Wondering how to stick to a healthy diet? The beginning of a new year often feels like the perfect time for a fresh start — an opportunity to change bad habits and establish new routines to keep yourself healthy, emotionally and physically.
Losing weight and eating better are at the top of many people’s lists of New Year’s resolutions. But sticking with those good intentions is not always easy.
Here’s How to Stick to a Healthy Diet
• Set Realistic Expectations
Registered dietitian Samantha Heller has some insights into how to stick to a healthy diet. She says the problem is that “most people have unrealistic expectations” when it comes to sticking to healthier eating habits.
“Some people like to go all out, full-tilt boogie, ‘I’m gonna do this 1000%. I’m gonna make a huge change.’ That doesn’t work for most people,” Heller told CBS News.
“We want to take it one step at a time by making small steps that are realistic, doable, attainable and sustainable. If you want to lose weight, don’t say, ‘I’m going to lose 30 pounds in a week,’ because that’s not going to happen.
What you could say is, ‘I want to lose some weight, how can I do that? And what’s my first step?'”
• Make a Concrete Plan
Heller says it is crucial to first understand what it means to eat healthy, and then put in place a concrete plan to stick with it.
“We all know fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are good for us. What you might want to do is ask yourself, Which ones do I like? Which ones haven’t I tried in a few years? Maybe I like them better than I used to.
How can I incorporate them into my diet? Maybe you’ll make a soup with some more vegetables for a few nights this week, or you’ll add more salad to your lunch. Maybe you’ll have a bigger portion of vegetables with your evening meal,” she suggested.
• Keep a Food Diary
Keeping a food record is a helpful way to examine your snacking habits and eating patterns in order to keep track of your progress. “This is where we pull in the mindfulness portion of behavior change,” Heller said.
“It’s really instructive because you can look at your food record over a week. You’ve written down everything you’ve been eating and drinking and say, ‘Wow, I had a great day on Monday. Tuesday was not such a good day. I kind of went off the rails.’
You can use that as a learning tool to ask yourself what happened, why did that happen? Maybe you waited too long to eat and you got over-hungry? Maybe you were stressed?
And then we want to think about how we manage stress in our lives. Maybe you were overtired or frustrated. Maybe you just haven’t had time to go to the store. So we may want to work on some time management techniques.”
• Make a Commitment
When deciding to make a change in your life, the most important question to ask yourself is whether you’re truly committed to it, Heller says.
“How motivated am I to make this change, on a scale of 1 to 10? If you’re not somewhere about an eight in that decision process, then maybe it’s not the best time for you to make that change. And that’s OK. But you need to ask yourself why:
Why don’t I want to stick to my healthy eating habits? What am I fearful of? This is where we want to do some internal thinking and really take a slightly deeper dive into what our motivations are. Maybe we’re afraid of deprivation. Maybe we don’t know even where to start. And this is where guidance from someone like registered dietitian can be very helpful.”
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