Are your dieting tactics actually working against you?
It’s a very popular time of year to be inspired to start a new diet and try something different. However, it’s easy to get frustrated when you don’t see results immediately and give up. As a licensed clinical social worker at Advocate Weight Management, some strategies I’ve found that don’t work well are:
- Having goals and expectations that are too big. It’s easy to get caught up in New Year’s resolutions and have a big goal of losing a large amount of weight or going to the gym daily. Instead, start out with smaller goals, such as losing 10 pounds over two or three months and keeping it off, or starting to go to a gym twice a week and working up to every day. You can have smaller goals within these goals also, such as after losing five pounds or going to the gym once a week for a month, treat yourself to a non-food reward if you meet them.
- Being too restrictive on calories. There’s healthy and unhealthy ways to cut down on calories. Cutting too much can actually backfire by putting your body in starvation mode. When this happens, your body holds onto food and liquids because it doesn’t think it’s going to get anymore. This can also lead to a lack of basic nutrients that your body needs to function properly. Instead, work to cut down on calories through having smaller portion sizes and healthier foods, such as focusing on lean protein and produce.
Here are some behavioral strategies I recommend to stick with your new eating plan and be successful:
- Watching portion sizes. As we eat bigger portions, our stomachs get bigger and bigger, causing us to need bigger portions to feel satisfied and not hungry. Being mindful of portion sizes is a great way to start the journey of weight loss. At a restaurant, you can practice this by asking for half of your meal now and half of it in a to-go box. This way, once you have had a healthy portion of your meal, the rest of the food isn’t still in front of you, so it is less tempting to keep eating. When you are cooking at home, it is useful to have a food scale so you can measure portions. Remember–it’s easy to overeat when you’re hungry.
- Drinking water. A lot of people don’t drink enough water every day. Often, when we feel hungry, we are actually thirsty, but instead of drinking water, we eat more food. Then we are dehydrated, so our bodies retain water instead of letting it go. Water also helps to fill up our stomachs, so we don’t feel as hungry throughout the day.
- Having accountability. It’s very hard for all of us to be accountable to ourselves. If you have no one to be accountable to, it’s easy to justify eating those cookies, chips, etc. However, having a spouse, family member or friend to touch base with on a weekly or bi-monthly basis about your weight loss journey helps to keep you on track. Working with each other to both give and receive constructive criticism helps, too. If you don’t have someone to hold you accountable, keeping food records is a great way to stay accountable to yourself. But actually write down everything you eat; it only works if you’re honest with yourself. Food records also can be enlightening and can help you realize how much or what foods you’re eating so you can make necessary changes.
- Eating enough healthy food throughout the day. A lot of people get busy with work/life and end up eating only one or two meals a day. Why is this a problem, you ask? While it may seem counter-intuitive because you aren’t eating regularly, this often makes people even hungrier, and they end up overeating. Instead of one or two meals, try eating every 2-4 hours to help your metabolism stay level throughout the day so you don’t get that starving feeling and want to eat everything in sight. This also helps with that dangerous time of day for a lot of people – the after-work to bedtime hours. If you haven’t had enough food throughout the day, it’s easy to come home from work, eat some snacks, then eat more when making dinner, then have dinner, then eat more evening snacks.
About the Author
Rebecca Lepoff is a licensed clinical social worker with 15 years of experience working with people with mental health, addiction and weight management issues. She has been working with Advocate Medical Group – Advocate Weight Management since 2012.