So, you’ve made the decision to adopt a healthy lifestyle, change your eating habits, and get moving. It may seem simple at first, but the reality is that lifestyle adjustments (although extremely important for your health long-term) can lead to unwanted “side effects” in the short term, if you’re not careful.
Below are some of the most common challenges people report when making significant changes to their eating and lifestyle habits along with some advice on how to manage them.
It’s not uncommon to feel hungry when reducing your overall caloric intake. One reason is that you might be reducing calories by too much.
Most people in the U.S. estimate that they consume around 1,800-2,600 calories per day, which falls in line with the current dietary guidelines for Americans (1). However, one study found that research participants underestimated their calorie intake by up to 25 percent when asked to report their food intake on a questionnaire (2). Many people, especially those not closely monitoring their diet, can easily consume upwards of 3,000 calories per day. So, it’s no surprise that cutting your daily caloric intake by close to half or more of what you estimate you normally eat may lead to considerable feelings of hunger.
But because many people do not realize they are making such a drastic reduction in calories, feeling hungry can come as a shock. The good news is that by cutting out only 300 to 500 calories per day to start and gradually decreasing your calories over time, you can reduce your intake without feeling overwhelmed by your appetite. Any consistent reduction in calorie intake, even if it’s a small change, can support effective weight loss.
Maintaining Energy Levels
Just like hunger, the issue of decreased energy typically comes from making too sudden and drastic of a cut in calorie levels. It’s also common to feel low on energy if you don’t choose nutrient-dense foods when reducing your calorie levels. When you combine a sudden increase in physical activity with a big cut in calories, feelings of low energy can be intensified.
To avoid feeling tired or run-down, it is best to gradually reduce your calorie intake and slowly increase your physical activity, rather than making sudden, dramatic changes all at once. Although deciding to eat healthier and lead a healthier lifestyle should result in increased energy levels over time, most people need to give their bodies a chance to adjust to changes gradually.
Avoiding Occasional Headaches
Headaches can be common when switching up your diet and can be caused by anything from decreasing the amount of carbohydrate you consume to forgetting to stay well-hydrated. Adding in a few extra snacks when first getting started on a weight loss program or healthy eating plan can help your body gradually adjust to the lower sugar in your diet and reduce your chances of experiencing unwanted symptoms.
When performing Isagenix-style Cleanse Days, be sure to take it slowly at first. Start by gradually reducing your calorie intake before you complete a full Shake Day. Wait until you can easily complete Shake Days before attempting a Cleanse Day. Consider starting with a shorter “mini-cleanse” of 12-16 hours or add in extra snacks on your first few Cleanse Days to get the hang of it. By taking a gradual approach, you can build your confidence.
If you take up an exercise regimen, it’s also important to add an appropriate amount of additional hydration to make up for what is lost in sweat. A sports drink that includes electrolytes will help keep you hydrated and the small addition of carbohydrate will help keep your blood sugar stable throughout your workout, keeping headaches at bay.
Adjusting to Digestive Changes
When making significant changes to your diet, it’s common to experience changes in your digestion. Luckily there are measures you can take to help ease your body’s adjustment to more healthful dietary choices.
When switching to a healthier diet, it typically means increasing dietary fiber and nutrient-rich foods. Adding too much fiber too quickly is often the reason many experience digestive issues when changing their diet, so try increasing your fiber intake in stages and mixing up your diet to include different sources of fiber.
Additionally, be sure to drink enough water. Either too much or too little can cause digestive issues. The Institute of Medicine recommends between 2.7 liters (11 cups) and 3.7 liters (16 cups) of water for most healthy adults. This should include water from beverages like coffee or what’s included in shakes.
Your journey to good health should be a pleasant experience. Although some people may experience mild discomforts when first making lifestyle changes, feeling unwell should always be taken as a sign to slow down. You might be making too many changes, too quickly for your body to adjust. As always, consult with your physician before making significant changes to your diet or if you are concerned about the symptoms you experience. By preparing, knowing what to expect, and how to deal with it, you’re more likely to be successful in your transition to a healthy lifestyle.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 8th Edition. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
- Differences between estimated caloric requirements and self-reported caloric intake in the women’s health initiative. Hebert, James R et al. Annals of Epidemiology, Volume 13, Issue 9, 629 – 637