Nutrition can be stressful for many people. There’s so much information and conflicting details on what’s best and new fads coming out almost daily. It can be overwhelming to say the least. Maybe this is your first time making this type of commitment to change and you’re not sure how to be successful or where to start. Or maybe you’ve been through this before but for whatever reason the plan just didn’t stick. Either way, we want you to be successful, and that’s why we’ve put together a list of 10 tips that can help you be successful on any diet plan or lifestyle change.
One of the main reason that new year’s resolutions in general fail, is because people do extreme, unsustainable changes rather than implementing a plan with steps to achieve the end goal.
If your plan on Jan 1 was to go full paleo and cut out all grains, dairy, legumes and sugars – this is a huge lifestyle change, it is going to be very difficult. A better approach would be to take baby steps which lead to the ultimate goal. Start with the low hanging fruit. Start with small changes that are on the path to the larger goal. This way you can focus on that small change until the habit has formed and you can dedicate your energy to focusing on another change.
Many small steps in the right direction add up to big change over time. It will ease your stress levels, prevent you from getting overwhelmed and set you up for success. Start with the easiest change, something you know you can accomplish and build momentum towards you new healthy lifestyle. This is the most important point and keep it in mind as you read through the other points.
2) Check the ego, focus on task-oriented goals
With your New Year’s diet resolutions probably come some kind of goal, and goals are great, they keep us motivated and help us stay consistent and make smart choices. But how we structure and think about our goals can have a huge impact on how we feel about our progress which is a huge influencer in our success. Many of your goals may sound something like this: lose 10lbs or lose 10 inches or get a six pack. And many times, we will put a timeframe on these: “lose 10lbs by April 1” These are great goals to have, but are they the best way to focus our energy? Not necessarily. Sometimes, even with the best plan and following it 100%, these type of ego goals aren’t achievable and when that April 1 day passes and we’ve only lost 7lbs, now we feel like a failure, even though there’s so much success in that 3 month journey to celebrate! With ego goals such as lose Xlbs by X date, we often say to ourselves, if I do that, then I will be happy. This binary approach can be difficult. If we don’t reach that goal (for reasons that may be out of our control) we feel like a failure; if we do reach that goal, we’re happy and satisfied for maybe a day, then the yearning for more begins, or we fall back to our old habits and lose all our progress. We’ve probably all experienced this with lifts or PRs in the gym. How many of you have said “I’ll be happy when I can squat my bodyweight” or something along those lines. Only to find when that day comes, that we end up just wanting more.
A better way to look at goals is focusing on task oriented goals. This is a goal based around something you are 100% in control of – your actions. Instead of losing Xlbs, set a goal of “I’m going to bring a lunch to work everyday instead of going out” or “I’m going to eat vegetables with every meal” or “I’m going to meal prep for 4 weeks”. Instead of focusing on the end goal, focus on the tasks that will work towards that end goal. Consistency is key in nutrition and this is a great way to achieve that. One of my favorite comedians, Jerry Seinfeld has a concept called “Don’t Break the Chain”. He used this as way to write stand up material every day. The idea is that doing something consistently every day will become motivating itself. Jerry uses a calendar for a visual. Everyday he writes for 15 minutes, he marks an X on the calendar for that day. Eventually you do the task because you don’t want to break the chain of doing it every day! We’ve built something like this in to our Food For 6S app.
The takeaway is, set specific goals of being consistent, rather than losing a specific amount. The consistency is key and something to celebrate along the way and before you know it, you’ll have reached that goal weight anyways!
3) Focus on improvement, not perfection
You’re going to slip up. Accept that. Nobody is perfect and change can be challenging. When you do slip up, you have 2 options; 1) feel guilty, feel like a failure and give up or 2) Accept it, learn from it and move on. Try not to feel guilty if you happen to fall off your diet or slip up. The guilt and self blame tend to have a negative effect on your motivation and often lead to slipping up more or giving up all together. Instead, use this experience as a learning opportunity. Try to understand why it happened and if there is anything you can do to set yourself up to be more successful in the future. Did you slip up because you weren’t prepared? Was there a specific trigger that caused it like a stressful workday or some bad news? What type of systems or things can you do to make sure it doesn’t happen next time? This focus on continuous improvement and consistency is what will make you successful in the long run. If we focus on being perfect and slip up, that’s when we have feelings of guilt and shame which no one wants!
4) Don’t be fixated on the scale
Sure, weighing yourself is useful for tracking progress and the effectiveness of your nutrition plan, but it’s not the only thing to pay attention to. Weight loss is never linear. The day to day numbers can go up and down and if we put too much focus on them, it can be frustrating and demotivating. The general trend is what we should monitor, not the day to day changes. There’s a number of things that can influence the number on the scale including weight loss/gain, stress levels, water retention, workout intensity and many more. Instead of just focusing on the scale we can look at other metrics such as your mood and energy levels, sleep patterns, how your clothes are fitting, how your workouts are feeling and your general well-being. This is why we track these things daily in our Food For 6S app.
5) Embrace the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule can be applied to many things in life. With respect to nutrition, it means eat healthy 80% of the time and eat foods you enjoy 20% of the time. This will keep you sane while still working towards your health and wellness goals.
6) Don’t drink your calories
One of the easiest changes to make to your diet is to stop drinking your calories! Cut the pop, juice, iced tea, and reduce the beer and wine. There’s a number of ways to jazz up your water and make it more exciting like adding lemon or lime, have sparkling water, or have calorie free beverages. Drinking calories can add up quickly and are not satiating at all. If we cut these, we have more room to eat real whole foods!
7) Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full
You don’t need to starve yourself to reach your weight loss goals, you should eat when you’re hungry, just eat the appropriate foods and stop when you’re full. Pay attention to how you feel when you’re eating and take your time! It’s takes time for your body to realize it is full and send those signals so slow down and chew your food! Make your meals a time when you focus on eating instead of cramming it in while working at your desk or watching TV. It’s easy to fall into a mindless eating state when we are distracted from our meal and we can miss the signals our body is sending to tell us we’re full. Sit down at the table and eat with a friend or your partner or call your mom and have a conversation. Not only will this slow down your meal, but it will make it more enjoyable and potentially strengthen your relationships! Bonus!
8) Have a solid why
Focus on why you’ve started this journey to a healthier lifestyle and dig a little deeper than “I want to lose 10lbs”. Having a solid why can really keep you dedicated and motivated when your will power is challenged. Do you want to have more energy to play with your kids or go on adventures with your partner or friends? Set a good example for your family? Do you want to develop new healthy habits for to reduce the risk of developing disease and to have a long and healthy life? Is there an athletic achievement that you’re striving for? Many people that come in to the Food For 6S program will come in with an initial why of losing Xlbs but the most successful clients usually have a different why after the first month. They quickly become less focused on the weight loss why and more focused on something like how they’re feeling great and their performance in the gym has gone way up or they have more energy ect.
9) Get a coach
It can be hard to venture in to improving your nutrition alone. There’s a ton of information out there and it can be overwhelming to say the least. Much of it can be contradictory and it can be easy to get lost in the details or get confused and just give up. Having a coach to help you achieve your goals can be hugely beneficial. They can work closely with you to use proven methods and tailor a plan to fit your lifestyle. They also provide accountability to keep you on track! Having someone who takes the guesswork out of your new lifestyle changes will reduce your stress and allow you to invest more energy into developing new habits instead of trying to figure out what to do. It also gives you someone to celebrate the victories and to blame if things don’t work out! Many people rely on a coach to guide them with their training in the gym and helping them achieve their fitness goals, why should nutrition be any different?
10) Enjoy the journey!
Lastly, and most importantly, enjoy your journey. It won’t be perfect, and it might be challenging at times, but that’s life, right? Enjoy the process and use it as a time to learn more about yourself. Celebrate all the victories, and don’t dwell on the failures. Have fun with your cooking and get creative in the kitchen and take pride in the fact that you are bettering your life and growing personally.