Diet. It’s just another dirty four-letter word. Diet, by definition, simply means the foodstuffs we consume to provide energy for daily living. Yet many of us are not truly enjoying food because we are too focused on whatever trending “diet” we picked up from social media or a magazine with someone on the cover that is genetically drastically different for us and makes a living off staying at 7% body fat year-round.

I propose we start enjoying food and stop attempting to perpetually alter our metabolism (and happiness) for the sake of what we think, read, or hear is “healthy”.

Over the years, as a Certified Health Coach working with hundreds of clients and wellness content creator reaching millions, I can tell you that I have seen the most adherence, meaning peoples’ ability to do what they say they are going to do in regard to their health and wellness when we came up with a plan that was centered around their health needs and their happiness. I promise the two are possible!

Here are five small steps to eating healthier (and happier).

1. Focus on you.

Looking at the plates of others at the dinner table or asking them 21 questions about what they eat and why can be a slippery slope and an unnecessary one at that. By bringing our attention back to us—remember, the person we are actually trying to makehealthier, not everyone around us—we are able to filter out a lot of diet distractors and focus on what we are putting into our bodies. Take those same 21 questions about others’ diet and ask them of yourself, your answers might surprise you.

2. More CANS than CANNOTS.

A common misconception when it comes to eating healthier is that you have to throw out half of the foods in your fridge and pantry or have to say “No” to every dinner outing. Find ways to say “Yes” more often by accommodating these occasions, random foods, etc. How? A good rule of thumb I recommend is the classic 80/20 – stay adherent to your healthy eating habits 80% of the time (or more, even better!) and leave that 20% open for when life happens and your kid’s birthday cupcake or pizza and a movie night in comes across your plate. Because they will!

3. Ask for help.

I bet there is at least one person in your life that, if you asked nicely, would absolutely love to help you. Adding even the slightest bit of external accountability to new goals can truly help you go the distance. A simple accountability partner such as a co-worker or family member can help by checking in with you throughout the week or help motivate you, and you never know… they could be wanting to make similar changes in their diet and they would appreciate your help just as much as theirs.

4. Define your terms.

Do your research on what foods you want to incorporate more or less of, truly get to know what “eating healthier” means for you. I would recommend basing these decisions off of a conversation with your physician to get a clear understanding of the basics, such as any family history of chronic illness or disease, blood panel results like fasting glucose and cholesterol, and anything else the two of you might go over to steer you in the right direction. From there, set out to build the healthiest grocery list or make your next dinner out centered around your unique health needs.

5. Go ham on the greens!

I have yet to meet anyone that did not meet their weight loss or healthier habits goal by incorporating more veggies into their diet. I would love to see everyone out there on their wellness quest to have one giant salad a day! Try overdoing it on just about any other food after eating a big bowl of greens and veggies! Fiber is your friend here, it helps fill you up by not adding nearly the same amount of calories as other foods. This goes back to the 80/20 rule – allow yourself that night out on the town for your birthday treat only after you have incorporated a generous daily serving of greens. I bet you will find yourself eating less of those things over time and adherent to your healthy eating habits goal soon enough.

Chase Chewing

A Virginia native and Army veteran, Chase is a Virginia Commonwealth University alum, graduating from their Exercise Science undergraduate program in 2013. Having completed his MS in Health Promotion from American University in Washington, DC he also holds the following credentials: ACE Certified Health Coach and TRX Certified Suspension Trainer.

Living a life of wellness has always been a part of him – since growing up eating fresh food from his grandparents’ garden, playing baseball throughout school and enjoying time in the mountains surrounding his family’s southwest VA home. After six years of active duty, Chase was medically discharged from the military as an E-6/Staff Sergeant due a string of injuries that ultimately required him to have bilateral reconstructive hip surgeries. After learning how to walk again, twice, exercise as medicine and healthy lifestyle modifications became his passion.

Chase currently resides in Los Angeles, California and is the host of the top-rated wellness and personal-development podcast Ever Forward Radio now with over 3 MILLION downloads.

Sun Goddess Matcha