It’s no secret that healthy eating can be tough. If you’re new to the clean eating lifestyle, you may be realizing that there are all sorts of unexpected difficulties that come along with it. Not only is eating healthy expensive, it’s pretty much impossible to convince yourself that the salad you’re chomping on is just as good as that hamburger your friend ordered. If you’re feeling discouraged, just know that it’s tough for everyone — lifestyle changes don’t come easy! You got this, champ.

1. Knowing that healthy eating is not the same as a diet

Okay, the first thing is knowing the difference between healthy eating and a diet. Healthy eating is a gradual, practical lifestyle change, with the purpose of making your body feel better for the long-haul. It can be confusing when you start eating healthy, especially because crazy fad diets and cleanses lurk around every corner of the internet. Diets are a “quick-fix” — they’re unsustainable and can be straight-up dangerous. Just remember that eating clean and healthy won’t involve anything drastic like drinking detox-teas, cutting out an entire group of food or living off of nothing but leaves for the rest of your life.

2. Being overwhelmed by food trends

This is a tough one. Every month there’s a new trend in healthy eating. Whether it’s the debate over coconut oil, the sudden obsession with smoothie bowls, the dangers of gluten, or the overwhelming panic about carbs. The most important to thing to remember is to listen to your body. Some days you’ll need a lot of protein, some days your body will crave the energy from a nice bowl of whole grain pasta. Indulge in fun food trends like smoothie bowls, but try not to panic about every late-breaking news story about the dangers of certain food.

3. Lies on social media

Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest can be a great resource for recipes, advice and healthy lifestyle inspiration. However, it’s important to remember that most social media is full of exaggerations and unrealistic expectations. It may be discouraging to see a girl posting a picture of one smoothie bowl and a piece of avocado toast. I guarantee you those aren’t the only things she ate all day. Plus, it may seem like the fitness blogger you follow on Instagram truly is perfect all the time, she just doesn’t post about the days she eats a whole sleeve of Oreos and a jar of cookie butter. We all want to put our best foot forward in the public eye, but what looks best isn’t what’s real!

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4. The price of healthy food

One of the harshest realities about switching over to healthy eating is the price. Fresh produce is not as expensive as you may think, but it’s all the quick meals that are super expensive. Compared to a Happy Meal, that premade grain bowl you just bought may seem ridiculously pricey. Just remember that this is part of a long-term commitment to your health, and it’s all worth it in the end. Plus, if you buy all your groceries at the beginning of the weekend, and commit to not splurging on fast food or eating out, you will end up saving money.

5. Finding a balance

Eating healthy is not about restricting yourself and being miserable. As you gradually adjust to trying to eat clean, healthy foods and avoid fatty, sugary junk food — it can be hard to find the right balance. Life happens. It’s okay to have a slice of cake at a birthday party, or go out for a drink with your friends — it’s all about moderation! Just know that beating yourself up all day for indulging a little isn’t productive. Get back on track and try to eat healthy for the rest of the day, no worries.

6. Your produce goes bad after 2 days

This. Is. The. Worst. You never realize how many spooky preservatives are in your food until you buy fresh produce. Those chips you bought will probably last through a nuclear war, but the apples you bought 4 hours ago are already starting to go brown. Not to mention the fact that you now live your life at the mercy of avocados. You wait a week for them to be ripe, then have approximately 7 seconds to eat them before they go completely brown.

7. Getting hungry right before bed

So, you’ve had a full day of eating healthy, and now you have to stay up late to study or finish up that work assignment. There’s something about late night cravings that make you want to eat an entire bag of Lays or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. It’s important to know that the whole “you shouldn’t eat before bed” thing is pretty much a lie, your metabolism works the same at every time of the day. Just don’t go crazy before you turn in for the night since you won’t be burning as many calories as you would during the afternoon when you’re more active. Try some fruit with nut butter, carrots and hummus, or some granola with milk. Going to bed hungry is the worst, plus it guarantees that you won’t get a good night’s sleep. That means you’re more likely to have intense cravings tomorrow morning!

8. Gross, You-Aren’t-Fooling-Anyone “Substitutes”

Zoodles. Aren’t. Pasta!!! Yes, zoodles and other vegetable-noodles are a great dish on their own, but please don’t call them noodles. Health bloggers are straight-up lying when they say that Halo Top tastes the same as Haagen Dazs, or that cauliflower crust tastes the same as the real thing. Again, we’ll say it: moderation. You don’t have to cut delicious pizza and ice cream out of your life and live off of poor substitutions. Just make them a special treat, not an everyday thing.

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9. The time commitment of cooking

A huge part of the healthy eating lifestyle is learning to prep your own food. Vegetables require chopping, eggs require frying, smoothies require blending — things are usually more tasty and healthy when you make them on your own. However, it can also be super annoying when you realize you have to take 10 minutes to prepare a salad instead of the 4 minutes your microwave pizza usually takes to cook. But, it’s also way more satisfying. It will be impossible not to snap some pics of the beautiful salad, bowl of oatmeal or whatever you decide to make.

10. Going out to eat

Going out to eat is one of the most fun social events, but hardest things to do when you try healthy eating. I don’t know about you, but when I’m out to eat I tend to think, “if I’m paying for it, I wanna get something over-the-top and amazing.” This can be dangerous when you’re looking at a menu of double-deckers burgers, chicken wings, and mozzarella sticks. Just remember the social aspect of eating out, you don’t need to order something indulgent and unhealthy every time. Switching your usual bowl of pasta for a salad is the beginning of bigger lifestyle changes. Small steps!

11. Drinking. Alcohol.

Let’s be real, avoiding alcohol in social situations can be difficult (and nearly impossible in college). Alcohol is probably one of the worst things for your body for endless reasons, but for the purposes of this list — all those empty calories. You can easily drink a day’s worth of calories in fancy, sugary cocktails. In an ideal world, none of us would drink alcohol, but sometimes you just wanna let loose. Try sticking to simple drinks with liquor, instead of beer or crazy cocktails. Just remember, there’s, unfortunately, no healthy way to binge drink.

12. Managing cravings

You’ve eaten healthy all day, and your fridge is full of fresh veggies, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. Suddenly, all you can think about is sour cream and onion chips, Reese’s peanut butter cups and Sourpatch kids. Sugary and salty foods are straight-up addicting. When you first start eating healthy, it can be nearly impossible to resist those cravings. While some people can have just a few chips and call it quits, sometimes getting those things out of the house is the best move. Try finding healthier snacking foods that will satisfy your sweet tooth/salt craving without ruining your day of eating clean.

13. When you make the mistake of asking people for advice

One of the most overwhelming and exhausting things you can do is ask for healthy eating advice from anyone. Everyone you meet will have 100 pieces of advice they swear by, and they will probably negate everything your last friend told you. While one friend will claim their vegan diet changed their life, another will talk about how gluten-free is the way to go, while your other friend lives a low-carb life. Everyone’s body reacts differently to things. Trust your process, and know that you’ll find what makes you feel best as you make small adjustments to your daily diet!

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14. Reading the “nutrition facts” on foods and having your life ruined

While it’s important not to count calories and obsess, it doesn’t hurt to be cognizant about the serving sizes, ingredients and the general amount of calories in your food. When you go to buy a box of cookies or some chips, you may be surprised at the “suggested” serving size. It’s straight-up upsetting. Suddenly the bag of candy you were going to eat is really supposed to be rationed over seven days. Ugh.

15. Making sure to get all the nutrients you need

When you start healthy eating, you may think that oatmeal, salads, and handfuls of almonds are all it takes to make the switch. However, it’s super important to make sure that you’re listening to your body and getting enough protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals as well. If you’re craving some lean meat or a big plate of rice, it may be your body’s way of telling you that you’re lacking certain nutrients.

16. The myth that is meal prep

In THEORY, it would be really easy to cook a giant batch of meals on Sunday, so you can enjoy healthy eating all week long. This has straight-up never happened to me. The thought of cooking a week’s worth of food is overwhelming and time-consuming. While I’m sure it keeps you on track, I don’t want to eat the same mediocre rice and beans for a week. I’d rather just smear some avocado and a fried egg on a piece of toast in the heat of the moment, thanks.

17. Learning that not everything can be covered in peanut butter

Peanut butter is an integral part of healthy eating. While, like all things, it has to be eaten in moderation, peanut butter is still full of protein and super healthy. Seriously, all-natural peanut butter is straight-up just peanuts! However, it can be tempting to eat an entire jar with a spoon, or poured over your oatmeal, or on a banana, or a piece of toast, or in your smoothes — you get the picture. It can be hard not to smother everything you own in half a jar of PB.

18. Remembering *not* to obsess

THIS is the most important thing about eating healthy. It may be tough at first, but healthy eating shouldn’t be something you constantly obsess about! It’s a new lifestyle, not some wild kind of sacrifice or challenge that you constantly have to think about. Most days you’ll try and eat super healthy, but some days you’ll be off your game and eat a whole pizza — and that’s life. Don’t set impossible standards for yourself, nobody’s perfect!

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