Here we go again! And this year, most of us have not returned to work or school. The “holiday” weight gain may be continuing. Your clothes are tight, the scale is up and you might even be feeling just a bit lethargic. I’m sure many of you are considering a diet. DON’T DIET- get back to the basics of good eating, activity, and exercise! This time around, instead of the diet mentality, let’s find a way to make this a lasting and permanent change.
Create a plan
Although many are still stuck at home, I can’t emphasize enough that the day needs structure and planning. Our food—meaning when we eat, what we eat and how much– all need planning. Exercise also needs planning. If you can’t get outdoors, there is plenty of exercise material available online. Just search for indoor workouts at any level.
Balanced eating – Avoid dieting
As I mentioned, dieting should not be an option. Don’t go on a fad diet. The statistics speak for themselves. DIETS ARE FAILURES! About 95% of people that diet gain it all back within a few years. The entire connotation of a diet is a temporary fix. Diets are something you go on, and then go off. It isn’t a way of eating for life. So if not a diet, what should you do? Try something new if you want to, but choose something that all the scientific and psychological studies say works.
You can eat plenty of food if it’s the right food. Stick with fruits, veggies, whole grains, lentils, beans and some nuts and seeds as much as possible. Keep the meat, chicken, turkey and fish as side dishes and please stay off the junk food. Look at this as an opportunity to really concentrate on health without distraction. And remember, if you don’t buy it and bring it in the house, you won’t consume it.
Set your goals
First and foremost, it is important to decide on goals. Are your motives for weight loss just to see a lower number on the scale? Do you have other things involved with your overall health you are hoping to improve? Maybe you are trying to work on lowering blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol. Maybe you want to become more fit. Perhaps being able to walk briskly for a certain amount of time or for a certain distance can be part of your goal setting. Do you have older clothes in your closet you would like to fit into again?
Whatever you decide, the important part is make the decision and properly set your goal. Be sure it is attainable and reasonable, but nevertheless.
Aside from establishing goals, there is another important ingredient in the formula towards success. It is missing in our society as a whole these days, but patience is a must. Don’t be in a hurry! Work on small changes over time that will ultimately bring large results. It is the changing of habits that will bring the ultimate success. Yes, we need some basic knowledge of what healthy eating is and yes, we need to look for every opportunity for more activity and exercise as an essential part of our health and weight loss. But the goal is making changes that can have permanence and become a part of our life. The science is clear—small changes, one or two at a time. Get those changes to take hold before moving on to the next one.
The following information will help you create a plan for improvement in eating and exercise
This is an approach to creating new habits using the habit loop. Consider working with a certified health or wellness coach to help you strategize and reinforce these habits. Derrick Price, MS, explains the anatomy of a habit and gives strategies to create new behaviors. Here is what he says:
Step 1: Goal Setting
As we mentioned already, establish goals—both short term and long term. You might have 25 kilo to lose as a long term goal, but short term goals have to do more with weekly changes. Contrary to popular belief, habits do not take 21 days to form. Habit formation varies greatly from person to person and can take as long as 66 days (Gardner, Lally & Wardle 2012). It’s a long process that requires consistent implementation. If you have an ambitious goal like losing 25 kilos, it’s important to “chunk” it into smaller, less daunting and more realistic outcomes. For example, instead of focusing on losing 25 kilo, a good first milestone is to lose 2.5 kilos in the first month by increasing daily walking and cutting your daily dessert.
Step 2: Identify motivational factors
Intrinsic (internal) motivation involves doing an activity for the inherent satisfaction rather than for a separable consequence. It may be intrinsically important for you to lose weight for a sense of accomplishment, to improve self-confidence or to accelerate your career. Intrinsic motivation is long-lasting compared to an external motivator like receiving compliments from others on how good you now look. As important as the external motivator may be to you, its staying power is limited.
Step 3: Pick a goal-oriented behavior
While it might seem appealing to make a lot of changes at once, focusing on one habit at a time may lead to greater success (Gardner, Lally & Wardle 2012). Consider different goal-oriented habits and then pick one. For example, if you want to lose weight, you could choose these two behaviors: (1) Walk and track 10,000 steps per day. Evidence suggests that regular, “incidental” physical activity is effective for weight loss and overall health. (2)Drink 2 cups of water before every meal. Not only may this help with curbing hunger, but it’s calorie-free, and proper hydration may aid in fat loss and overall well-being.
Step 4: Create the cue and reward
Once you’ve selected a behavior, choose a cue that will trigger it. For example, if you opt to drink 2 cups of water before every meal, consider setting a reminder alarm or keeping a water bottle with you at your work place. Then select a reward to reinforce the behavior.
Step 5: Eliminate disruptions
You may use disruptions as excuses for not accomplishing a new behavior. If you can identify disruptions, you can overcome pitfalls before they occur. For example, if not having water readily available disrupts the behavior of drinking 2 cups of water before every meal, purchase a water bottle that’s easy to fill and transport.
Step 6: Follow up
Hold yourself accountable to new behaviors. Work with a health coach or friend who can help you remain accountable.
Seek help when it is needed
One other piece of advice: There is nothing wrong with getting help. Go see a dietician, a trainer, or a coach, or even all three. Find a program that gives you a comprehensive way of life to gain your health back. Remember that you should include all three essential elements in your program: good eating, good exercise, and maybe the most important, integrating behavior and habit change. There is no better motivator than seeing your periodic successes until you can get to your overall goal. It might take months or even years to reach your goal, but when you do, it will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.