Most weight loss diets don’t work. One of the main reasons why is that they aren’t sustainable in the long-run. They are often too hard to follow and still live normally. Many are unhealthy because they severely limit calories or restrict certain foods or even whole food groups. Or they don’t take into account all the other factors that affect your weight.
So if you shouldn’t go on “a diet” to lose weight, what should you do? Well, there are many strategies, if I wrote them all here it would be more like a book! So instead I’m presenting 10 suggestions and will dive deeper into a few in upcoming blog posts.
1. Remember you are not on a diet. You are on a quest for lifelong eating and living habits that leave you feeling healthy and vibrant, both in the short-term and the long-term. Sometimes your established habits will need adjustments–whether due to health reasons or life circumstances.Don't diet, go on a quest for lifelong healthy eating and living habits. Click To Tweet
2. Focus on all the foods you should eat. Diets tend to focus on all the foods you should avoid. Not fun! This is one of the reasons why diets don’t work—they leave you feeling deprived and frustrated. So instead of seeing a long list of foods you shouldn’t eat, visualize—or better yet, write out—all the foods you should be eating. Whole grains, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean meats, fish, there are so many healthy, delicious foods to choose from. (More on this in upcoming blog post).
3. Practice mindful eating. Be aware of:
- Why you’re eating (hungry? sweet craving? tired? stressed? bored?)
- What you’re eating…(is it your child’s crackers? is it a balanced snack?)
- Where you’re eating…(standing in kitchen? in the car? at the table?)
- How each bite tastes–not just the first
- When you start to feel full; follow the Okinawan habit of stopping eating when you’re 80% full
- How you feel after you eat (satisfied? stuffed? guilty? content? still hungry?)
4. Be familiar with portion sizes. Yes, mindful eating is good, but if you are mindfully putting 3 cups of pasta onto your plate, it might be time for a refresher. I tell my clients to read labels for portion sizes and get out their measuring cups to see how much they are eating. And while I don’t recommend counting calories, sometimes a calorie-tracking app can help you become more aware of just how much you are eating and what an appropriate serving size is. The good news is that when you are aware of portion sizes and can stick to it, you can eat almost anything!
5. Love your current body as is! Don’t think, “if I could just lose 30 pounds…” or “if I could just lose my belly fat…” You are already beautiful! So respect and love your body today. While you may be wondering how loving your body helps you lose weight, it’s all about the shift in your mindset. Be positive and confident about your body no matter what size you are. Loving your body and not talking about weight and dieting is also one of the best ways to be a good role model for your children. And as Sally from Real Mom Nutrition explains in this post, you already have a bikini body!
6. Don’t be tempted by a trendy diet—gluten free, vegan, paleo, etc.— to lose weight, however, if you find that you feel better eating a certain way, then do it! Create your own eating pattern of eating that doesn’t have a label. Maybe you find that eating more of a vegan diet makes you feel great but you still sometimes have steak, that’s ok! Or maybe you find that eating more of paleo style diet, but not a complete paleo diet, works for you. That’s ok too! Break the rules and don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.
7. Find exercise that you enjoy doing…and do it! As I mentioned in my New Years Resolutions post, you can walk, you don’t have to run. You can do planks at home, you don’t have to go to they gym. The key is that you do it. Exercise should be built into your daily routine–not just your weekend routine. Much like finding a pattern of eating that works for you, you need to find a pattern of exercise and physical activity that works for you. Aim for at least 60 minutes a day. Fortunately, exercise can take many forms, from walking your dog, to vacuuming your house, to shooting hoops with your kids. Ideally, you mix it up so that there is both some cardio and some strength training.
8. Practice stress management and get adequate sleep. These days we know that along with healthy eating and exercise, reducing stress and getting adequate sleep are also part of the healthy weight equation. So focus on these as much as you do eating and exercise.
9. Make sure your thyroid function is normal. It really could be your thyroid. If you have symptoms of an underactive thyroid, such as weight gain, stubborn weight, fatigue, brain fog, always feeling cold, hair loss, dry skin, or sluggish reflexes, have your doctor perform a complete thyroid panel. Even if you have subclinical hypothyroidism, a slightly underactive thyroid, it can affect weight and should be treated.
10. Finally, reevaluate your “goal weight.” Know that your happy, healthy weight may not be what you think and may not be the same as for your friend who is the same height. We are all unique. We all have different body shapes. You can use the BMI calculator as a guide, but know that your ideal weight is one that leaves you feeling healthy, vibrant, and strong…and maybe that means you are perfect right where you are!
How do you incorporate all these suggestions? Gradually. Choose one suggestion at a time to focus on. Maybe you focus on eating more mindfully one week and then adding in more walking into your daily routine the next week. Make an appointment with your doctor if you think your thyroid could be a factor. Learning to love your body involves changing your mindset more than your habits; but it’s essential if you want to feel good and work with your body, not against it.
If you need more help find a Registered Dietitian or qualified health coach or counselor who can help set you up with a plan and guide you along. But know that no one can do it for you—it’s ultimately up to you. But the good new is you can do it! If you want to change your habits you can. If you want to improve your diet and health you can. If you want to improve your mindset and outlook on your body and life you can.