Historically, I've been quite the yo-yo dieter, often within the time frame of a month, week, or even day. Maybe I would eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, but once dinner came, I threw my hands up and ate that extra large value meal. Or, I might make it to a few days or even a week of eating healthy, but when I saw the scale didn't budge, I gave it all up and wouldn't attempt another healthy meal until I went back into diet mode. After years of this, I felt hopeless and concluded my goals were impossible. Then, in January of this year, I found Spark and finally was able to change some habits and reshape my health. Since changing my habits to a more integrated, healthy way to "diet" I've discovered some useful tactics to avoid totally ruining one's diet.
Some global things I've learned:
1. Be realistic AND don't be too hard on yourself
I have always been hard on myself. I'd set up very restricted diet plans (e.g., Slim Fast for breakfast and lunch with a salad for dinner) with no wiggle room (I couldn't sustain that). I'd 'should' myself to death (e.g., you should eat this, you shouldn't eat that) (which not only made me feel horribly guilty, it provided no motivation or tools to actually change anything). When the weight wouldn't budge, I'd feel frustrated and mad at myself (even though I didn't give it enough time to change). This cycle was highly emotional and hard on me. So these realizations are two in one - you must set realistic expectations and don't be too hard on yourself when you have small deviations from your plan or diet. Life happens and I've realized it's more important to keep trying rather than get discouraged from veering and giving up all together. Which leads me to my next tip...
2. Don't give up!
It's a lot of work, not to mention time and energy to make these lifestyle changes. So take a deep breath, prepare as best you can (using Spark's tools at your disposal), act, follow through, and don't give up! It would be better to take 6 months to make gradual changes than try for a month and not do anything for your health for 5 months. Remember it's all about getting healthy which is a lifelong process and won't be easy.
3. Rethink your goals
Sit down and really analyze your goals. What's more important to you? Numbers on the scale or healthy habit changes? Would altering your goals allow for better diet success? See my blog post on my personal goals and how they help me moreso than goals of pounds to lose: www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
Some everyday tips:
4. If you have a craving you can't knock, give in or find a compromise.
For example, tonight I was craving something, anything bad. I really wanted a couple slices of pepperoni, extra cheese pizza. So, I found a compromise. I went to Panera and got a cup of soup and a small macaroni and cheese. Definitely not diet food, but at about 500 calories, won't break my daily goals either (and I incorporated something healthy with it). I also was craving some chocolate. So, I had a piece of my Hershey's Big Kiss (still from V day!), but instead of eating half or all of it, I had the serving size (one fifth). In other words, portion control!
5. Try to eat for your stomach, not your brain.
I love this saying and live by this mantra (side note: still not a fan of the "eat to live, not live to eat" saying though. I still enjoy food and like to enjoy it!). When I feel starving, all hell breaks loose and I am more likely to eat something way unhealthy. When that happens, sometimes I just ignore my impulses and eat something healthy. In the end, it's all calories and once I stop feeling hungry, I don't want my initial off-track, impulse choice. After doing this so many times, your brain learns it's not necessarily a certain food you are craving, but food in general. Don't let being really hungry alter your healthy choices. A way to avoid that is to eat something small before a meal or before you get to that starving point. Which is why I usually keep a granola bar in my purse and a small bag of Pirate's Booty in my bag. It will save you in the long run to munch on something small before you get to the point of being really hungry.
6. Get rid of the junk and stock up on healthy foods
This one is absolutely crucial to my success. I am the type of person that if there is junk around, I will eat it. I am working on controlling that and not lean on it as an excuse, but right now I basically don't trust myself with junk food. Therefore, I got rid of all the junk in my house and replaced it with healthy, good foods. I make sure I grocery shop at least weekly to keep a decent stock of food. Otherwise, with no food at home, it is easy to drive through somewhere and veer off track. Or with unhealthy food at home, it's easy to reach for those items. I still have my splurge items, but they are not complete junk (like popcorn or the mini Drumstick ice creams). If you decrease your number of unhealthy choices at home and increase your healthy choices, you're setting yourself up for success!
7. Make eating healthy food fun!
This step has changed the way I look at healthy food. I used to think healthy food was a necessary evil that I would never enjoy. I've learned to find some healthy foods that I enjoy just as much (if not more) than unhealthy food and really capitalize on that. For example, Panera Strawberry smoothies, Laughing Cow cheese wedges, Honeycrisp apples, watermelon, frozen yogurt, etc.). I keep some of these foods on hand regularly so eating healthy is more enjoyable. I also try to find new, fun, and of course, healthy recipes to try. This tip is also great because it reduces burn out for me.
8. Track your intake and your progress
By measuring and tracking everything that goes into your body, you get data to see where you are at and help make better decisions. In other words, this knowledge gives you power. It becomes a problem to solve, and armed with this knowledge, you are better able to meet your goals successfully. Tracking is great to so you can see your success when and where it happens. You might not be able to see a half inch off your waist, but if you track and measure you can be reinforced by that success and know you are that much closer to your goal, which is probably the strongest form of motivation!
I hope these tips helped you, because all of them were crucial to the reshaping of my health-conscious lifestyle. What are some tips you use that helped you reach success?