10 tips for sticking with your health kick
We've all been there; alcohol-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, hitting the gym hard. And then suddenly, real-life sets back in and it's all too easy to swap the healthy lunch and a brisk walk home for a pint and and a ready-meal. But this is your year! It's time to banish the yo-yo extremes and switch-up your lifestyle for good.
Check out these 10 strategies from Katherine Neal at Nutritional Know How to help you focus on building new habits, rather than fighting those old ones.
1. Plan ahead
Not being organised is a foolproof way to sabotage your healthy lifestyle. If you come home from work, tired and hungry, to an empty fridge, chances are you'll order in, or graze your way through the evening. To stay on track during a busy week, plan your meals in advance. Batch cook on the weekend for easy lunches and dinners (check out these recipe ideas from Hugh). Have some recipes that can be made with store cupboard ingredients for those days when things don’t go to plan (eggs are great for this).
2. Don’t let yourself get too hungry
Letting yourself get overly hungry makes it all too easy to grab whatever food is nearby. Skipping meals can trigger hunger and cravings later on. Don’t be scared of feeling hungry, if you are eating three meals a day your next meal isn’t far away. In fact, it’s importance to recognise and accept the feeling of hunger from time to time; you don’t always need to rush to “fill the gap” but it is important that you don't skip meals. And keep hydrated with plenty of water - it can also help manage hunger.
3. Stay accountable
To help you stay focused, especially when progress is difficult, having accountability systems in place will help you move forward instead of giving up. Join a supportive weight loss group to find likeminded people with similar goals.
Keep a food diary and list everything you eat and drink each day if this helps.
If you like to weigh-in regularly (not everyone does and that’s fine), make sure you weigh yourself at the same time each day weight can vary a great deal during the day.
4. Ask am I really hungry?
It is time to work out the difference between being hungry and being satisfied. It is common to think after finishing a meal you still feel hungry. The truth is, feeling satisfied after eating (e.g. you're no longer hungry, but you don't feel full) is foreign to many people. Too often, the signal that we've had enough to eat is feeling full – and sometimes stuffed. The next time you think that you're hungry, ask yourself if your stomach feels empty or you simply don't feel full. Assess how you feel before you eat, halfway through your meal and after you finish eating. Harder said than done but try and stop eating when you feel satisfied - it takes practise.
5. Take it day by day
To keep your head in the game, think one meal and one day at a time. Ask yourself, "What can I do today to help reach my goal?" Focus on the journey, look for progress not perfection. Don’t put yourself down if you have a bad day, turn a negative day into a positive by using it as a learning point, and remember every day is a new day and a new opportunity!
6. Reassess portion sizes
Cutting portions is vital to weight loss. And surprisingly, your appetite adjusts to smaller amounts of food. Use the palm of your hand as a guide to the amount of carbohydrate and protein. Fill the rest of the plate with vegetables. Check out our guide to portion size here.
7. Manage stress levels
Excessive stress has a negative impact on many aspects of life it can also hinder weight loss. Stress can make you hungry making any diet much harder. Being stressed makes it more difficult to plan ahead and prepare food. If stress is problematic plan some stress relieving activities into your weight loss regime, trying to get an early night, 10 minutes meditation or a 30 minute walk in the fresh air, whatever works for you.
8. Motivate yourself daily
To keep your eye on your goal, make a list of all the reasons why you want to lose weight and how you'll feel once you get there. Read it regularly. Use photographs to focus on the goal. Music can be very motivating - great if you are wavering around doing exercise or not, stick on your favourite upbeat tunes and you are more likely to go.
9. Pat yourself on the back
Rewarding yourself as you meet mini goals is a way of reminding yourself you can achieve your goal. Determine which achievements you will reward, and then plan what your incentives will be.
10. Forget 'all-or-nothing' – but never give up
It's not possible to be perfect, so don't expect it. If you fall off plan – and you will, you're human – don't think it's a major setback. It's not. If you tell yourself it’s okay to have slipped a little, you'll be amazed how easy it is to get back on track. Focus on progress not perfection, and never give up.