So you’ve made the decision to lose weight and get healthy, you have an idea what you should and shouldn’t be eating and you can’t wait to start seeing the results. This is great and you are well on your way, so the last thing you want to do is make the mistakes so many people do that will set you back and waste your hard effort.
Dieting is not as simple as just knowing the right things to eat. There are many other aspects that will determine if you will be successful and you should do whatever you can in order make your journey more productive and pleasurable.
1) Throw out the junk.
In the early stages of a diet you will inevitably go through some element of acute withdrawal from the foods you are trying not to eat. Even those with the best intentions will at times feel like succumbing to temptation. This is not your fault, instead it is the brain sensing a threat to its fat stores and trying to convince you that they need replenishing. If the temptation is easily within reach then it becomes very easy to give in and harder to resist as very little effort is required to obtain the treat. Also if you know something nice is waiting for you in the cupboard it will play on your mind, pulling you towards it until you give in. If, on the other hand, you had to drive to the store at 9pm to get a tub of ice cream instead of just reaching into the freezer, you are more likely not to bother and just let the craving pass, and believe me it will.
2) Be rational
When hunger or cravings strike, take a minute to break down what you are feeling instead of just acting on the impulse. Remember that as much as you feel like you do, you don’t actually need to eat chocolates or snacks. The body had sufficient energy supplies from the meal you’ve had earlier and will be replenished in due course. What you are feeling is coming from the brain’s want for a nice taste to trigger the release of chemicals that will make you feel good for a short while, but the only thing you will gain after you’ve swallowed the food is an increase in your fat stores and regret at wasting the hard work that had gone before it.
3) Schedule the scales
The main reason you are dieting is to lose weight, so it is understandable that you want to weigh yourself constantly to reassure yourself you are losing weight and motivate you to keep going. The problem with this is that the scales can often not correlate with the changes that are actually occurring in the body and this leads you to think that you haven’t lost weight, or even gained weight, even though this is not true. Although the body is remarkably good at maintaining its weight, this is not a constant process and it ensures things are kept constant over days, not hours. The same goes for when you are losing weight. Even though body fat is decreasing, sometimes you will be heavier and sometimes you will be lighter. This is because of the water and food we consume as well as the products we expel. Drinking a couple of glasses of water can increase your weight by 1lb even though you aren’t any fatter. For this reason you should restrict weigh ins to once a week maximum, as this will allow for fluctuations and if you are losing weight you will see it.
4) Use the mirror
Instead of the scales try using a mirror. One of the major reasons people want to lose weight is so they look better. What better way to gauge this than actually seeing how your body is changing? After all it’s not as if you walk around with your weight printed on your forehead so why get fixated with bodyweight. You can also get caught out with bodyweight if you are exercising at the same time as dieting as the lean muscle tissue you gain can weigh more than the fat you are losing. This would end up in you actually gaining weight but looking better in the mirror. Take a photo every 2 weeks and compare them, the results can be very pleasing.
5) Beware of ‘cold turkey’
Obviously I don’t mean the meat, as that would be a great addition the diet! As I explained in a previous post going cold turkey and trying to change your diet all at once can be too much for many people and result in failure. Make the changes gradual and spend a week or two introducing them if that’s what it takes. You may not get the results as fast as you want, but in the long term it will be far more rewarding as you are more likely to keep the weight off.
6) Take a break
If you are really enjoying the new way of eating then feel free to continue eating healthy everyday but if, like many, you struggle with cravings and yearn for specific foods then it’s ok to cheat every now and then. The best way to do this is to set a specific evening once a week when you will allow yourself to have anything you like. By setting a specific date in advance you have something to look forward to and motivate you in the hard times and by restricting it to the evening you limit the amount of damage you can do as you will likely fill up after a while and sleep before getting hungry again. Taking an evening off will not really set you back, in fact getting it out of your system will help you to be compliant with the diet and may indeed aid in losing more weight. Just make sure you don’t let it spill over into the next morning!
7) Cook twice as much
One of the major reasons people eat takeout or buy ready-meals is because they are convenient. The problem is they are also remarkably unhealthy and you don’t even know what’s in them (take the European horsemeat scandal for example). When you cook a meal or make a salad, throw in some extra ingredients and make extra. Put it in the fridge and save yourself having to cook the next day, or if you like variety put it in the freezer and voila, you have your own healthy ready-meal.
8) Keep occupied
When we are bored we get hungry and this leads our mind to stray to obsessing about food. Think about it, when you are rushed off your feet at work you can go for hours without needing to eat but when things are slow you can just sit down and look for the nearest plate of cookies or box of donuts. For some reason the fewer calories we need the more we feel we need to consume! The same goes for watching TV, we feel the need to sit there and eat whilst doing nothing. Try and do something productive if your circumstance allows it, you will feel better for it, lose more weight and get a lot of things achieved.
This should actually be number one on the list. Exercise is beneficial for a number of reasons. It keeps you occupied, burns extra calories, improves your physical health and arguably most importantly causes release of endorphins, which make you feel happy and motivate you to continue healthy eating. Exercise can range anywhere from going for a brisk walk to going for a run or heading to the gym. Just do what your body or fitness level allows, it’s all beneficial.
10) Never give up
Most importantly never give up the pursuit of a healthier, leaner, fitter you. There will be times when you want to give in and sometimes you may succumb, but whatever happens always pick yourself up and try again. Research in other areas, such as giving up cigarette smoking has shown that it often takes people several attempts before they can achieve their goal. The important thing if you slip up is to make sure that you learn something from each episode and apply it to future attempts. If you do this and persevere I promise you that you’ll succeed.