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How to Stick to Your Diet- 5 Important Points to Remember

It’s a sad fact of life that many of us just can’t seem to stick to our diets. Sure, we’ll start off with good intentions, having dumped all the junk food, bought half the supermarket’s vegetable section and spent a fortune on a pair of trainers and some workout gear. But somehow, something happens and we fall off the wagon. Eventually it happens so many times, we just give up!

Yet there’s always someone we know who’s managed it. That success story that’s always mentioned at our slimming club, the whispers at the gym about ‘that girl over there who used to be 200lbs’, or even our closest friend or a family member. It’s natural to feel some kind of envy towards them. What do they have that you don’t? Why was it so easy for them to do it? Well the simple truth is that it wasn’t! But what they did have, that you didn’t, was the right frame of mind!

Countless people have come to me over the years wanting help with their diet. In the beginning I attempted to help them all. We looked at the psychology of their eating, came up with nutrition plans and exercise programmes to suit their lifestyle and needs, and worked through it all together. Most of them succeeded, but some of them didn’t. At this point I hadn’t yet recognised that the right frame of mind was crucial in order to lose the weight and keep it off. Now, I have to check that the client is in the right frame of mind before taking them on. If not, I give them a few resources and ask them to come back to me when they are ready. When I first refuse them they are gobsmacked! But once they reach that state of readiness they understand why I sent them away to begin with.

Here’s what I think are the key elements to having the right frame of mind:

  1. Why? You need to know why you want to lose weight, and it needs to be a strong reason to get you through the tough times ahead. ‘Because I want to look good’, ‘Because I hate being fat’ is not enough. You’ve thought these things for years, and how many diets have you been on in that time? Exactly. You need an ‘I want to be proud when I look at my wedding photo, not wish I’d lost more weight’ or an ‘I want to be able to run around after my children while they are still children!’. These kinds of why’s are powerful. The thought of what will happen if you don’t lose the weight now becomes more real, and it is this that pushes you through the storm and brings you out the other side.
  2. Dedication. This is a crucial lacking point for most people who embark on a healthier regime. You may believe that you are dedicated at the beginning, but how long is it before you think, ‘oh, one biscuit won’t hurt’ and then you’ve scoffed the whole pack! Or ‘I’m tired today, I’ll workout tomorrow’ and before you know it the week has flown by without a single iota of exercise. It’s all too easy to think these things won’t make a difference to your plan, but they will. The small things count in this instance! It’s important to be mindful of your new regime 100% of the time. If you feel yourself slipping, think of your ‘why’. And did you know that eating 1 biscuit a week will lead to a 5lb gain over the year?!
  3. Consistency. It can take 2-3 weeks for your body to get used to a new way of eating, and even longer for it to adjust to a new workout plan (4-6 weeks). During this entire time, your body will be screaming at you to stop! You may experience headaches (drink more water!), hunger pangs, aching muscles and constipation. It is important to listen to your body, and you will know if it is just your body adjusting or if you need to change what you’re doing. As long as it is your body adjusting, stick with it. The sugar cravings will disappear, your stomach will get used to the smaller portions, your muscles used to the exercise, and your mind will calm as your body does.
  4. Remember, there is no finish line. I received this email from a client who was just about to embark on a healthy eating regime. We had discussed her goals, and I had mentioned choosing incentives for each mini goal, e.g. buy a new pair of jeans when she went down a size. ‘I can’t wait to drop the first 10lbs! I thought about what you said and I’ve decided my incentive for that mini goal will be a cheese pizza. It’s one of my favourite foods and I can’t see how I will live without it. I think the incentive for the next 10lbs should be a bit bigger because I’ll have been working hard. I was thinking either a Burger King or KFC. Probably KFC though ’cause I love the popcorn chicken!’ This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Right here, I had to stop the client and we had to go through a few steps to get her into the right frame of mind. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to your favourite foods every so often. However, using them as an incentive is not the way to go about it. Your incentives should not be food related, or you risk seeing food as a reward which will impact on your life in the future. It also means that you’re always thinking about that cheese pizza, which makes it even harder to enjoy the salad sitting in front of you. Your healthy eating is a new way of life. Treat it as such, with the occasional treat once you are down to your goal weight, and you will maintain that success.
  5. Stay positive. Nobody has the perfect transition into a healthy lifestyle. Your body has been in a contented place for however long you have been feeding it junk food and limiting it’s movement. Now, it has no comfort food, it has to move more in a day than it used to in a week, and that’s a lot of change! It will not thank you, and will do everything possible to get you to revert to your old ways. Back to it’s contented place. You’ll experience cravings, most likely for sugar, starchy foods (like pasta and bread) and salty snacks. At this stage, you can be confident that your body is running low on carbohydrate stores and will soon start burning your fat stores for energy. This thought helps some people steer clear of their old habits, but for others, that pull is just too strong. If this happens to you, don’t let it get you down. Start again at your next meal and learn from your mistake. Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. But the successful among us learn from their mistakes. So be a success.

What do you think of these five points? Are there any you would add?

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