Having already addressed the top five tips for managing your weight in 2015 over the past weeks — make yourself your priority; banish negative, all-or-nothing thinking; manage chronic stress; strive to manage your weight for the sake of your health, not your appearance; and kick the fad or rigid diet habit and embrace whole foods — let’s drill down a little and focus on the last one, and specifically how to use psychology to kick the fad or rigid diet habit.

There’s no doubt that an eating lifestyle that incorporates whole foods is healthier than one filled with processed foods, which lack nutrition and have unhealthy amounts of sugar and salt. Rigid diets tend to lack nutrition as well, while also creating a psychological state that leads to weight-management failure. So, it’s a smart move to commit to kicking a rigid dieting and, instead, start surrounding yourself with wholesome food.

Many people who know they eat poorly feel overwhelmed when they think about making a significant change in their diet.

David couldn’t imagine how whole foods could possibly taste as good as the fast foods to which he was accustomed. He knew he wasn’t eating well, but he feared that nutritious food would be bland and tasteless, and make him feel deprived and dissatisfied. He also believed that changing his diet would mean doing it all at once. He thought he had tried changing his eating lifestyle every time he got on another rigid weight-loss diet.

David’s version of eating nutritiously usually involved buying wholesome ingredients (fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats), but he put little thought into preparation and presentation. A typical “diet” meal meant a dry, unseasoned piece of meat and vegetables that were thrown together with no creativity and with no eye toward good taste. It was no wonder David’s mind made him feel like running the other way every time he contemplated changing the way he ate.

The mind needs to be enticed with such things as positive thoughts and images, encouragement and what it feels are achievable goals to want to continue in a good direction. It doesn’t matter how much something is said to be good for you. If it doesn’t feel good along the way, your mind won’t want to go there. It’s up to you to help your mind want to eat nutritious food. Here are a couple of steps to follow to accomplish that:

  1. Realize the value of gradual changes. In most cases, becoming a person with a highly nutritious eating lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. It’s fine to do it one step at a time. After all, there’s a lot to learn during this transition. Approach the matter as if you are an explorer or adventurer. You’re out to discover new foods, new tastes and new ways of preparing food. You’re trying to discover what works and what doesn’t, and what makes you feel good.

Many people who eat well report that at one time their diet was poor. Oftentimes, they grew up in households where the family diet left a lot to be desired nutritionally.

Myra was in such a family. Childhood meals consisted primarily of fried meat and white rice with beans. Despite that beginning, she developed a much broader repertoire of colorful foods and nutrition than she ever imagined. It all happened gradually, however. Myra had to experiment, dare to taste new things, learn which foods had the most nutrition, be creative. It was all done in the spirit of discovering fun and pleasure.

  1. Make whole foods into comfort foods. This is possible, with time, but you have to be willing to experiment and allow your palate to develop. It’s like the evolution of the palate for detecting flavors in wine. Few people have the palate to detect the subtle flavors in wine from the start, but many acquire that ability by continuing to taste. Eventually you’ll find food favorites, and those favorites will become comforting.

By doing just this, smoothies with berries, kale and spinach became comfort food for Myra. So did her version of high-fiber, healthy cookies.

Kicking the rigid diet habit and embracing whole foods needn’t be daunting. Take your time, explore, have fun and be creative. Before you know it, you will proudly be calling yourself a healthy eater.

Previously published in the Tampa Bay Times