Let’s face it – many people fall off and on the healthy lifestyle wagon all the time. There are many so called “yo-yo dieters” who lose the weight only to go back to their old habits and gain double the weight they lost before they started a diet in the first place. I, myself, have experienced this “diet” roller coaster and lately, I have been thinking why this is.
I have come to the conclusion that fat loss or living a healthy lifestyle has a lot to do with your mind/brain and/or how you think. I may have realized this awhile ago but I just never thought about it as deeply as I have at this very moment.
Ok, so the brain is not a muscle (I just thought it would be a cool title) but it is worth exercising everyday because your success, in fat loss or anything in your life, depends A LOT upon it. If you were to look at people who are successful in anything, you would find that they are usually optimistic, motivated, and disciplined (among other things) people. The important thing to note here is that these successful people did not get like this overnight. Everyone sucks in the beginnning – at anything. What you and I need to know is: perfect practice makes perfect.
How do you do this? Recently, a client of mine brought to my attention a book called The Beck Diet Solution. It is a book created by Dr. Judith Beck who is a psychiatrist that specializes in Cognitive Therapy. The book teaches you many ways to deal with “dieting” and the many pitfalls associated with it. [Note: if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you would know that I like diets because they help you practice the skills you need to succceed but I don’t recommend having the diet mentality in the long run.]
Here are some tips that would help you stay on track and help “train your brain” in terms of “dieting.”
#1 Practice Your Resistance Muscles
If you are starting a new diet plan, it may be difficult for you to resist food temptations in the beginning or maybe even towards the end. The key to being successful during this time is to practice resisting these temptations. Just like in working out, you need to exercise your resistance consistently so that it will get easier later. This could be something simple as saying, “No, thank you,” over and over again to the foods that are offered to you at a party.
Dr. Beck says that it takes at least 20 times for people to practice resistance before it gets easier or becomes a habit. So, the next time you feel that you need to have a midnight snack or buy that candy bar at the cashier counter, resist the urge and keep doing so until you don’t want to do it anymore.
#2 Prepare for Bumps Along the Road
We all have it, we get stressed, we get emotional, we get busy, etc. That’s life. Life will always throw things at you and catch you off guard. This reminds me of my recent experience of starting my own business while my husband was deployed in Kuwait. I didn’t realize the emotional and physical toll that it will have on my body. These events have caught me off guard which caused me to lose sight of some of my fitness goals and some weight gain. At the time, I didn’t realize what was happening until I was able to pin point the things that are causing the change in my behavior and decided to deal with it.
You may get stressed by a new job, a looming deadline for a big project, adapting to a new place after moving, getting married, etc. Name it and I’m sure it will affect your behavior in terms of your fitness goals. The key to staying strong during these times is to recognize that they will pass and you don’t need food to make you feel better or that you need to keep doing your workouts to de-stress. Really pay attention to how your behavior is changed by an event and stick to your plan even when you don’t feel like it.
#3 Fight Cravings with an Alternative Habit
Dr. Beck describes cravings as a physiological and emotionally intense urge to eat. Usually cravings can occur even when you’re not hungry and they usually occur during emotional depressions or arousals. She suggests dealing with cravings by having an alternative habit when you have them such as walking your dog, drinking hot tea, listening to your favorite music, going for a swim, reading a good book, etc. This strategy will greatly help you if you find something that you enjoy doing. At the same time, it also requires practice on your part and some trial and error to find and form these new habits.
#4 Tell a friend
Our friends/family can be a source of strength during times of weakness. Recruit the help of your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, or best friend to help you accountable for your actions. You would want to either e-mail, text, or call this person whenever you have a craving or desire to eat something that’s not on your plan. Sometimes, the simple act of just telling someone about your craving (or any diet difficulty) and having them talk you out of it or having them remind you of why you’re doing this in the first place will help you get out of that mindset that you have to give in. This is a great tool and one that everyone should practice whenever the situation occurs.
#5 Understand that Hunger is not an emergency
Many people tend to get moody or easily angered when they are hungry. One thing that I learned from practicing Eat Stop Eat (ESE) is that my hunger usually only lasts about 5-10 minutes. I have been through more worse physical discomfort in the past such as a tooth ache, strong headache, back pain, etc. The discomfort from hunger is nothing compared to the discomfort I’ve felt with these. Thankfully, I haven’t been injured as I can imagine that a broken leg or arm would be even worse.
The one thing to realize here is that most people tend to confuse hunger with a desire to eat. If you just ate a meal or a snack and you feel “hungry” again, chances are you just want to eat. If you want to distinguish between feeling hungry and just having a desire to eat, try fasting for 24 hours. Then, you would really know what real hunger feels like.
#6 The Advantages List
One tool that Dr. Beck has you do on the The Beck Diet Solution is to create an “Advantages List” on day 1. Basically, you would create a list of at least 20 things that you will have once you have reached your goal and read them first thing in the morning and during times of weaknesses. Here is a sample list:
- I want to have more self-confidence.
- I want to look better.
- I want to be healthier.
- I want to have more energy.
- I want to be less self-conscious.
- I want to wear more fashionable clothes.
- I want to wear size 5 jeans and feel great about it.
- I want to look great in a bikini.
- I want to feel strong.
- I want to be able to keep up with my kids.
- I want to look younger than my real age.
- I want to have a strong immune system.
- I want to look HOT!
Take note that each advantage should be written in a positive light instead of a negative tone such as “I don’t want to get sick.”
Having been able to maintain a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle, I realize that simply having a nutrition and workout plan is not enough. You also have to have a plan for dealing with the way you think and undoing your old, mostly destructible habits. Also, finding a balanced, healthy lifestyle, knowing that you can make mistakes, and eat the not-so-healthy foods every now and then is what would really help you maintain your success in the long run.