Are you ready to lose weight and keep it off? I'm going to tell you why cutting out food groups, swearing off fun foods and the latest trendy diet is NOT the answer.
The truth is most of us start off with good intentions. This is the week you're going to swear off sugar, choke down salads, crush your workouts, and finally make real progress in your healthy habits. But by Friday, your willpower has wavered, your cravings are through the roof and your energy is in the tank. Needing relief from your diet, you go all in, eating all the foods you just worked so hard to avoid. Frustrated and discouraged you wonder why weight loss has to feel so darn hard.
It's not a lack of motivation, desire or even willpower that's the problem: it's the DIET.
As a nutritionist, I often see the results of ‘crash diets.' And while you may feel amazing and confident in your body with a glimmer of hope that you're finally going to lose the weight for good, success doesn't last. Why?
Because the path you took to get there was never intended to be a lifelong one. The truth is, whatever path you take to lose the weight, you must be willing to keep walking in order to keep it off.
What if I told you in order to achieve your goals you'd have to give up all your favorite foods, starting today, for life. Would you be excited about doing it? What if I gave you a list of all the foods you can eat, but that's all you can eat, from now until forever. Are you in? And what if I told you for the rest of your life you'll need to commit to exercise you dread. Sound good?
Probably not. I know I couldn't. In fact, it was that super strict All or Nothing mindset that often tanked my healthy living goals. And it's why I'm a firm believer in balanced living.
Why most diets fail.
When you stop trusting your body’s hunger cues and rely on someone else’s one-size-fits-all guidelines for how you should eat, what you should eat, and when you should eat it, a strange thing begins to happen. You start to think about food 24/7. You worry about what you should (and shouldn't) eat, hoping you're getting it "right". You fixate on calories, carbs, sugar and how to avoid your favorite fun foods. Basically eating better for weight loss starts to feel like a full time job.
And it leads to an unhealthy relationship with food. This type of "eating" comes from a place of fear that is based on deprivation and restriction, not nourishment and understanding. It often encompasses a strict set of food rules that leave you either feeling good or bad about your choices and as a result yourself. And it creates a power struggle with food and your body, doing a number on your mental and physical health.
Here's the problem.
That All or Nothing type of approach, where you're either winning or losing isn't realistic. The reality no one can do all-the-things, all well, and all the time. Which means eventually you're going to fall short somewhere leading you to throw your hands up and walk over to Nothing camp. Because no one can conform to bat crazy and restrictive food rules forever.
And maybe you're thinking, "Oh but it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change," here's the truth, if you're diet is asking you to:
Cut out carbs (or other food groups)
Label some foods as "good" and others as "bad"
Ignore your hunger
Swear off fun foods
Avoid certain fruits and vegetables
Eat by the clock
I have bad news: you're on a diet. And that's all good and fine if those rules and restrictions are something you want to practice and can easily and realistically keep doing for the long-term. But the reality is, most of the women I coach do not.
The good news? You don't have to.
Here's the solution.
Balance. You need to embrace it in your food and fitness habits for long-term success. And personally, for me this all started with planning. Planning my food and fitness enabled me to act with intention, enjoy food again, and eat with purpose. It helped me learn how to listen to and honor my hunger. It taught me how to eat when I was hungry, not just because it was there, I had a bad day or I needed relief from my restrictive diet. And it made me grateful for all my body was capable of, rather than resent it.
The simple act of planning made me feel in control. I planned for the nachos, chocolate, and wine, and I planned for my green smoothies, salads, and salmon filets. I realized through the simple act of planning, I didn't have to wonder when I'd "get to" have my favorite foods again. I knew because I'd planned for them. I also discovered I could enjoy both fun foods and nutrient dense ones... ditching the All or Nothing approach. I loved how planning made it possible to score small, simple, and doable wins each day.
Rather than focusing on what I was trying to avoid, I turned my focus toward what I was gaining. I began to lean toward food and fitness habits that made me feel good -- body and mind. I noticed how different foods and fitness activities made me feel. And as I got curious and learned more, I noticed how my thoughts changed about myself, my body and my abilities.
Embracing balance was the first step in improving my relationship with food, helping me break free of the yo-yo diet cycle and the perfection that had held me hostage for a decade. Ironically I discovered it was actually easier to create habits I could stick to, support my goals and sustain real progress by creating a plan that emphasized balance.
Ultimately it was this awareness that inspired me to study nutrition and exercise and become the nutritionist and weight loss coach I am today.
How it works.
Instead of relying on "good" and "bad" food lists, calorie counting apps and cookie cutter diet plans that tell you what, when and how to eat, you tune into your physical hunger. Diet culture doesn't tell you that hunger is normal, food cravings are normal, and enjoying food is normal.
Physical hunger is influenced by many things, such as activity level, hormones and illness, just to name a few. And when you get good at tuning into your body's hunger cues, you'll begin to notice patterns. Like how your body feels before, during, and after exercise. When you experience brain fog, lulls in energy or headaches. Or how certain foods and fitness habits leave you feeling energized, satisfied and satiated.
Personally I know when I prioritize nutrient dense foods I feel and function my best, from better sleep, increased energy and reduced food cravings, to better quality workouts and a happy gut. So I prioritize having a lean protein, complex carb and lots of fruits and vegetables on my plate. And I always choose foods I LIKE. There are plenty of nutrient dense foods out there to choose from, so you don't need to punish yourself by eating foods you don't like.
The best part? You get to plan for FUN! Date nights, outings with friends, neighborhood BBQ's, vacations and more. Life is filled with fun moments. Instead of trying to avoid your favorite fun foods, or worse, worry about them, simply plan for them. You're not only far less likely to experience overeating when you do, but also walk away feeling more confident and satisfied. Because the truth is yes food is nourishment, and it can also be fun too.
Why it works.
Sooner or later that chocolate, ice cream, or pizza you've been trying to avoid is going to find its way into your mouth. So why not plan for it? It's a whole heck of a lot easier to act in control when you plan because instead of worrying about how long you can hunker down on willpower and force yourself to go without it, you'll actually plan to enjoy it. Which means you're far less likely to fall prey to what I like to call "screw it" eating. And let's face it, "screw it" eating doesn't often just last for one meal or a day. It typically brings along its friends, guilt and shame, which often leads to throwing up your hands and ditching your eat better goals all together until you decide to hop back on the diet roller coaster again.
When you embrace a healthier food balance, it really takes the pressure off. You suddenly learn how to recognize your body's hunger and fullness cues, understand cravings and what your body needs most in that moment. And that is the foundation healthy food habits are built on.
Here are my 3 biggest tips to help you begin to promote a healthier food balance:
Rather than focusing on what you don't want, start focusing on what you do.
Look where you can add, whether it's a vegetable on your plate or some steps to your day.
Identify the rigid diet rules that are no longer serving you, and let them go.
Are you ready to learn the small and simple steps that will help you eat better, think better and feel your best. Click the image below and download my FREE 4 Ways To Eat Better Guide where I'll show you how!