Most of us decide to start a new diet on the 1st January, but in reality, this is probably the worst week of the year to try and change your eating habits. After the excesses of Christmas and New Year, suddenly switching to a slimming programme will be a major shock to the system and is guaranteed to leave you quickly craving all the foods you’ve eaten to excess in the past month – we’re talking chocolates, wine, Christmas cake, cream, mince pies, nuts and crisps!
Instead, it’s far better to return to your normal pre-Christmas eating habits for a week or so, before starting your slimming programme. This will give you time to re-adjust to your ‘normal’ diet as well as giving you an opportunity to keep a food diary based on what you usually eat. Simply record every single mouthful that passes your lips for a week. It might sound tedious, but it will make you realise just how much you’re eating and help to identify any areas where you can make little changes to shift those pounds.
You may also find it helpful to keep a note of how you felt before eating. Was it because you were hungry? Was it to satisfy boredom, tiredness, unhappiness or another emotion? Or did you simply eat out of habit?
Identifying those times when you eat when you’re not really hungry will give you the opportunity to find other ways to deal with these situations rather than reaching for food. For example, if your food diary helps you realise that you eat when you’re bored, you can work towards beating boredom without using food, such as having a bath, going for a walk or phoning a friend for a gossip. Similarly, if your food diary reveals that you often eat out of habit, for example, by going straight to the fridge when you get home from work, you can look at ways to break or change those habits, for example, by heading straight for the fruit bowl!
Keeping On Track
The key to continuing to lose weight is to keep your slimming and exercise programme fresh. If you eat the same foods day in and day out and only ever do the same activities, boredom will quickly set in with the result that you’ll be tempted to give up. When it comes to food, this might mean investing in a recipe book to try some new dishes or experimenting with different foods. For example, you could make it your weekly mission to buy a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before, or cook vegetables in different ways, such as roasting carrots with a little spray oil rather than steaming them, or adding fresh coriander, chopped peppers and spring onions to your usual salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber! There are lots of different ways to keep meals interesting – it’s simply a case of experimenting.
The same goes for exercise. It’s natural that you’ll get bored if you only ever do the same activities – and on top of this, you’re unlikely to get the most out of your workout. Your body needs to be continuously pushed in order to burn fat and tone muscle so it’s important that you keep pushing yourself. This might mean trying some different cardiovascular machines if you go to the gym, or increasing the intensity of your workout, such as walking for a longer distance in the same amount of time. Keep an eye out for new activities too, such as dance classes at your local community centre or a new aqua aerobics class at the swimming pool.
It’s also essential to keep yourself motivated. In the early stages of your plan, friends and family will probably keep telling you how well you’re doing and how great you look, but compliments may gradually start to slow down, especially as people get used to seeing a slimmer you. That’s why it’s essential for you to keep reminding yourself of your slimming successes to date – that might mean trying on an old item of clothing that’s now too big for you, comparing pictures of yourself when you were bigger with ones of yourself now or simply totting up how many pounds and inches you’ve lost in total. You may also find it helpful to give yourself non-food treats such as a new haircut, a nail varnish or a massage, every time you reach a new goal.
Reaching a Plateau
It’s also important to avoid getting disheartened if you reach a plateau where your weight seems to stick for a couple of weeks at a plateau-time, despite all your best efforts. This is common, but the good news is it’s usually only a temporary problem. In the meantime, there are several things you can do to help get those pounds shifting again. Start by checking your portion sizes. After weeks of following a slimming programme, many of us feel confident enough to ditch the kitchen scales and start putting cereal into a bowl rather than weighing it, or pouring salad dressing on to the salad straight from the bottle rather than measuring out 1tbsp. Simply going back to weighing out servings of foods like cereals, rice, pasta, meat, poultry and fish may be all that it takes to get those pounds shifting again.
You may also find it helpful to keep a notebook with you for a week detailing every single mouthful you eat each day. In the same way that portions can increase over time, you might find you’ve allowed more treats to creep into your programme which you’ve been forgetting to add to your food diary, such as having the odd cake in the office, treating yourself to a bar of chocolate once a week, nibbling on sweets while you’re driving or pouring yourself a larger drink than normal.
So now you’re armed with all the information you need, what are you waiting for? All you have to lose is those extra pounds – for the very last time!
Keep it real – resolutions not to make at the start of a new diet!
1. I’ll lose a stone in the next two weeks
For safe and effective weight loss you should allow around six weeks to lose a stone. Very low-calorie diets that result in rapid weight loss may leave you short of essential nutrients and will limit your choice so much that you’ll quickly get bored and give up.
2. I’ll never eat chocolate again
Ban any food and you’ll make it even more tempting with the result that you’ll end up overindulging as you try to curb your craving. It’s far more realistic to simply reduce the amount you eat – that might mean cutting down from two bars a day to one a day, or having chocolate just once a week instead of several times.
3. I’m going to be a size 8
You don’t have to look like Kylie or Kate Moss to be slim. We all have different sizes and shapes and most women will struggle to fit into a size-8 outfit. Instead, focus on setting a realistic target weight for you – and enjoy whatever size that makes you!
4. I’m going to cook everyday
There’s no need to turn yourself into a Domestic Goddess simply because you want to lose weight. Accept the fact that there will be times when you don’t have the time or inclination to cook and instead make the most of quick and easy dishes such as low-fat ready meals, beans on toast, jacket potatoes with tuna and salad and veggie stir fries.
5. I’ll go to the gym every day
Chances are you won’t have the time or energy to take up residence at your local gym and soon stop going completely as a result. Instead, see the gym as just one of the many ways you can build exercise into your daily life.
6. I’ll do it on my own
Good support is a vital component of any successful weight loss plan so prepare to ask for help and encouragement, whether that’s from a friend, partner or a Nutritional Therapist.