It’s a fresh start….it feels great….but I’m afraid I won’t keep it up…. I’ve heard these words, or something like them, a lot this week. So, I start this new year with thoughts on our resolutions to eat well, lose weight, or otherwise improve our diet habits.
New Year’s diet resolutions usually fizzle quickly. The goals we set may be too broad and sweeping, too out of touch with reality to last. They don’t factor in the inevitable complications and challenges. They don’t consider whether or not we’re really prepared or ready. Grand resolutions—say, to eat every day in a way that keeps weight down, for good, forever, period—require understanding and preparation. I’ll return to those in my next blog. Here, I offer some ideas for smaller resolutions.
Those who follow my blogs will know that I believe in the power of small changes (related blogs listed below). Changing one or two specific habits may or may not lead immediately to lost pounds. They open the door to other and bigger changes, though. And they usually have value in themselves, however they affect the scale in the short run. Perhaps most important now, they’re likely to stick. They’re less likely to fizzle out in two weeks. So they’ll leave you feeling confident about your ability to make future changes.
Previous blogs, like those listed here and others, offer plenty of ideas for small changes to integrate into your life right now. Here are ten additional ones, most gleaned from recent studies on weight management. The idea is to start doing this one thing. Assess how the change has worked after a week. If it’s working well enough, keep it up. If not, reassess whether or not this particular practice makes sense for you right now. If not, choose another. When the new behavior feels like it’s become habit, target another change to integrate into your routine. You’ll be surprised how good succeeding with such changes can feel. They do make a difference.
1. Eat with fewer distractions. Recent studies confirm what we’ve pretty much known all along—if you eat while on the computer or with the TV, you’re going to pay less attention to how much you eat. Further, you’re going to feel less full than if you had paid attention. Resolve to eat only when you can attend to eating–for example, sitting down at a table.
2. Take a walk when you have a craving. Here again, research confirms an old recommendation. Taking a brisk walk proves to reduce cravings—for junk food, chocolate, even cigarettes. Resolve to take ten minutes (or more if you like) outside or on a treadmill when cravings arise. Do this repeatedly, even if it works less than 100% of the time at first. The practice will grow ever more effective.
3. Tell someone what you’re aiming to change. New books focus on the power of making public, or stating your commitment to change. Developing new habits is not always easy, and temporary discomfort can sometimes break resolve. Knowing you’ll have to account for a lapse can help you hang in.
4. Drink two glasses of water before your meals. In a study of dieters aiming to reduce portion sizes, those who drank two glasses of water before their meals consistently lost more weight, and they kept it off more reliably. So building this habit into your regime is a relatively simple way to boost your chances of success.
5. Move more! Moving more—whether in formal exercise or simply in your daily routines—helps manage weight directly and indirectly. Identify one way to increase movement in your life that doesn’t necessarily require a challenging time and energy commitment. In the long run, this will matter.
6. Write down what you eat. Do this for a week or two, even, and you’ll surely get a better picture of what and where you need to target diet changes. Most of us eat more than we realize, and nearly everyone reports this activity as helpful in increasing awareness. Those who keep it up, in fact, are more likely to keep weight off over time.
7. Plan more of your meals. Thinking ahead about what you’ll eat can mean the difference between meeting weight goals and not. Resolve to take a quarter or half hour each week to think about what you’ll bring for lunches, have for dinners, etc.
8. Add more vegetables to your diet. Even if you changed nothing else, increasing your vegetable consumption would benefit your health and weight goals. Choose a realistic number of portions (one, two, six?) to add to your weekly diet. Even better, resolve to try a new type of vegetable each month if your repertoire is limited. Or aim to eat a vegetarian meal once a week if you don’t already.
9. Add protein to your snacks. If snacking gets you into trouble, resolve to have some protein each time you eat between meals. Planned snacks tend to reduce overall calorie consumption. And, including protein keeps you full longer, less likely to overeat at your next meal, and free from blood sugar spikes that worsen metabolism.
10. Eat on a schedule. Related to item 9.), grazing, or between-meal snacking accounts for much of the extra weight we struggle with. Resolve to eat at meals, or at planned snack times. This is another of those “even if you changed nothing else….” habits that can lead to an overall reduction in calorie intake.
Many previous eatsanely.com blogs have offered “one change” ideas or addressed similar issues. In particular, check out:
9/7/10 – Fall Changes
4/9/10 – The Weight Loss “Jump-Start”
3/5/10 – Change One Small Thing…and Lose Weight?
1/4/10 – One Small Thing This year, I’ll again be blogging alternatively at eatsanely.com and at “Thin From Within” at psychologytoday.com http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/thin-within