If you want to make manageable changes to your lifestyle and in particular your diet that will help you see steady results long term but you don’t know where to start then follow these 5 basic tips that will get you on your way.
1. Be Realistic
Speaking from experience a typical trend I see when people are deciding to make positive changes to their lifestyle is to go all out and perform a full 360 degree turn to what they’re currently doing…you haven’t trained in months but you want to hit the gym 5 times per week starting Monday! Your nutrition has been all over the place for years but you’ve decided to commit to do some radical low carb juice diet that you heard about on Facebook.
By Friday you’ve noticed that you’ve lost a ton of weight, (of course you have you’ve radically changed your lifestyle) however by the following Friday you’ve noticed you’ve only lost a little more weight and you feel pretty low in energy. The following week you’re down to 2 sessions per week as you’re feeling tired, sore and partly injured and you’ve noticed the weight loss has slowed right down. You’re now feeling despondent and so you’ve decided to only follow the extreme diet Monday to Thursday as lets face it you want to have your life back at the weekend. By the end of the month you find yourself sneaking back into your old eating habits through the week with less motivation to go and train. In other words your approach has failed and was not sustainable, and you’re more or less back to square one!
Sound familiar? To many of you it will. To some of you, elements of it will. What I am saying is if you take a short-term attitude you will get a short-term result. If you go from one extreme to the other the likelihood is you will struggle to sustain it. The best diet is the one that you can sustain long term. Rule 1 – Plan to make changes you can maintain.
2. Get Tracking
A good place to start would be to log an honest food and exercise diary for 7-10 days recording absolutely everything that you consume. Include quantities of even the little things such as the sugar in your tea.
Yes this takes a bit of time and effort to put together but if it will ultimately help you in the long term to make better choices then it will be worth the time spent on it. The diary will help you to get a good overall picture of your diet showing you positive aspects as well as the areas where key changes can be made and improved upon.
Even better would be to log all the info into a diet tracker such as My Fitness Pal where you will be able to see your exact calorie intake per day and for the week along with other things such as micro and macronutrient breakdown, fibre content and sugar and salt levels. It is common for people to think they consume less than what the actually do when trying to lose weight, tracking your intake will allow you to see exactly where you’re at.
As a PT who prepares nutritional plans for clients, a food diary is essential as it helps us decide where to set the daily calories and macronutrients plus it allows us to show clients where they can be making small improvements that will yield maximum results and highlight potential areas that they really need to improve on.
If you would like that little bit extra support from someone to help you with these calculations and analysis then feel free to get in touch. Rule 2 – Keep a Food Diary
3. Use Common Sense
After you have collected the info on your current diet, use the best diet strategy available to you – “Common Sense”. Start doing things you know you should be doing and do it consistently.
For example are you consuming daily portions of fruit and vegetables? If not perhaps making fruit a part of your breakfast or included in 1 or 2 snacks and including some vegetables in your lunch and or evening meals would be a common sense approach to getting these high fibre nutrient packed foods into your diet.
Are you wasting calories through fluids? i.e. are you consuming fizzy drinks and/or alcohol daily– could these be replaced by diet versions or even better, still or sparkling water and could the alcohol be reduced or limited? Consider taking less or no sugar in your tea/coffee or maybe you’ve noticed you cook a lot with oils perhaps you could be using healthier methods to cook your foods such as grilling or steaming. These are small changes that could potentially make a big impact on your overall calorie intake and subsequent health.
Maybe you’re not consuming enough protein, but you notice you’re snacking a lot on high carb/fat foods. Main meals are a convenient time to include proteins and will help you feel fuller for longer which might stop you wanting to snack so look to factor in foods such as eggs, chicken, fish, meats and whey into these meal times.
These are just some examples of changes you could be making, not everyone’s situation will be the same but if you notice some obvious issues then address these first. Rule 3 – Use the common sense approach
4. Be Prepared
This is where I see most failures occur. Planning and Preparation of meals. People expect it to be easy and almost done for them. I am afraid to say that it isn’t as easy as that. I want to make it as easy as I can for clients to make the transition from an unhealthy unproductive lifestyle to a healthy one but the truth is you do need to commit and put effort in. Here is a typical conversation I might have with a client…
Do you want to lose weight and be healthier? Yes. Would prepping your own food more often vs grabbing convenience food all the time help you to lose weight and be healthier? Most probably Yes. So why are you not prepping your food then? Cue excuses…..
I appreciate that we all have hectic lifestyles and that time is a premium and so picking up foods on the go or going for convenience options is seen as being easier than spending a bit of time at night cooking dinner and preparing your lunch for the following day.
Now I am not saying that you most definitely need to always be prepping food to lose weight, this is not the case particularly as there are plenty of well-balanced convenient options that you can purchase at the supermarkets these days, but long term I think it is an important strategy to have because it allows you to control the quantities, portions and flavours that you like.
This means you are ultimately in control of your calorie intake each day, you know exactly what goes into each meal and the quality and freshness of the ingredients are likely to be greater.
In addition, it is more economical to prepare your own meals. Typically healthier packaged options are sold at a premium and we all know that the temptation is there to buy extras when shopping for food! It should also allow you to prepare in bulk meaning you can potentially freeze some portions saving you money and time in the long run.
From personal experience I have learned that doing my own cooking has helped me understand more about food labels, the values of particular amounts making it easier to control quantities without always measuring and help keep me more organised and focused on my long-term goal. Rule 4 – Prep your own meals
5. Be Positive
Seeing results on the scales and/or in the mirror tends to bring about huge positivity among people, they feel great that the changes they have made are paying off but continual weight loss week to week is not always guaranteed.
Conversely, people can often develop unhealthy relationships with themselves and or food if they don’t see the results they hoped for. Try not to analyse your results solely on what the scales or the mirror says. Your results are also measured through how you feel both physically and mentally and how well you perform tasks/exercises.
How energetic do you feel? Is your health better? Do you now notice you can do things or cope with things better than before? Do you feel mentally more positive? Too often, people focus on the scales and the mirror as the sole measurement to success. I realise showcasing before and after pictures don’t always serve to assist this perception, as it doesn’t take account of all the other positive changes that have occurred.
What you should focus on is the whole package that has resulted from your changes. For example you might not have lost weight this week but your strength has improved. Or you have noticed for the first time that you have gone through a whole week without any joint/lower back pain. The scales don’t show that you’re sleeping is better and you can now climb the stairs at work without getting out of breath. Rule 5 – Focus on the positive.
To summarise, set yourself realistic targets; don’t set yourself up for failure. Remember the best diet is the one you can sustain. A food diary is a great place to start and will help you to use a common sense approach to making some sensible and sustainable changes that will hopefully last long term. Put in the effort, it isn’t going to be easy, be prepared to cook and prepare meals this is an essential habit to get into and finally stay positive and focus on the whole picture not just the scales.
All the best.