I couldn’t begin to count how many people have said to me something to the effect of, “If I could just stop snacking I could lose the weight!”
You are not alone. If you’re at home with kids all day what do they constantly say? “I’m hungry, can I have a snack?”
The problem when we ultimately decide we are going to go on a diet, or make a lifestyle change, or start putting effort towards weight loss is how we go from our current set of patterns and habits to this new lifestyle we’re aiming to achieve.
I have given this advice to clients before, and I will continue to give it as I believe it is realistic, and more likely to set someone up for long term success, so pay attention:
❗️You will not go from a late night pantry snack grabbing person to an organic food prepping vegan just because you’ve decided to lose weight.
❗️Just as we take baby steps in everything else we learn in life – so will you too have to take baby steps when changing years of eating habits. A child learning to read does not instantly grab a novel in hopes of figuring it out. He/she must learn letters, then sounds, then sight words, then small books, and finally alas! Success. This too is how we should approach changing our dietary habits.
Here’s what I want you to do if you’re really ready to change your diet.
Step 1: Journal your food and beverage intake for 1 week. Just 7 days. No adjusting how you eat because you’re suddenly writing it down. This is just for your eyes only and if you feel you need to cheat the journal then that’s more evidence to yourself that dietary changes should be made. You don’t need to weigh everything, just write down what was included, if you had a second helping, sauces included, etc.
Step 2: Evaluate your journal. Does anything pop out to you as problem areas? For example — After a certain hour at night do you get hungry and grab a pantry snack and zone out not realizing how many handfuls of Cheezits you’ve had? Are you not eating enough breakfast that results in extra morning snacks? Are you drinking more sodas than you realized?
Step 3: What specifically in your food and beverage intake do you want to eliminate, or just decrease? Figure out those items and think about what they can be replaced with. If you have a major craving for something, like macaroni and cheese or bread, and you know realistically you’d never be able to go cold turkey eliminating it – then don’t! Look at how much you’ve had, then the next time you eat it, decrease the amount by 25-50%.
Step 4: After you’ve journaled your food and beverage intake, you’ve highlighted problem areas that pop out to you, and you’ve gone through to decide what items you want to decrease the amount you intake, and what items you want to eliminate altogether, now setup your Food Plan.
Your Food Plan is going to help you over the next 2-4 months. I’m not talking about writing up everything you’re going to eat. That is truly a pain in the rear and takes the fun out of meal time. Your Food Plan is a general, realistic diet guideline that will train your body to crave the “bad things” less without going completely cold turkey that could potentially end in you binge eating on the couch and getting totally ticked off with yourself.
Your Food Plan will include guidelines (these are unique to each individual, these are just examples) such as:
— I will decrease my bread intake from two meals a day to one.
— I will engage in Sober Sunday and not have excess alcohol calories on Sundays.
— I will buy precut veggies to have as healthy grab snacks when I’m feeling too tired to make food during times I’m prone to over snack on pantry items.
By decreasing the amount you eat of “problem items” by 25-50% (Ex: instead of a whole plate of pasta, you eat half a plate)and eating that way for 2-4 months it is training your body and your mind to 1) not crave the item as much and 2) still allow you the food you enjoy and not depraving yourself. If it is an item you feel you want to eliminate eating altogether, taking this step by step will help you get there.
Ask yourself this question, and answer honestly based on your past diet and lifestyle history:
Am I more likely to succeed at changing my dietary habits for the long haul if I do a complete revamp of my weekly meals and snacks, or if I allow myself to gradually decrease and change my patterns?
In order to succeed at changing our dietary habits we must be realistic, but also dedicated. We must forgive ourselves when we occasionally indulge, as we have one life to live and food should not be a major stressor, but also hold ourselves accountable to our goals.
Baby steps… As you eliminate or decrease items overtime you will see positive changes in your body, your attitude towards food, and it will be way less stressful than a complete instant diet overhaul you’re likely to give up on.
Good luck to each of you! May your food be delicious and nutritious!