People ask me all the time how to stick to a diet. I ask them instead to focus on learning how to make change in their life. To change how you eat, you need to change how you think about food. Here are some places to start:
1. Know why you want to change. Desire (not fear) motivates.
Do you want to live a long, healthy life with a much loved partner, be a better parent to your children, have more energy and enthusiasm every day? Connecting with that desire and visualizing its outcome — everyday — helps it settle into your body.
2. Check your self-talk.
We tend to speak to ourselves in negative ways and point out what is not working. So instead of telling yourself, “I’m not skinny enough” or “I’ll never fit into those jeans,” say, “I’m working on getting healthier every day” or “I’ll feel so much better when I eat my greens.”
3. Follow your cravings for comfort food (without letting them own you).
Your body is not designed to need chocolate; it’s designed to need carbs, protein, and fat. The fact that you interpret a craving as "I need chocolate" is likely because of your relationship with chocolate. As a test, can you recall a particularly meaningful moment that involved chocolate? Can you remember how you were feeling in that moment?
That's what you're actually craving: the feeling — and you connected chocolate to get you there. I call it “following the red string” to the feeling, and this process can be attached to all your personal comfort food experiences. Can you have the chocolate? Yes, a smaller, healthier version, but “have” the memory first.
4. Make changes one at a time.
The body loves structure and dependability because that means safety, so don’t change it all in one fell swoop. Choose only one habit to focus on at a time. For instance, replace your sugary morning cereal with oatmeal. Don’t try to change all your meals. Or add a daily walk instead of changing your entire weekly exercise routine. Once a new habit feels naturally automatic, take on the next one.
5. Give yourself time to pause.
Giving yourself some pauses throughout the day is important to connect you with your body. Make sure to take time for your meals and sit down to eat. This helps give your mind and body the ability to actually chew and absorb your food to help you feel satiated from it. Multi-task eating (at your desk or while driving in the car) will just cause you to feel like you did not eat at all, which can trigger overeating later.
6. Be responsible.
Own your choices even when they might not be what you “should” have or “intended” to do. When you take responsibility for your choices instead of making excuses, arguing or shaming yourself, you can move more quickly forward, making better choices the next time around.
7. Drink water first.
- When you get up in the morning, drink a full glass of water — preferably room temperature or warm — it’s more comforting to the body. This single habit will cleanse and invigorate your inner system to wake up and gives you more energy and a sense of wellbeing for a good start to your day.
- A half hour before a meal, drink a full glass of water. When you hydrate your intestinal system, you better absorb your food, which helps you feel more satiated and prevents overeating.
- Before you react to a craving, drink a full glass of water; often a sugar craving is caused by dehydration.
8. Don’t skimp on meals. You need to eat more, not less, for healthy weight-loss.
Create a rhythm of three healthy meals a day. We are designed for survival, so restricting food all day sends a message of famine to your system and can cause a “feasting” reaction later. Undereating also causes the temptation to over-snack.
9. Eat more greens.
Aim to fill half your plate at lunch and dinner and even breakfast (if you’re so inclined) with green vegetables: cruciferous (kale, bok choy, broccoli, Brussell sprouts) and leafy greens (arugula, mustard greens, watercress collards, escarole) to feed your metabolism and your satiation, and also your perception.
When there is less than usual on our plate, we tend to be concerned that we’ll go hungry. Our perception of what is enough food is based on a visual reference. We tend “eat with our eyes.” So make sure your eyes see a full plate of beautiful, healthy, good-for-you foods.
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