Here's why you should set yourself a 28-day healthy eating challenge
The positive effects of eating well
What we eat can affect all the processes in the body, including cell regeneration, inflammation, digestion and sleep. So it’s no surprise that after even as little as 28 days of eating well, you can expect to not only look better, but feel a whole lot better too!
What exactly does ‘eating well’ mean?
Eating well means giving your body the nutrients it needs to function at its best. This means enjoying plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats and water, and consuming less processed and packaged food, salt, saturated fat and added sugar.
But eating well isn’t just about what we eat; it’s also about how we eat. Healthy habits such as regular meals are an important part of this, as is taking time to enjoy and savour your food, rather than shovelling it in at your desk or as you run out the door.
Changing the way you eat as well as what you eat will make a huge difference to your overall health and how you look and feel. So what changes can you expect over a 28-day period?
After 1 day
- Better concentration
Just one day in and you may feel less hungry and experience fewer cravings as you step off the blood-sugar-level roller-coaster caused by poor eating habits and a diet high in refined carbohydrates and added sugar. Stable blood sugar levels also means better concentration and more energy, so you can power through your day.
After 7 days
- Reduced puffy eyes
After one week you may notice less puffiness as water retention decreases, thanks to a lower salt intake. This is often most noticeable around the eyes but may also mean that your clothes start to feel a bit looser.
- No more 3pm slump
The dreaded afternoon slump should be a thing of the past now that you’re having regular meals, more protein and fewer refined carbohydrates. You may be surprised to find yourself less tempted by the office biscuit tin or your usual afternoon coffee, and be satisfied by a piece of fruit instead.
After 14 days
- A healthier bank account
While you’re getting leaner, your wallet should feel heavier as you spend less on eating out, takeaways and packaged foods. Home-cooked meals are, in general, not only much better for you but also much cheaper, and ditching the packaged snacks in favour of fresh, whole foods can really lower your food budget.
- No more ‘hangry’
Some people get irritable when they’re hungry due to the brain’s response to low blood sugar levels. If you’re prone to getting a little ‘hangry’, after two weeks of eating well you may notice that you’re less grumpy than usual. Now that you enjoy a balance of complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats, your blood sugar levels will have stabilised and, along with them, your mood.
After 21 days
- Glowing skin
Nutrition plays a critical role in the health of your skin, so by now you may be sporting a lovely glow thanks to increased vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats, which are essential for collagen formation as well as reducing inflammation. Less alcohol means your skin will also be better hydrated, reducing dryness and adding to your healthy hue.
- Beating the bloat
An increased fibre intake and overall healthier diet means more regular bowel movements and less bloating, which in turn means a happier digestive system and a more comfortable you.
- A better night’s sleep
A poor diet and alcohol can interfere with a good night’s sleep, so by now you should notice that you’re sleeping better, which in turn means more energy, a better mood and a more radiant complexion. You may even find that you’re looking forward to exercise as well.
After 28 days
- Cravings gone
After experiencing the benefits of a healthier eating plan, junk food becomes far less appealing and you’ll automatically choose healthier foods. Poor sleep increases our desire for high-fat, high-sugar foods, so once you’re sleeping better, you’ll experience fewer of those chocolate cravings.
- Stronger immune system
A higher intake of fruit and veggies means your body is now getting the vitamins and minerals it needs that, in combination with better sleep, strengthen the immune system so you’re likely to get sick less often. Plus, thanks to the changes you’ve made, your risk of chronic disease may have declined, so you’re well on your way to a longer, healthier and happier life.
- Improved weight management
By now you should really notice a difference in your weight. Not only will you have less fluid retention, but a lower intake of fat, added sugar and alcohol will continue to pay off and you’ll look slimmer and healthier. With WW you can expect to lose up to 1-2lbs a week, which is a safe rate that makes it easier to keep off.
Are there any downsides?
Some people find that they feel worse for a short time when they make healither changes to their eating plan. Decreasing your intake of caffeine and high-sugar foods can be difficult at first as you adjust. For this reason, it can be a good idea to make changes gradually, so you’re not overwhelmed and find yourself heading straight back to your old ways. However, symptoms tend to only last for a few days and the short-term discomfort is well worth it in the end.
5 top tips to take away
1. Eat three balanced meals, plus one or two healthy snacks, tuning into your body’s hunger signals.
2. Include a rainbow of fruit and veg, complex carbs, lean protein and lots of fibre. Variety is key here.
3. Drink lots of water – aim for two litres a day. Water fills you up as well as hydrates and flushes out your system.
4. Track your SmartPoints® so you’ll feel satisified, not hungry, and stay on track to progress on your journey.
5. Reduce your intake of alcohol, refined sugars as well as packaged and processed foods.