A Long-Term Plan for Healthy Eating that Actually Works

Cindy Shapiro
4 min readSep 27, 2023


I’ve tried a bunch of things to establish better habits: here’s what works for me

Photo by Olga Nayda on Unsplash

There are many factors that contribute to the spread that happens to many people in their 40s: having kids, busy schedules, medical issues, and more. It can be hard to stay healthy. And we all know that better nutrition equals better health.

But what is the best way to get there? What plan or structures can help a person to develop and keep better habits?

I’ve tried a ton of approaches. Many of them worked temporarily early on, but only for a brief window of time. The weight and the bad habits came crashing back within a couple of short months every time.

My first attempt: I tried adding in old fashion exercise, thinking that taking daily runs would motivate me to eat healthier if I was doing healthier actions on a daily basis. I was wrong. Running accelerated my appetite, and did nothing to address the bad habits that were part of my routine. I did, however, enjoy getting outside. Even though it’s not a strategy for overall health that I use, I do continue to run on occasion for pleasure.

Next up, I tried a true diet plan. While Optavia may work for some people, for me, I found it to be extremely restrictive. The food, while some of it was palatable, was not great. Also, it was exorbitantly expensive. In addition, I did not like the practice of measuring and weighing food. It felt far too clinical. Did I lose weight with Optavia? Absolutely! I also read the books they provide on developing healthy habits, and some of the reading was quite interesting. But I am still not the type of person who wants to continue down that path of always deliberating on my food portion, or constantly restricting myself. And so, for me, it did not work.

Another plan I tried was Noom. At the outset I thought, “This program involves the psychology of weight loss and health, so maybe that’s a good way to go.” Noom also prides itself on allowing the consumer to make choices, including about adding treats in every now and again. I like the sound of that — it allows you to be human. But still, it did not work for me. I don’t relish the idea of logging every food item that I consume into a calorie counter. Nor do I want to read articles daily and take quizzes to see how proficient I am in understanding aspects of health. So that one didn’t work for me, either.

So what does work for me? I don’t want to live forever in this space of restriction and dieting. My goal is to find a place of healthy balance.

The tried-and-true method that I’ve found works for me is a mostly-Paleo diet. The premise of the diet is this: eat high-quality, natural foods. Eat lots of protein sources, such as meat and eggs. Avoid dairy and grains. Fruits and vegetables are great choices.

This means I get to have my peach, and eat it too.

A popular version of Paleo is a Whole30. I do own the Whole30 guide and I refer back to it from time-to-time. I also have other Paleo cookbooks and I search on Pinterest for interesting recipes that I can try.

In terms of my family, it’s easy for me to cook one meal for all of us and add perhaps a grain like brown rice to satisfy their wants.

The other night I made a dish with oven-baked chicken tenders with roasted red peppers. The kids ate it inside corn taco shells. I also provided yellow rice for them. Imagine my surprise when they wanted to have my cauliflower rice as an additional side on their plate.

I have also found that I don’t miss grains as much as I expected to. Many cereals and other grain products contain a ton of added sugar. And as we all know, sugar, like so many things, is addictive. There are reasons why all of the fast food chains add sugar to their breads and other products that they sell. And there’s a reason why that line at Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s is always interminably long.

Being Paleo and doing Whole30 also helps me with another issue that plagues so many of us: over-consumption of alcohol. As a person in their 40s with all the things going on, it is easy to develop a habit of having a glass or two of wine in the evening to unwind. This habit, while it provides a great temporary fix, isn’t helpful.

Regular drinking raises my risk of certain diseases and cancers, and it also has an effect on my mood the next morning. It inevitably makes me feel dehydrated when I wake up. I found that when I don’t drink, my mood is much brighter the morning after, and I just feel better, overall.

I’m not saying that I’m a total saint. I don’t plan on being 100% Paleo or Whole30 forever. But I do plan to aim for a balance of 80/20. 80% of the time, I will stick with Paleo and Whole30 guidelines, and the other 20% of the time, I can add in grains, dairy, or some other treat.

If I begin to slide too far into the direction of grains, dairy, and treats, I can always reset by going back to the Whole30 guidelines.

Ultimately, my goals are to feel good and age well. So many people are consumed by disease, stress, and other issues that can be tied back to diet. I am to break out of that vicious cycle of dieting and lead a life of health, of one I can be proud of.

Readers, please tell me: what are your experiences with food and nutrition? Where have you landed?



Cindy Shapiro

Cindy Shapiro is long-time teacher living in Colorado. As a writer, she aims to elevate teachers’ voices and provide insight on issues in education.