Have you ever embarked on a 30 day or 12-week challenge, only to find that a few months after it’s finished you’re back to eating poorly, not exercising and the weight you fought so hard to lose is now creeping back on?
It’s devastating, isn’t it? And frustrating. Those old habits die hard!
But you know what? It is possible to create permanent change in your world if you’re willing to commit to the process. True and permanent change is actually a really complex psychological phenomenon. We change for so many reasons, and once you can harness the power of change, you too can be well on your way to becoming a healthy eater and regular exerciser for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!
Let me be honest with you. Healthy food can only nourish your body if you eat it everyday! There’s no point changing your eating habits drastically, if you can’t sustain them and then find yourself doing the opposite extreme of overeating and making poor food choices. You may have nourished your body for the duration of the ‘diet’ but in the weeks and months after you’ve finished your eating patterns become inadequate and not great.
My ultimate passion, when I help people with their nutrition, is to get them started with a long term perspective in mind. When they finish working with me, I want them to still be eating well and feeling in control of their eating habits 10, 20, 30 years from now and I know that’s exactly the way Kim feels as well.
Here are my tips for turning an 8-week program into something that changes your life:
Set long term goals
Kim encourages you to set goals and I love that about her. I’d also encourage you to think beyond the ‘5-year plan’ and see yourself in 10 or 20 years from now. What do you want that person to be like? Fit, healthy and loving life? Or still stuck in the ‘diet/binge’ cycle, stressing about food and feeling disappointed and frustrated with yourself? I know what I’d rather.
Set goals for the ‘future you’ like:
- Be strong and active in my 60s and 70s – I know that’s ages away for some of you but when you’re that age you will wish that you’d have made a goal like this!
- Take my kids (when they’re older) on adventures like climbing mountains, kayaking up rivers, cycling along the coast…! The skies the limit!
- Have a great relationship with food – commit to yourself that you wont swing between the extremes of restriction and over-eating. Find the balance that’s right for you.
Be realistic in your expectations
Some people can exercise hard everyday for an hour or more no problem, for other people this is a huge ask, especially if they haven’t been exercising regularly for some time. Some people can eat vegetables at every single meal, for others, who’ve spent the last 20 years or so with poor food habits, they will find this a challenge.
The thing is, you don’t need to flog yourself in the gym every single day or eat vegetables at every single meal. As great as these things are, if you can do them, they’re not necessary. Please set yourself realistic expectations and then slowly build on them. Remember this:
- One exercise session per week is better than none.
- An extra 1 serve of vegetables per day decreases your risk of heart disease or cancer by 5% and increases your nutrient consumption (vitamins, minerals & fibre).
- Every time you take the stairs, rather than the elevator, you’re moving your body more.
- Every processed food you swap over to a whole food, the better the overall quality of your diet.
Every little change counts. Every little step counts. One day you may be exercising daily and smashing those green vegetables, but for now, just do what you can do.
Learn to listen to your body
As you embark on a program to lose weight and improve your health and fitness, use it as an opportunity to learn to listen to your body and practice giving it what it needs. I like to call this intuitive eating. Research shows that individuals who learn to eat in this way maintain a healthy weight longer than those who don’t.
It’s normal for some days to feel hungrier than others. It’s also normal for you to feel energetic one day and tired the next. Listen to you body, what’s it telling you? 9 times out of 10 you may need to do one or more of the following to look after yourself appropriately:
- Eat bigger portions of whole foods. Better that you fill up on good quality whole foods and feel satisfied, than skimp on the whole foods only to binge or overeat poor foods (sugar, etc) later on.
- Get more rest. Take a nap or go to bed earlier. Ensure your body is recovering well, especially if you’re training hard.
- Drink more water. You may feel hungry or tired because you’re dehydrated.
- Take a walk. You may not have the energy or time to do a big gym session but getting outside into the fresh air is still moving your body and is good for your soul.
My final advice
If you’re looking for a program to help you eat better, choose whole foods, exercise regularly and help you lose weight, you need to look for a program with the follow factors:
- Meal and snack ideas made from whole foods – to inspire you to try new things and realise how easy and delicious healthy food really is.
- Easy, quick and simple exercise programs that you can do at the gym or at home – we are so busy these days and need to know that our exercise routine can be flexible and fit around our life.
- Support – don’t buy a program that then leaves you alone in the dark. Research shows that when we’re surrounded by a healthy community we’re more likely to make healthier choices each day.
- Maintenance program – Once you’ve finished the program, then what? You need something to teach you how to transition into a long term healthy eating pattern that’s flexible, includes the foods you love and helps you maintain your weight loss long term.