The holiday feasting is finally behind us. Since Thanksgiving seemed to roll right into Christmas this year, perhaps it was especially challenging for you to control your eating and manage your weight. If you consumed more calories than you expended, you may be starting the new year with a wider waistline and a guilty conscience. Well, don’t fret because here are 10 humane ways to get back on track.
1. DON’T beat yourself up for “being bad”. Avoid dwelling on having gone back for seconds (or thirds) and/or indulging in Aunt Clara’s irresistible tray of homemade cookies. Beating yourself up because you “went off your diet” will only bring on feelings of failure.
2. DON’T starve yourself or overly restrict your calories to “make up for being bad”.
3. DON’T vow to “go on a diet” and here’s why…
- Diets can make you fat. They can be counterproductive. Diets are associated with the Three D’s: Deprivation, Defeat and Depression. These emotions can trigger a cycle of compulsive overeating, obsessions, and emotional eating binges.
- Most diets focus on weight (that is, chasing that elusive number on the scale) and not on how you feel.
- Diets are things you’re driven to get on, but can’t wait to get off. Your eating plan needs to be something you can follow and enjoy for a lifetime.
- Routine dieters usually start diets on Mondays or at the beginning of a new year and consequently, eat uncontrolled portions of their favorite “fattening foods” until they finally begin their diet. This behavior often results in having even more fat to lose.
4. DON’T punish yourself with a workout. Workouts should reinforce positive feelings, i.e., increased energy and greater psychological well-being, not negative ones.
5. DON’T skip meals to compensate for the excesses. Limiting meals and snacks will set you up for overeating at the next opportunity and start the cycle of starving and binging all over again. Stop recollecting what you ate with regret and try to follow the 3-2-1 principle: 3 meals, 2 snacks and 1 round of exercise per day.
6. DO eat mindfully the next time you eat. Stay in the present. Eating mindfully means you will:
- Stop eating when distracted by the TV, computer, phone, etc.
- Chew more.
- Notice the different colors of food on your plate.
- Eat only when physically hungry.
- Eat with chopsticks or smaller utensils.
- Stop eating when full.
7. DO focus on fiber when you eat your next meal or snack. Strive for 40 grams of fiber from natural plant-based foods and not from something that comes with a wrapper (e.g., a fiber bar) or a lid (a powdered fiber laxative). The objective is to “eat real food” — the essence of today’s nutrition message. Nutrition has come full circle… from field to table, TV dinners, instant breakfasts, and now back to whole food that’s as close as possible to the way nature made it.
By eating real food that’s high in fiber, you’ll naturally eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and legumes (beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts) which are nutrient-dense and contribute to healthy weight loss and increased levels of energy.
8. DO drink more water. You use up to two pitchers of water everyday just to keep your body functioning. When you find yourself rummaging through the pantry or frig for something to eat, but can’t quite put your finger on what you want, your body may just need water. Thirst is often confused with hunger. So, relax with a soothing cup of hot tea or refreshing glass of water before taking your next bite.
9. DO differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger. Holiday time is an emotional time. While food fuels your muscles, it also feeds your feelings. When eating is triggered by an emotion rather than physiological hunger, it’s known as ‘emotional eating‘ and it comes at a cost to your health if you don’t control it.
The solution to emotional eating is to first recognize it as well as identify a pattern. The next time you have the urge to binge:
- Stop and ask yourself if you’re physically hungry. Then rate your level of hunger on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being ravenous and 1 being barely hungry).
- Next, rate your mood. Are you happy, sad, lonely, bored, stressed, etc.? Then note what food you’re craving. This exercise will help you identify whether your need to eat is emotional or physiological and which emotions are associated with particular foods. When you eat to satisfy an emotional need, you’re more likely to binge eat, that is, continue eating past the point of being full. Read more on How to Curb Emotional Eating.
10. DO move your body. Exercise and physical activity strengthen your muscles. A loss of muscle mass slows your metabolism and ultimately, the ability and rate at which you lose weight. The goal in losing weight is to lose fat not muscle. ♥ Remember, your heart needs strong muscles. Extreme caloric restriction and crash dieting can diminish heart function. Muscle is active tissue and burns more calories, even while you’re at rest. To maintain and build muscles, they have to be used and need proper nutrition especially when you pull back on calories.
Fit Tip: At the end of each day, ask yourself what you did to get you closer to your goal and acknowledge that achievement — no matter how small. These are the kinds of thoughts that will propel you forward and sustain your motivation.