We’ve spent the Christmas season in the company of our loved ones and some of our most-loved foods and it’s probably safe to say that many of us have over-indulged. As a new year begins and our resolutions loom large, it can be a harsh wake-up call to step back onto the scales and see just how much we managed to shovel away. With so many people starting out with great intentions to get fit and shed those extra kilos, why do so many of us fail?
The most common reason is that our goals around health and weight-loss are unrealistic or difficult to maintain. Imagine you’re trying to grab something on a shelf high above you. No matter what you stand on, no matter how you stretch, you just can’t reach it. Eventually, you would probably just give it up as being too hard.
Diet and exercise can often feel like this. So instead of aiming for the same unattainable goal, move the goal posts closer. If you haven’t been exercising at all, it’s impractical to launch yourself into an intensive one-hour exercise session five times a week. Instead, aim for a mild to moderate exercise session once or twice a week. Once you know you can maintain this, you can begin to increase the intensity, duration and/or frequency. Try setting your exercise sessions for the same time each day; we’re creatures of habit!
Now, how do you handle your eating habits? While it’s tempting to go on a popular diet, it’s not always practical and it often doesn’t teach us what we need to eat to maintain our goal weight. Start controlling your diet and reducing your energy intake by being mindful of what you are eating, as well as when, how, how much and how often you eat.
These tips on mindful eating habits may just help you on your journey to weight-loss and maintenance:
- Take notice of what food you’re eating. Observe the textures, taste, smell and even sound. The more you observe, often the more satisfied you feel.
- Ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” Often we eat out of habit rather than need.
- Make eating a purposeful activity. Attempt to avoid eating food on the run or while doing other activities. Multitasking while eating can often discount the experience of ingesting and enjoying food.
- Be mindful of the energy content of food and drinks. If unsure, look it up. This information can often be quite enlightening and may clarify a source of previously discounted kilojoules. Don’t mistake fat-free or gluten-free for being kilojoule-free!
- Monitor your weight weekly. Your weight can fluctuate throughout the week, but it’s nice to have a weekly weigh-in to see if you’re on the right track.
- Observe your inner experience. Research indicates that it takes, on average, 15 to 20 minutes for the stretch receptors in our stomach to tell our brain that we’re full. Before you rush off for a second helping, wait and see if you’re really still hungry.
- Be mindful of your self-talk. Be compassionate towards yourself. If you make poor choices or don’t achieve your goals according to plan, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, gently encourage yourself as you would a friend. Avoid the “all or nothing” approach; many people will give up their new regime as soon as they miss one checkpoint.
Each day is a new experiences and presents a new opportunity, so be kind and nurture yourself if you feel like you’ve failed. Remember: you may lose a few battles before you win the war.
Kathryn is a clinical psychologist at Psychology Consultants. For more information on Kathryn and the team, see www.psychologyconsultants.com.au