Healthy lifestyle changes that last


by Brandy McDevitt, Registered Dietitian

Many clients ask my opinions about the newest diet trends, supplements and health fads to help them lose weight. Most people want to lose weight quickly and feel that once they do, they will be healthier and happier. I spend a lot of time talking about shifting the goal away from looking at the scale as a marker of success. Instead, look at daily behaviours and choices as the true reflections of improved health and lifestyle.

Anyone can make temporary adjustments to daily habits to obtain a certain weight or body image. What usually happens, though, is once you stop those temporary and often unrealistic measures, the weight returns—plus a few pounds extra.

You feel bad, as though you’re the one who failed the diet when in reality it was the diet that failed you. If you want to stop this cycle and incorporate healthy lifestyle changes that will last, consider these five strategies.


Whether you approach healthy eating with a view that it will be low carb, high protein, organic, vegetarian, paleo or gluten free, it has to be something you can see yourself doing forever. I generally say to clients, “Start as you mean to continue.”

If you are a pasta and bread lover, then a low carb or gluten free diet isn’t for you. If you don’t love meat, then a high protein diet is likely not for you. A realistic eating pattern is something you can envision yourself doing a majority of the time while also allowing for the indulgences that make life enjoyable.


Ideally every meal and snack should contain a variety of different foods and colours so you maximize nutrition and feel satisfied. If you find yourself only eating vegetables or having a steak at supper, be aware: this is not balanced. Each meal or snack has three components to help slow down digestion and make you feel satisfied for a longer period of time:

 high fibre items (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts/seeds)

protein (beans/lentils; nuts/seeds; meat/poultry/fish; dairy or dairy alternatives)

fats (already part of the meat, dairy, nuts/seeds or added in cooking)


Without a plan in place, it is very di cult to follow through on making lifestyle changes. Set yourself up for success by being prepared. It’s far too easy to grab convenience foods that are more processed and less healthy. Planning helps ensure you eat the foods you want to be eating.

Plan your meals and snacks on the same day each week. You will be more likely to follow through on doing it when it is a fixed part of your weekly routine.

Shop during the week, ideally Thursday or Friday. If you work full time, do it in the evening. When the weekend arrives, your fridge will be stocked. You’ll have time to prepare food without feeling you’re spending all your time shopping and working in the kitchen.

Cook in quantity! Double the recipe; cook extra meat; bake two batches. The extra food can be used for quick meals and snacks.

Chop, wash and pre-portion. On the weekend, chop carrots, celery, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas and beans; place them in Ziploc bags with a bit of water. Wash grapes and chop fruits such as pineapple and watermelon and place them in individual containers for quick snacks during the week.


When I ask clients to describe their physical activity, often they say they have desk jobs and don’t have time to go to the gym. Incorporating activity into your life does not need to equal going to the gym. Thirty minutes (minimum) of physical activity can be included in your daily life. It can mean playing and running with your kids, doing stretching exercises with your family after supper, completing some yard work, going for a bike ride or a walk, parking your car at the back of the parking lot, taking the stairs or using a standing desk at work.


Your body has the natural ability to know how much you need to eat to be well nourished. Adults sometimes lose that internal ability to regulate natural hunger and fullness cues. People also eat for reasons other than true physical hunger. You may eat because you are sad, lonely or bored. At events such as work meetings and social gatherings, you may eat when you aren’t truly hungry.

Relearning hunger and fullness cues—coming to the table hungry (not ravenous) and leaving the table satisfied (not stuffed)—is called mindful eating. Eating when you are truly physically hungry (your stomach is rumbling and it has been four to six hours since your last meal) and noticing you feel hungry because you are sad or bored or because food is there (and choosing to do something else other than eat) is mindful eating.

Giving yourself permission to enjoy treats occasionally and savouring every bite is also mindful eating.

Want additional help with any of these strategies? Find a dietitian in private practice at, connect with a dietitian at various Loblaws locations across the city, or reach out to your dietitian if you are a client with a doctor at a community health centre or family health team.

Brandy McDevitt is a registered dietitian who works with the Greenbelt Family Health Team.


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