Making the decision to change your diet for the better could be one of the most important things you ever do for yourself. Food really is medicine and when you eat better you will benefit from so much more than just the changes to your waist line.
But one of the hardest things about making these changes is sticking to them. Many people find they don’t have the will power to stick to a healthy eating plan and most of the time there are two reasons for this and I can bet you’ve been through one or both of these things;
The first is that you made too many changes too fast, your diet became too restrictive and you felt miserable. It’s so easy to do, when you first start you will be feeling really motivated to change and that’s great, but to keep that motivation you need to move at a sensible pace.
The second reason is you probably expected too much. Having unrealistic expectations sets you up for failure. If you didn’t see results at the speed you expected to you most likely felt as though it wasn’t working and gave up.
These aren’t the only things to hold people back but in my experience as a nutrition coach, it’s something I see so often.
I’m writing this guide to teach you how to avoid these mistakes and make long term changes without feeling miserable about them.
Step 1: Remove the word ‘diet’ from your vocabulary. It’s become a dirty word synonymous with misery, restriction, guilt and ultimately failure. Stop using this word. You’re not going on a diet, you’re eating healthy food. The word ‘diet’ generally makes people think of something they do in the short term before returning to the bad habits that got them in their undesired situation in the first place.
You’re breaking this habit starting now. No more dieting!
Say it to yourself now – “I will never diet again”. How freeing does that feel?! Breathe a sigh of relief and move on to;
Step 2: It’s time to set your goals. This is such an important step but one that often gets missed or many important details are left out. You wouldn’t get in your car without knowing where you were going and how you were going to get there and the same applies to changing your lifestyle.
So what’s your main goal? Lose weight? Gain weight? Have more energy? Have clearer skin? Maybe you’ve had some scary news about your health which means you need to make a change like yesterday.
Write it down. This is the beginning of making your plan. This is your destination.
Step 3: In keeping with the journey analogy (because lifestyle is a journey) you need to plan your route.
Let’s say we’re taking a trip to ‘Weight loss town’. We need to know how long it’s going to take; this will depend on how many miles (lbs) there are to go.
Let’s say it’s a 30 mile (lbs) trip and a safe speed to travel is 1-2 lbs per week (I won’t keep confusing you with miles, you catch my drift!) this would mean that on average you could expect to lose 30lbs in 15-30 weeks (around 4-6 months)remember we’re talking sensible, controlled weight loss. This is not a race! If you speed in your car you get in trouble, the same thing still applies to weight loss.
Now we need to break it down. In your first month you can aim to lose around 5-10lbs. How are you going to do this? It can be really useful to keep a food diary if you don’t know where you’re currently going wrong. You need to be honest; every mouthful, every drink (including alcohol), even your mood when you eat needs to be recorded. You might start to see a pattern of eating unhealthy foods when you’re bored/stressed/tired etc. You might find you eat bigger portions that you thought you did or maybe you eat too much bread. Whatever the cause, your food diary will help you find it. Think of this as your map.
Plan 1-2 (3 maximum) small, easily achievable goals you can do this week. This could be reducing sugar in your tea and coffee by ½ a teaspoon or ditching the ice cream, whatever your problem area is. Do make sure this goal is not going to overwhelm you. If it’s too hard you could give up and feel like a failure.
At the end of the first week, analyse how it went. If it was easy, great! You have made it through your first week, now you can set more goals for the coming week and repeat the process.
If it was really hard and you couldn’t stick to it it’s ok! The beginning is hard and you might have set too big a goal. If it was too hard, adjust it so it’s easier to achieve and try again for another week. Do not add any more goals for the time being, you need to get the hang of this one first.
If something came up that meant you couldn’t do it, reflect on how you could have handled the situation better so that it’s not a problem next time. Again, don’t add any more goals yet, just try again for another week and remember this is not a failure.
Step 4: Who’s coming with you? Just as if you were a new driver you need someone to help you along, keep you on track and make sure you don’t make a wrong turn. They’re not going to drive for you but they’re going to remind you what to do if you’re feeling a bit lost or overwhelmed and hopefully stop you driving off a bridge into a lake of melted chocolate and marshmallows.
Talk to your family and friends, your colleagues and anyone else who has an influence over your behaviour towards food. The last thing you need is someone offering you a cake in the office or ‘just one more’ glass of wine with your dinner.
They also need to be on board so that when we get to step 5 no one is surprised by the lack of junk food in the house!
Step 5: Prepare.
You’ve set your goals; you’ve decided how you’re going to get there and who’s coming with you. Now you need to ‘pack your bags’.
The best thing you can do at this point is plan ahead. If you do your shopping on a Wednesday and today is Monday then there’s no point starting today, especially if this means you’ll have nothing to eat.
Spend the days leading up to shopping day looking up recipes and meal planning. Make sure you have all your meals planned and only buy what you need for them (as well as healthy snacks) this way you won’t go hungry and be tempted to go and buy something you’re trying to eliminate. Never shop hungry and if you think you’ll be taken in my deals for sweets and crisps then shop on line. Supermarkets purposefully put these kinds of deals where you will see them as you enter and as you leave! That sweet smell of bread and cakes is no accident either! So be wary!
If you’ve been the type to have treats on hand in the house it’s time to get rid of them. You need to avoid temptation. Maybe you could give them to your local food bank to help someone in need.
Step 6: When your shopping arrives, it’s time to set off! The first couple of days are going to feel great! Please be aware that towards the end of the week you might find you’re starting to struggle, this is why it’s so important to set easy goals and not eliminate everything all at once but it’s really, really worth pushing through. The confidence you will feel each time you achieve your goals will build and build and if you can make it through your first month, you’ll be on to a winner.
I would advise for your first month that you stick to your plan. You need to feel confident that you can go off plan without completely derailing yourself especially if you’re a sugar or carb addict. You also don’t want to hinder your results and cause yourself to feel defeated when the number on the scale isn’t what you wanted to see.
I hope this has helped you realise where you might have gone wrong in the past! If you like what you’ve read please give it a like and a share!
If you feel you could benefit from my help then please email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a FREE phone call to discuss your personal plan.