I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a majority of my life worrying about what I put in my mouth. I’ve counted calories, counted macros, cut carbs, tried juices and shakes. I got to the point of wondering if I was going to have to be always be focused on a strict diet to achieve or maintain a weight I was happy with. And most of the time even while I was so focused on what I ‘should be eating’ it didn’t necessarily help me lose weight anyway. Fortunately, an education in nutrition coaching helped put me on the right path. I want to pass on some of that wisdom so you can stop dieting and still get results.
For the average person who isn’t an elite athlete, we shouldn’t need to worry about measuring and calculating everything we eat. It is not sustainable long term. What do slim healthy people think about? Definitely not constantly worrying about what they are eating and if it’s “good” or “bad”.
Have you ever heard the phrase living ‘as if’? What would your life look like if you were already ‘thin’, or you’d already lost the 10kg? You wouldn’t be living on a diet of doughnuts because you wouldn’t want to go backward, but you would also have a very different mindset when it came to food.
If we aren’t on a diet, how do we lose weight?
The key to stop dieting and still get results is through creating good nutrition habits. And as a result, create a sustainable weight loss and still enjoy food.
If you’ve ever been successful in losing a decent amount of weight what happened when the diet stopped? When your focused diet ended, did the weight come back on? I’m pretty sure the answer was probably yes. If you were lucky enough to keep it off, I have no doubt the reason it has stayed because you have established better eating habits.
What is a Habit?
According to our friend Dictionary.com, a habit is:
an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary
Eg: the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.
Habits don’t require will power. They are involuntary actions done after a behaviour is repeated so many times we don’t eve need to think about it.
For most people, living on a strict diet of measured proteins, fats and carbs isn’t a natural habit. Ordering takeaway every Friday night might be a habit, getting a muffin with your coffee every day might be a habit. Alternatively, for many people incorporating vegetables into every meal is a habit they struggle with.
People who have great eating habits didn’t necessarily start that way either unless it’s a life long habit. It is impossible to implement all the healthy eating habits at the one time which is why dieting always fails. If we try to do it all at once we inevitably lose motivation, we are relying on will power rather than habits.
What kind of Healthy eating Habits should I start with?
The key here is to start small. Pick one habit and implement it for at least 2 weeks before bringing the next one in. This isn’t an all or nothing approach. You didn’t learn your old habits overnight so they won’t be replaced overnight either.
- Eat Slowly- aka eat mindfully. Take your time, smell and taste your food. Turn off the tv and put away your phone. Listen to your mother and put your fork down in between bites. Slow down and listen to your body when it tells you it feels full. If you shovel it all you won’t notice the satiation signals.
- Drink Plenty of Water. Pick specific times of the day to act as a trigger to drink. When you wake up have a large glass or two, keep a bottle on your desk to sip on throughout the day and make sure it’s empty before you go home. Have a glass before and after you exercise. Find times that you can incorporate more water into your routine without changing anything else. This free online water calculator from Camel Bak is a good on.
- Incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Once again this isn’t all or nothing, start with making sure you get veggies into at least one meal a day and then make it two meals, then three. This isn’t about being perfect if you need to grab a pre-made salad from the supermarket to get more in, do it.
- Think about portion sizes. Use smaller dishes and read how many servings are actually in packaged foods. What you might consider being a serve, might in fact be several serves.
- Incorporate more incidental movement into your lifestyle. When I was younger and dancing full time we used to joke about a teacher who would tell students that “dancers take the stairs”. I never actually heard the teacher say this, is was said before my time, but friends of mine were told and it became a mantra we’d jokingly say whenever stairs came along. The same mantra comes up every time I come across a set of stairs besides an escalator twenty years later. Even my husband says it as we travel through an airport.
- Become a step counter. This falls under incidental movement in a way, but try and hit at least 10,000 steps of whatever might be a goal for you. I say this with hesitation, I became an addicted step counter at one point (joking/not joking), but it certainly got me moving.
- Become a food prepper. Make time on a set day each week to cook up a couple of healthy dishes to have throughout the week when life gets chaotic. Alternatively, have ready to grab ingredients for a healthy lunch each day. Tackle one meal at a time. Eating well shouldn’t be hard.
- Make good sleep a priority. Make sure you get to bed early enough, don’t lie in bed looking at your phone, and have a bedtime routine that helps your body and mind unwind.
Find a way to keep yourself accountable
The idea behind creating good habits to stop dieting and still get results is that habits remove the need for willpower, they become automatic actions. However, in the start, there does need to be a bit of focus to get the habits running on autopilot.
A great way to get habits going is to find a way to keep yourself accountable. Create a visual reminder and tick it off when you’ve successfully completed your habit for the day. There are also plenty of great apps available to help with habits. There are apps to track water intake, log food, track exercise. I’m pretty sure there’s an app to track just about anything else you want to work towards.
Another form of accountability is to enroll support from other people. Make a commitment with your better half to eat veggies for dinner. Commit to a gym class with a friend each week. Find a coach who can help you with your nutrition and fitness goals.
How to Stop Dieting and Get Results
I know it’s tempting to try and live off lemon water and cheese cubes in the lead up to your sister’s wedding, the operative word being ‘try’. I get it, you need to lose weight RIGHT NOW. But it is with healthy habits that make weight loss sustainable and enjoyable. Healthy habits aren’t an all or nothing approach. You can live well, lose weight, keep it off and still enjoy food without feeling deprived or guilty. Food is meant to be enjoyable. Life is meant to be enjoyable and feeling guilty about what you eat shouldn’t be part of the journey.
Author: Jill Lister-Martin. Certified health and fitness coach, Mum, lover of licorice, wine and adventures.
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