My elevated awareness about the American diet has helped me wage the battle of the bulge far more effectively than I have in the past. It has also enabled me to adopt more humane “self talk” when I think about my history of weight gain and loss.
Armed with expert advice, my last post focused on the top 10 strategies for a successful diet. They’re as relevant to weight management as they are to weight loss. But I’ve added a few more strategies to help the diet become a lifestyle.
ONE: Find a powerful incentive to sustain healthy habits once you’ve reached your goal weight. It’s really easy to backslide once you’ve crossed the finish line. Forbidden foods may feel like a just reward for weeks or months of sacrifice. It’s a slippery slope from “just this once” to the resurgence of the same old habits. My motivation came through reading books by fitness and nutrition experts and learning about the suffering, lifestyle impact, and expense of diet-induced disease. I made up my mind not to let poor food choices hinder all the enjoyment that I’d like to get out of life!
TWO: Get support on the home front. It’s much easier to stay on the straight and narrow when the entire household follows suit. I’m blessed with a husband who has willingly adopted new eating habits and graciously serves as my Sous Chef in the kitchen.
THREE: Learn to prepare healthy meals and snacks. We opted for a primarily whole food plant based diet nearly a year ago. I bought several cookbooks to help me learn a new style of cooking. We’ve enjoyed the bounty of delicious meals while improving our culinary skills. We’ve also engaged several friends in the adventure by inviting them to share in our little experiment. Good food and good friends create a winning recipe!
FOUR: Organize meal plans and food stocks for success. I usually plan the week’s meals on Friday to generate my shopping list for Saturday’s Farmers’ Market. I fill in the gaps with one or two trips to my favorite grocers. I economize on meal preparation by cooking in bulk and freezing meal-sized portions after a day or two of noshing on it. I also make sure to have healthy snacks at the ready when hunger strikes. I’ll fill up with fruit or veggies and homemade hummus to satisfy cravings and boost energy.
FIVE: Always eat a healthy breakfast. I’ll confess that I don’t like to eat breakfast and used to skip it frequently. That’s a bad idea given the fact that the body is low on energy reserves after a night’s sleep. So I typically eat a bowl of old fashioned oatmeal with cinnamon. It has been proven to produce less midmorning snacking than either quick cooked oats or bacon and eggs. I frequently add a vegan protein shake to the mix.
SIX: Eat foods that are naturally high in fiber. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains do the trick. Fiber helps hold blood sugar steady while creating the sensation of fullness. It does wonders for the digestive tract, too.
SEVEN: Minimize processed foods and read labels when using them. Time permitting, I make everything we eat from scratch. When I fall back on canned beans, tomatoes, or sauces, I read the labels and look for products that have the least amount of salt. (You’d be surprised by the amount of salt per serving in canned goods and sauces!)
EIGHT: Be sensitive to conditions that trigger food cravings and have strategies to deal with them. I’m prone to boredom during certain times of the day, so I make sure that I’m not sitting around watching TV in close proximity to the kitchen during those times. I also know to break the cravings cycle when they occur either by eating something healthy or distracting myself with exercise or an interesting book.
NINE: Join a fitness program for which you make reservations for workout sessions. If money is tight, a workout buddy can do the trick. It’s far more likely that you’ll prioritize exercise when you commit to a class for which there are cancellation fees, or commit to a friend who is counting on you. This strategy has made all the difference for me. It gets me going when I’d otherwise be tempted to put it off until tomorrow… and then the day after that.
TEN: Make lifestyle changes to encourage a consistently positive mood. It feels great while providing the staying power to maintain healthy habits. (Check out the brief article on positive psychology.)
Here’s to good health!