Yesterday marked two weeks since New Year’s day and I’ve noticed that the blog, Facebook and Twitter posts about the ‘ol lose weight resolution have started to wane. In some cases, this is because folks are down to the hard work of knocking off the pounds, but in many other cases, it’s because you’ve given up. The longer I’ve done nutrition counseling, the more I’ve realized that people fail at “diets” because they follow bad advice or believe some pretty big lies.
If you’re currently trying to lose weight, I’d like you to know a few things:
- You should feel hungry. Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to a rhythm of hunger and satiety. Even if you don’t want to lose weight, you should feel hungry before a regular meal time and you should be eating portions that fill you up for a while and then leave you feeling hungry for the next meal. Making the lifestyle change to lose weight means learning to recognize the feeling of hunger AND understanding how to just satisfy (rather than stomp to death) that feeling. When a diet swears you’ll never feel hungry, it should probably be touting that you’ll never go hungry instead. Feeling hungry is okay.
- Deprivation doesn’t work. It’s pretty hip right now to cut out certain types of foods as means of getting healthier and losing weight. Paleo, gluten-free, whole 30 and other movements call for the systematic elimination of huge chunks of the usual American diet, and they often result in weight loss. The problem here is psychological: We don’t like to be told and over time, “no” turns into “maybe” which turns in to “I’m doing [fill-in-the-blank eating lifestyle] except that I eat [forbidden food]” and before you know it the pounds come back. The fix is simple: Say yes. Instead of focusing on things you can’t or shouldn’t eat, make your new eating lifestyle about the things you can or should eat and reward yourself for success. Positive is the new negative!
- Don’t be tricked by food labels. Foods labels like “Made with Whole Grain”, “Naturally Sweetened”, “Organic”, and”Free-Range” do not mean “Will Help You Lose Weight”. I recently compared a “whole grain”, “organic”, “naturally sweetened” cupcake to a pre-packaged, highly processed one in a local grocery store. The “healthy” cupcake had 5 more fat grams and about 150 more calories than the “unhealthy” one. While steering away from heavily processed foods is a good move, the truth is, if you’re hoping to lose pounds your focus needs to be on eating more fruits, veggies and lean proteins rather than on finding “healthy” versions of what you already eat. Instead of searching for healthy-sounding labels, focus on filling your shopping cart with foods that don’t need labels: fresh produce, unprepared lean proteins and unprocessed grains.
- Changing WHAT you eat isn’t a stand alone solution. You must change WHY you eat. Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m a self-proclaimed foodie – I love eating and I love cooking. I don’t, however, eat to be happy or to feel comfort. I eat because I find delight in the artwork of flavors and textures and aroma that can be found in a great meal and I enjoy them in moderation. If, however, you find yourself seeking solace during difficult times from a box of macaroni and cheese or a hoping to entertain yourself with a few dozen Oreos, chances are you’re eating for the wrong reasons. Changing this isn’t easy, and may honestly require the help of a counselor, but spending time identifying your triggers for overeating is the first step to dealing with them. You can also start dealing with these triggers by responding to them differently. When you’re bored and want to eat, go for a walk instead. When you’re sad and want to eat, leave the kitchen and call a friend to talk instead. Long term, if you’re heart is in the right place, changing your eating habits will be easier!
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Ignore the people complaining about crowded gyms during resolution time and hop on that elliptical. Log out of Pinterest so you don’t have to look at all those unhealthy dinner ideas. Think of this endeavor as the beginning of a new lifestyle and not as a diet or a temporary “fix”: you’re not broken!