Try as many of these tips as you need to stay on track when dieting or forming new healthy habits.
Here are 20 of our clients' top tips to not relapse into old diet habits:
- Ask yourself why you want to lose weight
Getting married soon and want a smaller dress? Is Summer approaching and you want to feel confident on the beach? It’s worth taking some time here to think about why you want to make healthier choices and how you might feel. Visualise how you will look and how you will feel when you have succeeded; what choices would a slim/ healthy person make in any given situation? Put yourself in the shoes of the version of you that you want to be and start acting like that person even before you have become them.
- Plan, plan, plan
Failing to plan is planning to fail! This is so true in the world of dieting. Take 20 minutes with a pen and paper and make a rough plan for your meals for the week ahead (and make a shopping list at the same time). Really don’t have time to cook? Try using a meal prep and delivery service that does all the hard work for you.
- Always carry healthy snacks
If your meeting runs over and you don’t have time to eat your planned lunch, this is where convenience foods can derail diets, as it’s so easy to grab something on the go. But if you have an apple and some beef jerky in your bag, or a pack of protein powder in your desk drawer then you can nourish your body and stave of hunger until your next proper meal.
- Factor in important life events (not just Friday drinks with your mates)
If your plan is to start by losing some weight and then maintaining your new weight indefinitely, then you will need to come to terms with the fact that nobody else’s life will stop and wait for your diet to ‘end’. Weddings, birthdays, graduations… all life’s events will continue to take place around you so you need to have a plan in place. For all these things, you have a choice: you can simply enjoy the evening, accept that your scale weight will be higher the next morning and continue as normal with your high protein breakfast, or you can have a lighter breakfast and lunch the day of the event. The main point is that sometimes, the experience of being with family and friends for a celebration is just more important than weighing your piece of salmon or tofu, but don’t use these events as an excuse to eat everything you can see.
- Be realistic
If you have 20kg to lose then it isn’t going to miraculously disappear in 12 weeks. If you have 5kg to lose then you won’t lose it overnight. Thinking about what is realistic, accounting for the inevitable slip ups and being reasonable with yourself about what is achievable in any given time frame is vital to your success. Instagram transformation photos and influencers simply lying about their own results mean that most of us have no idea about what is possible. Why not talk to an ATP coach about your individual goals and they will be able to come up with a timeframe and a plan in which you can smash them!
- Have some diversion tactics
If you want to avoid eating cake, then don’t keep cake in the house. If you have a family that insists on chips and chocolate being readily available, then keep those things in a bag, inside a box in a cupboard out of sight. It might sound silly, but any extra time you can give yourself to talk yourself out of eating those things, or even have a rational discussion with yourself about whether you really want a bag of chips and how you will feel afterwards, will help! Out of sight, out of mind..
- Don’t wait to feel motivated
Don’t ‘start on Monday’. Start now. There will always be a hundred reasons why you shouldn’t start living healthily today but since we know what really makes people successful are the small incremental changes, we think the best thing to do is to start making changes at your next meal. Even though people wait to feel motivated it is actually action that creates the motivation – lose a kilo or two and you will be amazed at how motivated you suddenly feel to do whatever it takes to lose more!
- Accept that it will take time
Any habits take time to form and new skills take time to learn. You would not expect to be able to learn how to play the piano in 2 months yet we seem to expect we can lose weight and get in shape in just a few weeks. Creating healthy habits is so much more than just eating less and moving more; in most cases we are trying to replace unhealthy habits built up over many years or even a lifetime with new ones, most of which do not have the same instant gratification of a chocolate bar or glass of wine!
- Understand that there will be times you will fail (and that’s ok!)
Rest assured that even fitness models whose careers depend on maintaining superhuman physiques stray from their strict diets sometimes. But when they do, they get straight back to their usual healthy way of eating at the very next meal. The key to successful, sustainable weight loss is not, as many people think, restriction at all times. It is being able to put your slip up behind you and carry on without guilt and without thinking “well I’ve ruined everything now, I may as well have a huge binge and start again next week”.
- Start exercising
A healthy diet and exercise go hand in hand. When you make positive dietary changes at the same time as starting to exercise the results are even more impressive. Eating well makes you feel better about moving more, and when you have exercised you feel more motivated to eat good nourishing food. You don’t have to go from nothing to 7 days at the gym each week, but try daily walks and try to incorporate some form of resistance training into your life.
- Recognise your own excuses
Something that almost all our successful clients have in common is that they all agree they used to be full of excuses. Too much work, demanding family, lots of social engagements… all our success stories have all of these in their busy lives and yet they have all made the time to make the changes they needed in order to change their lives for the better. It isn’t about finding more time, it’s about prioritising the things in your life and perhaps swapping half an hour of Facebook for a brisk walk.
- No distractions while eating
Mindful eating (eating with no distractions like the TV in the background) can significantly improve your relationship with food. Focus on the food itself and how it can nourish your body, and try a trip to the cinema without a box of popcorn (that most of us eat without even realising). If you’re eating with friends or at home, put your phone away, and talk instead about the food itself,
- Make a budget (keep a food diary)
We are used to making a budget for our money and most of us know what we can and can’t afford. But we don’t usually think of our daily calories in the same way. With calories, there is no such thing as a credit card, so we must learn to live within our calorie means, budgeting as necessary. The easiest way to do this is to keep a food diary and track our food and drinks, so we know how many calories we are eating. We can also keep track of how much protein, carbohydrate and fat we consume, and adjust those levels as needed inorder to achieve the levels we want. When you have reached a body composition you are happy with, you get a slightly larger calorie budget in order to maintain your new weight, and the more muscle mass you have the bigger this is (another reason to resistance train!)
- Take photos and measurements
It can sometimes be really hard to see how far we’ve come. Think of weight loss like sheets on a toilet roll. Each day, a few sheets will be used and the roll looks no different. But for someone who has been away for a few days, they will see the roll as suddenly much smaller than they remember! It’s the same with fat loss, even though it is hard for us to see our own progress on a daily basis, the people who see us less often will notice because, whether we see it or not, the progress is there. This is why it’s a good idea to record our progress. Weigh daily*, measure weekly, photograph every 2 weeks!
*We recommend weighing daily in order to be able to calculate a weekly average weight. Everyone’s weight fluctuates on a daily basis as well as being affected by other factors such as the female menstrual cycle, stress, sodium, water etc. Weighing daily simply gives us more data, meaning that we can get a much more accurate idea of what’s happening.
- Sign up an accountability buddy
If you live with someone, it can be difficult to get up and exercise, make yourself a healthy snack and limit your alcohol intake if they are living a completely different kind of lifestyle. If your flatmate or significant other is on board with getting and staying healthy, then it makes things much easier and more fun!
- Figure out the best approach for you
What worked for your colleague/ best friend/ partner might not work for you. We all require a different number of calories each day just as we all enjoy different ways of getting fitter. It might take you some time to figure out what is the best and most sustainable approach for you, but this isn’t a race so give each approach plenty of time to see which one is the best fit.
- Eat breakfast
Eating a high protein breakfast is one of the best things you can do every morning – it will help to maintain good blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of overeating for the rest of the day. If you can eat at home then consider eggs, meat, nuts, yoghurt etc – if you’re on the go you can prepare mini frittatas or if you forget completely then make a protein shake at work (keep a pack of protein powder in your desk drawer or individual sachets in your bag)
- Learn to cook
The only way you can really know what is in your food is to prepare it yourself. Getting involved with creating your own food also means that you are taking responsibility for your diet, and you can experiment with using different ingredients you may not have tried before. If you already love to cook then take up the challenge of cooking for friends – you can prepare a healthy meal that ticks all your personal boxes without them even realising that you’re sticking to your diet! In many cases, people think that dieting means salad 3 times a day. You can learn (and show others) that, in fact, that is not the case at all!
- Accept that you might feel peckish at times
In order to lose fat, then your body must be in a calorie deficit. This means that you burn more calories than you take in. You can eat more protein and more fibre and drink more water in order to feel full but, especially if you have been dieting for a long time, you are likely to feel hungry sometimes. Recognising that it is simply part of the process can help, and you can always make tweaks to your diet to ensure you are getting the most nutrition and volume for your calories as you can.
- Remember, you chose to do this!
Probably the most important thing of all to remember is that nobody is making you diet. You chose to do it for reasons that are important to you, and of course you can choose to stop dieting at any time if you want to. Realising and remembering that you are in complete and total control over your food choices can make a huge difference in your mindset, and can also make us think twice before complaining about how hungry we think we are!
You don’t have to follow all 20 of these tips to get in amazing shape and upgrade your health for the long-term. ATP Personal Training uses a step-by-step process working with you to find out what works best for your unique circumstances to create new healthy habits that keep you sustainably healthy and in-shape.
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