weeks successfully before moving onto another item. This wasn’t hard I’d just never proactively done it before. Having the simple step to follow made me do it in a way which was positive and not hard at all. When you tick one off your list, just incorporate a second and so forth…trust me, it is so much easier!

Tip: Maintenance of items you have successfully completed on your list is important as you work through further changes. Ensure you continue to follow your completed steps as you incorporate each new one! Do not tick an item as complete until it has become second nature and you have proactively managed to maintain the habit for a good amount of time (perhaps 2-4 weeks). You do not want to be failing old targets as you achieve a new goal, ALL are vital!

3) Mix up your Additions and Restrictions!

So diet changes can either be additions or restrictions, and for eczema it is definitely a mixture of the two that is needed to help give us clearer skin. Additions for me personally are easier than restrictions, so I planned my diet changes so that each successful addition to my diet was followed by a restrictive change so that I wasn’t restricting a bunch of foods all at once. For someone with a healthy appetite and a tendency to feel hungry, it also meant that I had some additional foods to replace the hunger caused by restrictions so definitely a bonus.

For example, after successfully adding in a few handfuls of green salad to my dinner and a piece of fruit a day I decided to begin restricting my sugar intake. Now this was going to be hard I knew it but the success of the fruit and veg fuelled me on! I was also realistic with this goal knowing I couldn’t cut it out completely and if I’m honest I didn’t want to NEVER be able to have it. Let’s face it birthdays, Christmas and dinner parties happen and so I knew that I would allow myself some treats because hey why not! I began this with restricting added sugar (i.e. it was now no sugar in my tea or Weetabix); I then limited my sugar intake to one sugary ‘treat’ a day. For me this was hard as I hadn’t realised just how much sugar everything I ate included but having that one sugary thing a day helped it be more manageable! (I also began to eat more fruit as the fruit replaced the sugar snacks so definitely a bonus!).

Helpful Tip: I found that eating an apple reduced my craving for any food as it filled me up and quenched the craving. When you’re struggling to restrict, try it! Helped me to stop thinking about chocolate at the midmorning break time!

4) Don’t aim for Perfection, aim for personal improvement

Now, my mention of fruit and veg may make some of you laugh thinking it isn’t hard at all. And well it isn’t really, but I still personally lack the habit of ensuring I get my 5 a day. I know many people who easily eat more, but for me it is something I had to achieve more practically. Now, as with many things in life don’t compare yourself to anyone else. We are all so different and so it is important that our diet changes are tailored around us as individuals. I felt great adding in green salad to my dinner and a piece of fruit each day and I didn’t care that my friends do this already. For me, this was a positive change. Aim for personal improvement.

5) Reward yourself

Now who doesn’t like a treat?! When motivation is lacking or waning and thinking of why you are doing this doesn’t work, give yourself an aim and promise yourself that when you reach this goal you will reward yourself. For me, I reduced my sugar to one sugary thing a day or less and at least 2 pieces of fruit a day and salad every dinner for a month and treated myself to that new pair of shoes I wanted. Working towards something you want is great and helps to fuel you on! We all deserve a treat and diet changes are hard! Appreciate your hard work and treat yourself!

6) Indulge (in Moderation)

Now with some foods, i.e. sugary foods, I allow myself to indulge at times. For example at a birthday party when there is cake, at Christmas for example, because come on, it would make the diet changes so much more negative if we never got to eat anything we liked ever and would be torture! And so I do allow myself treats as I am only human, however, moderation is key. For me, if I have a party coming up and I know I will want dessert I may reduce all sugary intake for the days before and after to account for this and that way I get to have my cake without the guilt of breaking the new diet. This type of working isn’t for all, but for me and my personality, it works well and helps to keep me going. After all, I’ve restricted many of my favourite foods and never being able to eat them seems too hard, this give and take working works well for me. Just make sure you don’t go off the rails!

7) Maintain, Maintain Maintain!

As with anything, maintenance is so important. I had a few days off my positive diet changes and found that it was oh so easy to slip back into my bad ways. It would take no amount of time to undo my hard work and for me it just wasn’t worth it. Maintenance is so important. With the treats along the way, maintenance doesn’t seem so bad either!

 

I hope these steps will help you along the way when you face diet changes which just seem unbearable, you can do them but don’t expect it to all happen overnight! Take simple steps and you can do it. (I guess this applies for many things not just food!). You need patience and it takes time but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. When you achieve each goal, you feel positive and the changes have made me feel stronger and more in control and f I’m honest, aren’t torturous at all. Balance is important so don’t restrict completely if you know you don’t want to. Just indulge in moderation and it feels just as good if not better than eating it every day!

 

In my next post, I will talk about the specific diet changes that have positively benefited my skin! Keep posted! Hope this helps!

 

 

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