We tend to take the simple things in life, and make them extremely complex, It seems as though this is part of human nature. We think to ourselves that “it can’t be this easy”, so we strive to complicate things that are really straightforward, with the intention that we think we are making things better, and this is no more clearer than when we look at making changes to our diet.
Nutrition and eating for weight loss is in theory easy and quite straightforward. But the fact we are emotional beings, with the cognitive capacity to think “outside” the box can sometimes be our worst enemy. And this often leads to over-complicating a simple process, which sabotages our chances of success and making any permanent progress. The key to making positive changes is creating mindfulness and awareness around our eating habits. Many people who struggle with weight loss do so because of mindless eating, well developed emotional eating patterns, and are unconscious of how much they are actually eating and what type of food they actually eat.
The first step in creating any change is becoming aware our current habits and what steps are available for making change. Like anything, this is a process and it will take effort, dedication, and time. For many of you, you are reversing 10, 20, and maybe even 30 years of ingrained eating habits. So changing this won’t happen in the next 30 days, like many infomercials would lead you to believe.
Here are 4 Steps you can start taking to make positive diet changes and lose those unwanted pounds.
Food journaling is a powerful exercise as you gain awareness of what you are actually eating, and how much you are eating in terms of portion sizes. Most people who do this simple exercise are blown away to discover how much they actually eat, and how they aren’t eating as healthy as they thought they were.
Food journaling should never be used as a way to “beat yourself up” for the choices you have made though, which is what some people use this as. The choices you have made are in the past. Tearing yourself down is not productive and doesn’t do a thing to move you forward in a positive way, and does nothing to improve your current situation. While you may have the inkling to beat yourself up, we recommend using your food journaling as an opportunity to change. If you are not happy with what you see on the pages you have written, reframe this as something that is actually positive, and reframe it as an opportunity to forge ahead, this time more intelligently.
When you food journal include the following:
- How much you actually eat. Portions can be measured in cups, ounces, hand sizes, etc. Get as specific with this as possible.
- What time of day you eat each meal/snack, so you can notice any consistent patterns
- Include beverages like pop, juice, coffee, and alcohol, and how much you actually drink.
- Be as specific as possible when you journal information. Being vague will not help you. Ex: Rather than writing I had “greek yogurt” for breakfast, include the exact amount and flavour/kind you had.
- Record hunger cues, or how full/hungry you felt after a meal/snack.
- Record how you felt when you were eating. Were you stressed, angry, sad, frustrated, etc?
This will allow you to establish if you have any emotional eating patterns or habits, and how you might us food as a way to cope with stress or deal with certain emotions.
Eat Slowly and Mindfully
Eating and chewing your food slowly and mindfully not only allows you to enjoy the taste of your food more than usual, but will lead to you eating smaller portions and feeling fuller sooner. On top of this, we would also include waiting 30 minutes after your meal, to see if your body actually “needs a second helping”. The hypothalamus in your brains is responsible for triggering the signal of fullness and satiation, which doesn’t happen until 20-30 min after consumption. By waiting, you give your body time to establish a feeling of fullness and decrease the chances of eating more calories than you actually need.
Drink more water
Many times we confuse hunger pangs, when in reality we are dehydrated and need more water. When you drink enough water, you can ensure that these “stomach pangs”, are not the result of thirst, which will eliminate the supposed “hunger cues” we think we are having, and not overeating calories. Active women should be drinking 2-3 litres of water per day, and active men need to drinking 3-4 liters. If this is not reasonable or realistic right now, start small and increase water intake gradually. Start with an extra 2 glasses a day, and do this for the next 6 weeks. Once you have established this habit, increase it by another 2 glasses per day.
For most people, change needs to small and incremental to be permanent and long term.
Don’t try to change everything at once
Much like what we talked about in # 3 with water intake, making changes to your meals and snacks needs to happen slowly and gradually. Most people try to do from A-Z in one shot, and wonder why they feel frustrated, discouraged, and eventually give up. Any change needs to be realistic, motivating, and manageable. Otherwise you will throw in the towel too soon.
Start by changing 2-3 small things. Maybe you focus on eating a healthy breakfast, or maybe you start eating breakfast in the first place, and 1 healthy morning snack. Maybe you make it your only goal to cut alcohol consumption in half, and take sugar out of your daily coffee, or maybe you make it your focus to eat 3 square meals per day that are not processed, packaged, or store bought, and are home cooked and healthy. At the end of the day, start small and make habit changes slowly. Once you have made the changes you want, use this success as a stepping stone to make new changes.
Over time, all of these little changes will add up, and pretty soon you will have overhauled your eating habits completely, while making these changes long lasting and permanent. What matters isn’t if you change, but if you keep and maintain the changes you make. Anyone can change in the moment, what matters if whether you can change permanent.