We have all been there: wanting to lose a few pounds (or more than a few), scouring the Internet or asking our friends what worked for them, obtaining the new program and then we are off to the races! They did it so we can, too! Only to fall short after less than a week; our confidence plummeting even lower than when we started.
Frequently, the problem lies in not having the skills needed to be successful on a program- any program. We think finding the right program is the problem but, to be honest, adherence to the program is the issue. You’ll want to work on a few skills before you jump in like planning a meal menu in advance and forgoing spontaneous snacking. You’ll also want to assess your ability to practice portion control. Deciding whether what you are feeling is real hunger verse boredom or another emotion is also paramount to success on a program. Lastly, you’ll want to assess your thoughts regarding your body, yourself, and your relationship with food in general.
I haven’t met anyone who was able to casually go through the day and stay on their nutrition plan that needed to shed extra pounds- myself included. Typically, we got to this point by having trouble with some (or all) of the other skills listed and aren’t very good at meandering through the day without a plan.
To begin, don’t change what you would normally eat. Do you love having pasta night with buttery garlic bread at your house? Great! Work on making your meals in advance and setting a menu for the week.
Consider how often you pick off someone else’s plate or eat standing up. Maybe you munch in the pantry while looking for another snack (like yours truly). After you plan your menu, give yourself credit for each time you pass up mindlessly munching.
Being busy is glorified today. We have convinced ourselves there is not enough time to make a single change. (see schedule clean up if you need help with this) I noticed I had much more time when I pulled back on activities like browsing social media and watching murder mysteries. See where you can consolidate errands and remove optional activities. Sit down to eat your meals slowly. Focus on each bite- the flavor, texture, and smell. Eating mindfully gives your brain enough time to register you are in fact eating and will let you know you are full. Increasing your satisfaction at meal times is important when you embark on a diet and will be consuming less food. Think quality over quantity.
Take time before you diet to see how much you are putting on your plate. Is that one piece of lasagna or two pieces hidden as one oversized slice? Get a food scale or use eyeballing with tips like a serving of protein or an entrée is a deck of cards, a cup of carbohydrate is the size of a softball, a serving of dietary fat (like oil, butter, peanut butter) is the size of your thumb. You’ll probably shed weight just from using this tactic before you formally begin your new program.
Emotional eating happens to most of us. Long day at the office leads to diving headfirst into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Besides being busy, we all are “stressed out.” Lowering stress levels is key, but so is learning how to soothe yourself without indulging. This week, journal when you are truly hungry verse when you are stressed, sad, bored, lonely, or happy and decide to eat. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if you are feeling hunger in the pit of your stomach or if you are feeling a craving in your mouth or throat. If you are hungry, any food will do. If you are craving something, you will want a specific food- usually something salty or sweet.
Once you have identified the emotions you are feeling, if they are emotions of distress, try replacing eating with another activity that will relax you. Take a hot bath, light candles and make hot tea, meditate. I like to paint my nails to keep my hands busy until the urge to eat subsides.
Do you beat yourself up for falling short? When things don’t go your way, how do you react? If you commonly have thoughts that include “always” or “never,” it is time to change your tune. We all make mistakes. Give yourself credit for the wins and give yourself grace when you miss the mark. Ask yourself “would I say this to or about my best friend? How would I feel if I heard her talking to herself like this? What would I say?” Controlling negative thoughts will give you the ability to move past slip-ups and continue forward. You need to build yourself up- build up your confidence- so you can adhere to a program long term.
Once you get a grasp on these skills, it’s time to find your program. Adding the aspect of accountability always helps. Snag a coach and a solid nutrition program. If you find your adherence slips for more than a moment here and there, return to this list and work on each skill one by one. After you ingrain these positive habits, dieting will become easier.