Baby Steps to a Better Diet

Our guest today is Rebecca J. Clark, a nationally certified personal trainer as well as romance author. Her first diet book just released. The Checklist Diet is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and other ebook retailers. You can learn more about Rebecca's books on her websiteAnd now, here's Rebecca!

We are a few weeks into the new year. Did you set a resolution to lose weight? How is that going for you? 

Oh. That bad?

Before you throw in the towel and think you’ll start your diet
and/or exercise program again on Monday or February 1 or some other date in the future, let me remind you that you’re just one meal or snack away from being back on your plan. And just one workout from being back on track. Does that make you feel a little better?

I want you to decide on some reasonable changes you can make and stick with. Is it reasonable for you to overhaul your entire diet cold turkey? Maybe, but probably not. Is it reasonable for you to exercise every day? Maybe, but probably not.

We’ll talk about your diet today. When I say “diet,” I just mean the way you’re eating. I don’t want you to go ON a “diet” because that infers that you’ll eventually go OFF of it. I want you to think about your worst eating habits. Do you eat enough vegetables? Do you eat protein with every meal? Do you drink enough water? Do you eat too much junk food? You’re smart. You know what you “should” and “shouldn’t” be eating. You know what your bad habits are. Pick one. Just one. And work on that.

The worst habits my clients have are eating enough fruits and vegetables, eating too much junk food, drinking too much alcohol, and not drinking enough water. Here are some ideas to help with those particular bad habits.

  • Make a big salad and having it with lunch and/or dinner three times a week.
  • Cut up a bunch of raw veggies every Sunday, and strive to finish it by Wednesday. Then cut up some more and finish be Sunday. Repeat.
  • Use vegetable purees (baby food is a great way to do this) in your every day foods. Like adding pureed carrots or sweet potatoes into your spaghetti sauce, or adding pureed spinach into your meatloaf, or pureed cauliflower into your soup.
  • Have a fruit smoothie each morning to start your day.
  • Reach for a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts for your afternoon or evening snack.

  • Before reaching for junk food, ask yourself if you really want it. This might sound silly, but sometimes the simple act of stopping and asking yourself that question is enough to stop you.
  • If you must have junk food, eat just one portion. Look on the package—it’ll tell you what one portion is. Eat it and enjoy. There’s no use eating junk food if you’re going to feel too guilty to enjoy it.
  • Make sure you have healthy snacks on hand. If all you have on hand is junk food, guess what you’ll reach for? Yeah.
  • Tell yourself you can have X servings of junk food a week. How many is X? Depends on how much you’re eating now. If you’re eating junk food every day, cut back to every other day. If you eat it several times a week, cut back to twice a week.

  • First, let me tell you what a “healthy” amount of drinking is. For women, one drink a night is fine. For men, two drinks a night is good. If you drink more than that, I’d strongly suggest you start cutting back. I don’t want to be preachy, but I care about your health. More than that amount is bad for your health and your waistline. Alcohol is empty calories. Your body doesn’t metabolize it well. So any excess will go to your gut or your butt. You really don’t want a Beer Butt, do you?
  • So...if you’re drinking more than you “should” – and only you know the answer to that – start cutting back just a little at a time. Cut back from 3 drinks to 2. From 2 to 1. From every night to 3 times a week.

You can do it!

  • This is a huge one. If you’re even slightly dehydrated, you won’t feel your best. You might be tired, or get headaches, or feel bloated, or have a scratchy throat, or be depressed. Your body won’t digest food as well.
  • Have a bottle or glass of water with you at all times: at your desk, on the coffee table, in the car.
  • Create reminders for yourself to drink your water. For instance, if you watch a lot of TV, drink ½ cup every commercial. If you spend a lot of time at the computer, set a timer to go off every 30 minutes and drink ½ cup. If you’re driving, every time you stop at a light or stop sign, take a few chugs. If you’re driving long distance, every time you approach an exit, take a few chugs.
  • Buy yourself a really cool water container (I like Starbucks plastic cups with a straw). You’re more likely to reach for water if it is in a container you like. Sounds silly, but it’s true.
  • Keep an 8 oz glass of water on your nightstand. Drink it as soon as you get up, before even getting out of bed.
  • Have 8 oz of water every time you eat.

See? It’s all about small changes. Pick one or two things you want to change and focus on those. When those become habit, pick one or two more things.

Keep going until you’re eating a healthy diet most of the time. That’s right, I said most of the time. Life’s too short to not enjoy the occasional cheeseburger or Cheetos.


  1. I read this the minute I got it and it was so easy to read and I love the writing style. Not an expert but more like a friend offering me sound advice. And since I went on this January 2nd I've lost 10 pounds and in jeans (comfortably) I haven't worn in three years. More than this though is I feel in control of my eating. Now this isn't to say I haven't had some real challenges which for me are eating when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm full, but it's getting better every day. The key component for me was to take half the portion I would normally take because otherwise I want to clean my plate. Now I find myself looking at whats on my plate and determining what I want the most because I might get full before I get there. What I absolutely love the most is I'm not dieting. I'm creating a lifestyle!

    1. Kate, this is so awesome! Congrats on the 10 lb loss. I told you it was easy! You have the same challenges I do--eating when hungry and stopping when full. That's a great idea to take half portions. It's amazing how little our stomachs need to feel full.

    2. I don't know about easy, but I was definitely committed and what a payoff when I can get into jeans I haven't worn in three years. There's no better feeling. You are so right on how little it takes to feel full. I also don't restrict myself on any food so long as I want it. So far I haven't been interested in junk food but that will change. Also I wanted to try your dessert 3-4 bites theory, but I hadn't craved a dessert so I put it off until last week when a friend brought brownies. I took a piece that was the equivalent of three bites and savored each one. When I was done I was satisfied whereas in the past I would have wanted to eat the whole dish. Truly makes eating a dessert more enjoyable.

  2. Oh. My. Gosh. Great Advice! Fantastic Reminders. I went off Chardonnay (and all alcohol) for January and it's been hard, giving up my glass of vino at 6pm! Especially on The Bachelor night. BUT, it feels great to break the habit of drinking nightly that I got into over Christmas. (this feels like a confessional! Ha Ha). Great job Rebecca on the diet book. And Perfect Timing!

    1. Hey Kim. Good job on cutting back on the wine. Remember, it's okay to have SOME. But you know yourself. Some people need to go cold turkey for a while to get over the habit.

  3. This is a fantastic post and great advice. It reminds me of the most helpful advice I've ever received about writing. Years ago, before I'd written my first novel, I told my writing instructor/mentor that the thought of writing an entire novel was overwhelming. He said, "Then write one scene at a time." And I did. Now I have 18 published works. So...applying that same advice to my diet should make it do-able. Thanks!

    1. I agree. It's the same principle and it works!

    2. I love that advice! I'll have to use that for my current WIP which seems like I'll never, ever finish. Good luck with the healthier eating!

  4. I love this post because I think you removed the guilt! I'm drinking more water, and I'm drinking lemon water specifically with meals. When I want a soda, I reach for Talking Rain instead to avoid the corn syrup. More tea than coffee now. Eating fruit with breakfast was much easier after we spent a couple weeks on vacation in the Caribbean, I must admit. We worked out every day and ate more healthy there. Guess sometimes it takes breaking out of your routine physically AND mentally to create new habits.

    I also like Dr Oz show's rec to eat veggie/fruit to counter act all the acidic foods we eat. Vinnegrettes over cream dressings, olive oil over butter, lemon on my broccoli instead of butter. Now if I could only get my hubby to eat one veggie meal a week! Do you have a book for him?

    1. Hey Christine! Nice job on the healthy diet changes. I agree that breaking out of your routine is an *easy* way to change your habits. I'll change my habits in the Caribbean any time, LOL!

      I try to eat more alkaline foods, too. I feel so much better. I *try* to eat a TBSP of Braggs apple cider vinegar every day.

      As for your hubby... I actually have planned (for sometime in the future) a book about eating more veggies (because this is a hard one for me too).

  5. Great practical tips to add to my current quest for weight loss. Love the tip about adding vegetable purees to dishes. I'll try that tonight! Thanks for such an informative post!

    1. You can do it! Just remember: baby steps. And my motto: You're always just one meal or snack from being back on track. :) Good luck with the vegetable puree--I bet nobody could even tell you added them in.

  6. Exactly what I'm doing this year. But I'm having low thyroid problems so the weight is being stubborn. One thing I learned is if you do have problems with thyroid and if your city is one that adds fluoride to the water, you'd be better off drinking a good quality bottled water. Apparently fluoride and chlorine mess with the thyroid-and not in a good way. :( Book looks really helpful, thanks!

    1. Hey Diana--several of my clients have thyroid issues too. It's very frustrating, I'm sure. I hadn't heard that about fluoride. I'll pass that on to them.

      Good luck to you!

  7. This is like a sign from God for me! Just yesterday, I pulled my 32 ounce water bottle from the cabinet and filled it up...only once instead of the recommended twice daily...but I'll try to do better today. The two things I told my husband we would do were to eat more fruits and veggies. I've started taking low sodium canned soup and adding shredding cabbage or leaf spinach to it, cover it and microwave for a few minutes. Delicious and so much better. No doubt it would be better to heat it on the stove top, as the microwave is probably leeching all the good stuff out of it. I had thyroid surgery twelve years ago, Diana, and had never heard that about the fluoride and chlorine. I'll research for the filtering systems though, because I refuse to contribute to the land fill problems with bottled water.

    This doesn't really apply, but for any of you with achy joints, I swear to you this helps. Last year I'd also taken to drinking apple cider vinegar with 'the mother' every day. During the summer I drink it iced with one of those water flavoring pouches. At night I drink it as a hot tea, with our own fresh lemons and local honey. I swear, my joints don't ache and I rarely get sick anymore with colds. For those of you who actually 'exercise' enough, it may help. It's supposed to balance your ph levels in your body.

    GREAT post and timely, and as soon as I get off of here, I'm downloading your book. Thank you Rebecca!

    1. A Berkey water filter with a PF2 fluoride filter is the only one I've found that is supposed to remove the fluoride as well-most good filters will removed the chlorine. That, or a reverse osmosis water system which is $$. I got the Big Berkey and the water tastes noticeably different and I no longer have calcium rings in the tea pot or coffee pot, but I haven't tested to see if it really removes the fluoride. I feel like I'm drinking healthier water anyway. I'd heard about the apple cider vinegar-I have osteoarthritis, but ick, don't like the taste at all so I never took it long enough to see if it does any good. Also on cabbage, good you're cooking it-there's a problem with eating it raw, although if your thyroid is gone, I'm not sure it matters anymore?

    2. Lori, thanks for the compliment! Before I read your post, I replied up above that I like to take apple cider vinegar, too. I swear it helps with just about everything. It's like "magic juice." Glad it's working for you. Let me know how you like my book--I hope the plan makes your weight loss journey a bit easier.

    3. I started the apple cider vinegar three times a day when I started the checklist diet. Since I don't have joint aches I can't whether that helps, but there's just so much good with it I kept doing it until I don't mind it so much but I do have to sweeten with stevia.