Yes, you know it – summer is on its way and for many of you, no doubt there will be a desire to shift a couple of kilos and/or tone up your arms/tum/bum or whatever part is bothering you.
At the point at which you decide ‘That’s it, I need to do something’, what is it that you do? Go to the pharmacy for a detox kit? Grab a diet book? Impulsively create a long list of things that you are going to STOP eating and drinking in order to reach your goal of a looking a bit better?
- ‘Right, that’s it, no more chocolate after tonight’
- ‘I won’t snack at all from tomorrow onwards’
- ‘As from Monday, it’s no more booze for me’
- ‘I am giving up sugar – no more for me’
Sound familiar?! I know the list goes on….
While it is perfectly logical to create a ‘stop eating this list’, let’s be honest, by the time it gets to Thursday have you really managed to stick at it? Or have you slipped up a few times and now just feel ‘bad’ for not doing what you said you would so you… have a glass of wine/extra piece of chocolate because, ‘sod it – I have failed already, so why not?!’
The problem with this negative, diet and deprivation-style approach to getting yourself healthy and in shape is that, well, it just doesn’t work for most people.
When you are walking around constantly thinking about what you can’t eat and can’t drink, really, all it does it make you constantly think about food, plus after a challenging day you are probably just as likely, if not more likely, to crack open a bottle of vino or dive head-first into a packet of Tim Tams as you were before you started.
So… if dieting and deprivation isn’t the answer, what is?
I believe that you need to ditch the deprivation mindset and focus less on what you shouldn’t be eating and more on what you want to be eating and drinking more of. I suggest a two-pronged approach:
Firstly: Identify the unhealthy habits you have (eg. getting chocolate every time you buy petrol, hitting the cheese, crackers and wine every night after work, three coffees before lunchtime) and then work out what are the positive things you can do instead.
- I will buy a packet of gum at the gas station or go to a petrol station where I can pay at the pump so I don’t need to go into the shop.
- I will have a sparkling water when I get in from work and have a vege snackbox ready to munch on.
- I will have one coffee at 9am and then take herbal teabags to work for after that.
It’s much more powerful if you can shift your mindset to focus on the positive, the healthy habits, the good stuff. Don’t make it about what you aren’t having, make it all about what you will be having. It’s an optimistic approach.
Secondly: Plan in your treats. Yes, that’s right – I am saying, plan in wine and chocolate eating! Nope, I have not gone crazy, but I know most of you are probably going to be having those things anyway, but rather than in a ‘I shouldn’t have eaten that, but sod it now I have started and feel guilty anyway, I might as well eat the whole container’ kind of way…. you are planning to sit down, consciously, with awareness, to enjoy a small, delicious, tasty treat that is all about pleasure and joy – and to be healthy, there is nothing wrong with that. And yes, you can still shift kilos doing it, provided that the rest of your food is in great balance.
You really are much better to plan in a small chocolate bar and a couple of glasses of wine a week and really enjoy them, than tell yourself you will not have them at all and then end up having double the amount you would have had if you had planned it in.
To make healthy happen, focus more on increasing your healthy habits and helpful behaviours, then the unhealthy habits will fade away. Drown out the negative with positive. It works.
For more on healthy habits, getting in shape and feeling good, check out my books here.
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Best of luck.
Claire Turnbull, BSc (Hons) Dietetics UK, NZ-registered nutritionist
Managing director of Mission Nutrition
Healthy Food Guide nutritionist
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- For more ideas and inspiration, check out www.claireturnbull.co.nz and find Claire on Facebook.
- For one-on-one nutrition advice, visit Claire’s team of dietitians / nutritionists at Mission Nutrition.