February has just ended, daylight is gingerly extending: it is time to assess with some calm the New Year’s resolutions we heartily set a few weeks ago. Are we already backtracking? If so, let me share some thoughts about maintaining dietary promises:
Acknowledge your eating style: Whether we are at a restaurant scanning a menu or at our in-laws’ house dipping chips in salsa before the Super Bowl game, our choices are the results of habits established over many years. Consider objectively your style, value your strengths (“I eat at least three times per day” or “I like fruits”) and be vigilant of your weaknesses (“I have a sweet tooth” or “I eat more when I am with others”).
Surround yourself with healthy choices: Clients who come to the Duke Diet & Fitness Center often slash their daily calorie intake quite dramatically, but seldom report being hungry. This is likely because the food served is low in fat, sodium, and sugar, but rich in vegetables and fruit with adequate portions of protein and whole grains. When you eat healthy food, your appetite normally self-regulates itself. As food writer Michael Pollan states, “ When you eat real food, you don’t need rules.”
The trick for avoiding unhealthy foods is to make sure you always have access to healthy foods you like to eat.
Make knowledge your strong ally: A better understanding of your body’s need is crucial for long-term success. Everyone is different, but research shows that most people who lose weight and keep it off eat frequently, at least three times a day. Frequent meals regulate hunger and burn calories more efficiently. Having a hearty breakfast and sticking to a consistent meal plan are key factors to successful weight management. Why not try what current scientific evidence and common sense tells us is a good strategy?
Listen to your body: You might love a certain food, but if you feel lethargic and heavy after eating it, isn’t it better to choose something that leaves you with a feeling of well-being? Eating healthy food is a way to take good care of your body.
Choose smart goals: If at the beginning of the year we set a goal of, for example, losing two pounds per month, we might now feel frustrated if the scale hasn’t moved in the right direction. Well, we set a goal we don’t have complete control over. But if we choose sustainable goals we can commit to and we have control over, (for example: “I will fill half of my plate with vegetables at least four times per week,” or “I will have fruit for dessert every other day”) we have empowered ourselves to build healthier habits.
Be positive: There is increasing evidence that being positive has a desirable effect on our overall health. Studies show that people who are positive have increased lifespan and have better copying skills. And being positive beautifully wraps up everything we have been talking about: healthy eating is not hard when we know what healthy food we love and we avoid temptations!