Have you ever started to follow a weight loss diet, but given up? You are not alone! Changing your eating habits isn’t easy and giving up comes down to one of a few things:
Frustration – because you could not eat all you wanted when you wanted or you couldn’t lose weight fast enough,
Hate – towards some foods, just because you could not eat the same thing every single day, or …
Guilt – because you could not respect the diet indications and had a slip up.
Such feelings are perfectly normal and there is nothing wrong with you! Generally, we tend to frame things in absolute values and whatever does not fit into that ‘perfection’ we imagined, is unacceptable. For example, if I fail to follow the indications of a diet and deviate from the menu, I will never have any results.
The Progress team had a chat with Alina Mihai, Certified Nutritionist, Personal Trainer and founder of the Challenge the Change program, to find out what’s the best way to change your eating habits when thinking about weight loss. According to her, “the only detail we do not take into account is that (sometimes) perfection can be pressing and not necessarily beneficial, especially when we’re talking about eating habits.
In this case, the goal must not be unreachable and all we should do is work towards developing ourselves and becoming better than we are now. So, instead of feeling frustrated and blaming yourself for not being ‘perfect’, change the perspective. Start looking for options to improve your eating habits.”
In other words, the goal isn’t to be perfect, just to be better than you are right now.
No supernatural efforts or stressful diets are required, and, as Alina points out, you can start by just taking three simple steps:
Pay close attention to your eating habits:
- What do you eat? – types of foods, culinary preferences, where you buy food, etc;
- How do you eat? – what are your exact habits (eating in front of the TV, always rushing, checking your phone, standing, etc);
- When do you eat? – based on hunger or other feelings, such as happiness, anger, sadness, anxiety, etc;
- How you feel? – during the day and especially after each meal.
One fantastic approach is a food diary where you write down everything (sleeping hours, meal hours, foods you eat, feelings throughout the day and physical activity). Go for the classic if you’re the pen & paper type or choose an online app.
It’s important to be honest with yourself though, don’t forget the cookie you had at work when someone offered it. After just a few days you will start to see patterns and understand your habits better.
At this stage do not categorize things as good or bad, you are just learning about yourself.
Now that you are more aware of your habits, think about small changes you can make for the better. Review your food diary and look for strategies to help you. Start with things you think will be the easiest for you to stick to.
Think of this process in a positive way to take the pressure off your shoulders.
Instead of saying “from tomorrow NO MORE SUGAR”, try “from tomorrow I’ll have one less sugar in my coffee” or an equivalent small change. Knowing how you will behave helps you plan your strategy.
If you notice from your diary that your menu (no need to think of it as a diet) does not contain fruits or veggies, choose to eat one fruit a day and add a small salad to one of your meals.
Even if it seems like small steps towards a healthy lifestyle, think that the day before you weren’t doing this at all. And the long term goal is to transform your lifestyle for the long run and become a better version of yourself.
Another option would be to exert more control over your environment, for example, get rid of any foods you will be tempted by at home. Just throw them in the trash. You will feel better!
When you plan for the next days, try to take into account your weekends as well. If you know that’s when most of the binging happens, then set one or two non-negotiables to see how it goes. Eg: drink more water, or never have two unhealthy meals in a row :).
Now all you must do is put your plan in action and lift the burden of perfection from your shoulders. Weight loss and diets take time, so grant yourself the compassion and understanding you need in order to succeed. Imagine yourself in 6 months or a year after making these changes. It’s a long game!
It’s best to identify that habit which you have the conviction you can change. Pick just one habit and try to improve it in the next few weeks. Once it has become a reflex and you no longer consider it a task, pick another habit and so on.
It can even be related to your health: if you do not exercise, for example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Another thing you can do is park your car further from the building and walk for a few minutes.
Set a reminder in your phone for a months time to review your results and start the cycle over again.
“The idea is not to be perfect, but to become a little better with every day“, Alina concluded.
If you have a message or a diet/workout related question for Alina, share it below and she’ll be back with an answer!