It’s no secret that proper nutrition is a key to good health. But sustaining a proper diet can be tough. We can be constrained by time which makes the convenience of fast food very tempting and we are constantly inundated with fad diets promising immediate and outlandish results.
Here are 10 helpful tips to help you sustain a healthy diet. Follow these tips to keep yourself on track.
- Avoid fad diets! The commercials sure look cool and the claimed results are very motivating. However, every fad diet has a multitude of failures too…which they conveniently fail to mention. There are NO quick fixes. You must think about what’s sustainable.
- Control portions: As standard portion sizes have increased, so have our waistlines. Compare plate sizes from today and 20 years ago and you’ll see that they’ve gotten much bigger, going from 10″ to 12″ in the 1990’s. In the 1950’s McDonalds only offered one size of French fry which is now considered a small and is about 1/3 the size of the large (Young & Nestle, 2002). Also, I can’t think of too many people who enjoy counting calories. It can be very tedious and can drive you crazy. Portion control is a better solution and one that you can easily stick to.
- Be mindful: Erin Kuh, RD suggests to “eat when you’re truly hungry and stop before you are completely full”. Eating past the point of fullness will severely decrease your energy levels. Not only that, it can actually become an addictive habit. Obviously, this will detrimental to controlling your portion sizes.
- Check the scale: Be careful with this one and don’t become obsessed with it. Checking your weight just once a week can be helpful though. You can use the scale as a barometer of how you are doing with your nutrition and exercise. If it starts going up, you know you need to be a little more careful with your diet and exercise regimen.
- Eat breakfast: I have trained many clients that do not eat breakfast because they say they are too busy or they wake up not feeling hungry. However, eating breakfast is essential to your health. A recent study found that breakfast eaters actually weigh less and suffer from fewer chronic diseases (Timlin & Pereira, 2007).
- Keep a food log: This can be a very big and important eye opener for most people. It’s been my experience that people actually eat more than they think or eat more unhealthy foods than they are aware of. We often eat mindlessly and it doesn’t register that we are eating a lot of calorie dense foods such as chips. Even though this process can be tedious, it’s worth it. The good news is you don’t have to do this forever (unless you want to). Simply log 3-4 days and you should have enough information to determine what you need to change about your dietary habits.
- Limit TV watching: speaking of mindless eating, in front of the TV is where most of this happens. Snacking while watching TV is a habit and is much the same as smokers who feel the need to light up when they drive. The National Weight Control Registry, a database that tracks over 5,000 people who have lost at least 30 lbs and maintained that for a minimum of one year has found that those that have been successful at losing and maintaining their weight watch less than 10 hours a week.
- Start now: Avoid the “last chance” binge! Often people get inspired to make a positive change in their life by eating healthier and exercising in the middle of the week but feel like they need to wait until Monday to get started. While they wait, they over-indulge in the foods they plan to deprive themselves of in order to get it out of their system. This is very counterproductive as it actually increases our cravings for such things. Don’t wait for Monday! Get started while you are inspired and your motivation is at its peak.
- Be optimistic: Starting a new health and fitness regimen is tough and can sometimes start to weigh on you. It’s important to stay positive and optimistic for long term success. A study by Tinkler et al. (2007) found that folks who are optimistic are more successful at changing behaviors and losing weight.
- Be aware of enablers: A big part of being successful at maintaining a successful diet plan is staying away from folks who will sabotage your efforts. I call these enablers. I spoke with a lady recently that had lost 150 lbs and she told me she had to tell her friends and family to stop asking her to eat out and eating fattening food in front of her. Furthermore, she had to tell them to stop encouraging her to “not be obsessed and just try some of the food”. She likened it to taking a recovering alcoholic to a bar. Probably not a good idea. Even research backs this up. A high quality study of 12,000 people followed over 30 years found that obesity spreads through social ties (Christakis & Fowler, 2007). In an episode of A&E’s hit show called “Heavy” a young woman had to move out of her house and get a new job in order keep away from the temptations her family and job presented. Big surprise…it worked.
Follow these 10 tips to ensure you start right and sustain a healthy diet. It’s going to be hard work but anything worth doing is worth working for.
Christakis, N. A. & Fowler, J. H. (2007). The spread of obesity in a large social network over 32 years. New England Journal of Medicine, 357, 370-379.
Timlin, M. T. & Pereira, M. A. (2007). Breakfast frequency and quality in the etiology of adult obesity and chronic diseases. Nutrition Reviews, 65(6), 268-281.
Tinkler et al. (2007). Predicters of dietary change and maintenance in the women’s health initiative dietary modification trial. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 107, 1155-1165.
Young, L. R. & Nestle, M. (2002). The contribution of expanding portion sizes to the US obesity epidemic. American Journal of Public Health, 92(2), 246-249.