Top 10 Dieting Tips: A Coach’s Perspective
I want to lose weight but don’t know where to start.
I’ve tried it all before and don’t want to set myself up for failure again.
My friends/family aren’t supportive of me making changes, and it’s too difficult to lose weight by myself.
Do any of the above sound familiar to you? If so, then it’s time to shift your thinking. It should come to no surprise that the first and most important concept you need to understand is that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A QUICK FIX! If you are ready to accept this and willing to be open to thinking differently about your relationship with your weight, you are on the right track. After years in the fitness and wellness industry, I have seen it all. Some common themes emerge from people who are successful with maintaining a healthy weight.
1. Listen to yourself, really listen. When you do, you will most likely realize that it’s NOT about the weight. Sure, you may need to lose pounds and body fat for health reasons or to look better. But when you focus on the pounds, you set yourself up for failure and lose sight of why you want to lose weight. Here’s the golden question to ask yourself, “What does losing weight provide me?” Then really get clear about what that is for you. For example, if your answer is to feel better or have more energy, get more specific. What does feeling better or more energy look like for you? What qualities do they bring to your life? When you focus on what you’re really wanting as a result of the weight loss, you will have a stronger foundation for making healthier decisions because your choices are from what is most important to you rather than on achieving a meaningless number. Don’t skip this step, or you’ll be setting yourself up for failure!
2. Think like a healthy person. Making successful changes starts from shifting your thinking first; the behaviors will follow. So, how do healthy people think? They put themselves first and make time for their health – no excuses. For example, they might say to themselves, “no, I don’t really want that extra helping or treat” or “I can do some exercises while I watch TV.” Eventually, healthful choices will simply make more sense to you than your old ones.
3. Make exercise a part of your life. You need to move – period; end of story; no exceptions! However, moving doesn’t have to be a chore. Find activities you enjoy that let you move. Wear a pedometer and see how much extra you can move during your daily activities. Remember when you were a kid and play-time was fun? Ask yourself, “What do I enjoy doing that gives me energy?” and let that guide you.
4. Eat to live, don’t live to eat. How often do you rush through a meal or eat too much? When you slow down and stop eating when you’re satisfied as opposed to being full, you will more than likely eat portions that are more appropriate. When you get done eating, you should feel energized and ready to go, not sluggish and ready for a nap. If you’re anything but energized, you are likely not eating healthy foods or are eating too much.
5. Reverse your eating habits. Americans have been conditioned to eat large, sweet breakfasts and heavy, protein-filled dinners. This is backwards of how you should eat. You should aim for smaller, more frequent meals; try eating dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. In other words, have more lean protein for breakfast and lunch and a lighter dinner that’s mainly carbohydrates. This is referred to as rhythmic eating; those that eat this way report feeling less hungry and therefore eating less, thinking about food less, and having more energy throughout the day.
6. Redefine your social gatherings. Think about it, why is it that when we get together with friends or family, it’s always surrounding food? We meet for lunch, dinner, coffee, etc. Why is food the central focus of getting together? If your purpose for getting together is to spend quality time together, try doing something rather than eating something. If it must be over a meal, plan ahead by calling the restaurant and knowing ahead of time what you can order to still be healthy. If healthy food choices are not available, you don’t have to cancel your plans; simply stay focused on what value the social gathering brings to you. Then you won’t think twice about eating your own healthy meal beforehand and just going out for the company.
7. Keep a journal. Research shows that people who keep track of their diet and exercise are more consistent than those who don’t. When you see what you’re actually eating and how much (or how little) you’re really moving, you can no longer be in denial about your habits. But don’t just write down what you eat; record your mood, energy level, etc. You will most likely start to see a pattern between how you feel and what you eat or how much activity you get, helping you to make choices that are best for you. Pay attention to your thinking behind the choices you make and keep track of insights you have.
8. Thoroughly enjoy treats you really love . It’s not realistic to never indulge; however, you don’t want to indulge too often; save it for those food items you really love. When you do allow yourself to indulge, do you really savor each bite and enjoy it, or do you scarf it down quickly and grab for more? Make eating treats a rewarding experience. When you take the time to really enjoy each bite, you’re less likely to overindulge or beat yourself up afterwards and can treat eating this treat as a special event.
9. Determine your personal measures for success. Don’t rely only on the scale. When you start exercising, you will very likely build muscle, meaning your weight and measurements could increase. However, your body fat is likely decreasing. If you get stuck on a number as your measure, you will likely get frustrated and quit. Instead, think of ways you can measure your improvement. For example, are you exercising more or eating healthier than in the past? Change doesn’t happen over night, so you need to acknowledge even small successes along the way so you know you’re on the journey that’s best for you.
10. Give yourself a break. No one is perfect all of the time. You will have days or weeks where you are not as active or eat in a manner that is not beneficial for you. Don’t let this stop you and be an excuse to give up. Cut yourself some slack. A good rule to follow is the 80/20 rule – if you eat well 80 percent of the time, you have some room for flexibility the other 20 percent. If you give in more than 20 percent, acknowledge it; learn from it; and then re-focus on what you really want and what making healthy choices provides for you. The natural process of change is a dance - 3 steps forward, 2 steps back, etc. Realizing this can help you continue to move forward to what you want for yourself.
Author: Northwestern Health Sciences University
The information contained in this booklet is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Should you have any health care-related questions, please call or see your physician or other health care provider promptly. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. All the information provided in this booklet was retrieved from Northwestern Health Sciences University and must be used for informational and educational purposes only.