10 actionable steps to stick to a diet
Have you ever agreed to do something you had no idea how to do and then freaked out because you felt like you were in over your head?
Me too ;-)
I remember I was out to dinner one night with my hubs celebrating our anniversary when my phone rang. It was world-renowned Olympic trainer Charles Poliquin - a bawdy, pistol-whip smart, take-no-prisoners man who I'd known for years. He told me that he pitched me as the next nutritionist for the NY Jets. Even if I wanted to say no, I could never say no to Charles. So I said, "Sure, Charles, but you should know that I've never worked with football players before. How will I pull this off?"
He said, "Don't worry, Esther - most men are either hungry or randy so if he doesn't have a heart-on, feed him a sandwich!"
Duly noted. Although the manager hired someone from within instead of yours truly, it reinforced my habit of always saying yes to things first and then figuring them out later. I didn't know much about the specifics of a football player's nutritional needs, but I knew I'd be able to quickly figure it out.
You may not always have the resources, but as long as you're resourceful, you'll figure things out.
The same goes for weight loss. We start a diet because we think about the results we want, but them we freak out and all our insecurities start to rear their ugly, collective head. We think, "What if I fail? What if I fall off the wagon? Or what if I lose the weight and then gain it all back?" This is totally normal and a hold-out from our hunter-gatherer days when we were programmed to expect the worst because our survival depended on it.
But, our fear of failure has to be kept in check. And a great way to do this is by taking action and knowing that with structure and consistency, the pieces will fall into place.
10 Actionable Steps to Stick With a Diet (BONUS at the bottom!):
1. Start with the basics. Make a list of all the foods that you can eat and keep that list prominently displayed on your fridge - that will become your grocery list.
2. Give your pantry a makeover and clean out the riff-raff. If you're cleaning out gluten for example, eliminate the flour products, pasta, breads, crackers and cookies and look for cleaner versions instead. Toss out or donate foods with ingredients that just won't serve your body. Be ruthless but objective in the process. Go through your fridge and freezer with a discerning eye.
3. Head to your local Farmer's Market and health food store and restock your pantry and fridge with items you can have. When we cleared out gluten, I knew we'd still want pancakes on the weekend and baked goods as a treat. Eating and pleasure is a huge part of our family time spent together. So we purchased gluten and grain-free flours (almond, coconut, cassava) and keep them on hand at all times, along with lentil and mung bean pasta instead of wheat pasta. We ditched breakfast cereals for homemade granola instead. It didn't feel like a hardship to toss things out when we had perfectly good substitutes to have in their place.
4. Schedule your runs to the grocery store the same time every week so it becomes ingrained in your schedule. It's not terribly sexy, but Saturday mornings are my time to run errands and food shop. I treat myself to a kombucha along the way, catch up on my podcasts, and just get it done. It's a deliberate and intentional time each week to be productive and an effective use of my time.
5. Know that failure to plan = planning to fail. If you are flying by the seat of your pants without food in your fridge hoping that dinner will magically cook itself, you're probably been smoking some type of illicit drugs. It just ain't gonna happen, and if it does, you're probably falling back on some old tired habits like cereal and milk or whatever you can scrounge up in the freezer like a pint of ice cream with ice crystals on it. You owe it to yourself to plan out your meals for the week and have the foods on hand to set you up for success.
6. Have 3 meals in rotation that you've mastered and can make each week and then get creative with the leftovers so you'll be covered for 6 meals per week. One night per week, treat yo'self to a simple dinner out so you stay fresh. Each week I roast a chicken, grill fish or seafood, and make steak or meatballs. I also bake a pan of white potatoes and a pan of sweet potatoes to keep on hand. My veggie crisper is stocked and I keep bowls of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. Here's how the week often looks on paper:
Mon - roast chicken, white potatoes, green beans
Tues - shredded chicken tacos (we buy grain-free tortillas) stuffed with chicken and cabbage tossed with vinegar and dill
Weds - grilled steak with mashed sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts
Thurs - leftover steak over a salad with sweet potatoes
Friday - arctic char with avocado, grilled zucchini, and sushi rice
Saturday - head out for dinner
Sunday - grilled shrimp with avocado, coleslaw, and sushi rice
7. Mentally wrap your head around the fact that the changes you make are moving you towards your health goals. Instead of feeling victimized by your circumstances, you can feel empowered by them. Instead of saying "I can't eat that", you can powerfully choose to say "I don't eat that." Totally different vibe, right?
8. Give yourself time to mentally adjust to all the changes. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither were your eating habits. The brain has elasticity and can rewire thought patterns - just give it 30 days and you'll start to have a solid foundation with consistency and understanding your new normal.
9. Give your family time to accept your changes, too. This applies not only to your immediate family at home, but to your extended family when you go to visit. Everyone is busy and often overwhelmed - take the pressure off the food situation and offer to bring foods that work for you without making a big deal out of it. We show up to family occasions with desserts that are vegan, grain and dairy free and no one knows any differently. Keeping meals a drama-free zone ensures peace and humptiness for all.
10. Keep your meal ideas fresh so you don't get into a food rut. Even when food is delicious, it can feel a boring after awhile to have the same meal cycle. Head to your Farmer's Market to explore fresh, local produce. Flip through recipe books at the library (remember those?) and subscribe to one or two blogs or follow people on Instagram who post super pretty pictures and spark fresh ideas for you.
BONUS: there's one more *super* important piece of the getting-results-for-yourself puzzle that is an absolute if you truly want to succeed over the long-term--click HERE to learn more.