Ask Dr. Julie

Stay On Track with Diet Goals…You Can Do It!

When weight loss is your goal, sometimes it feels daunting and hard to stay on track…but it doesn’t have to be. There are several tips I give to my patients on how to stay on track with achieving a healthier lifestyle and weight.

This month, I want to focus on some ideas on how to stay on track with healthy lifestyle changes.

  1. Reject the traditional “Diet” mentality:

I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of people automatically have a negative reaction to the idea of “diet.” The connotation is automatically negative. What’s interesting about that is that diet just means what we eat. However, for many, the idea of diet equals restriction…and it doesn’t have to be that way. My usual recommendation is to focus on what you can eat instead of what you can’t eat. Then take what you can eat and get creative with it. Nowadays with the internet there are all kinds of recipes just a website or blog away. The best way to look at it is that you’re tweaking your diet and getting healthier foods in. Try to aim for whole food groups and food types and eat a wide variety of various foods in different groups. Try perusing your outer sections of your supermarket, they usually keep the healthier foods there. Relearn your taste buds and reset your mentality for growth and flexibility. We do that all the time for work and our social life, lessen the stress by looking at your diet as a growing experience as well.

  1. Mindful eating:

When we are busy with our hectic life, it’s sometimes just second nature to just grab food and eat and not even remember what we ate and how much because we are mindlessly eating. I am guilty of that sometimes when I’m stressed and working. So, how do we keep that from happening? I am a firm believer that we should only keep the foods we know we should be eating in our environment. If in your steadfast moments, you know a certain snack isn’t good for you, why keep it around your house so that when you are feeling tired and stressed, it’s there for you to eat and then feel sick on? Try to only eat when you can focus on eating. Make it a rule that you won’t do anything else while you are eating. That way, you can pay attention to what you are eating and how much…and if you only have healthy food in the house, you are naturally creating a barrier against unhealthy foods. This way, you are always one step up against your cravings.

  1. Keep food and exercise journal:

Keep a log for your diet and exercise initially so that you can monitor your patterns for food and activity level. Once you’ve seen what you need to adjust and have seen that your new healthy patterns have been implemented and you’re now doing it habitually, then you can take a break from journaling. I find that logging your diet and then reviewing your log to highlight the areas where you need improvement are very helpful in weight loss goals and creating healthier new lifestyle patterns.

  1. Peer support:

One of the main factors that my patients say really matters in helping them stay on track is whether they have family and friend support. If your friends and family are already supportive, then that’s great because that’s a major factor in lifestyle change success. If you need to bring more people into your support group, try having the naysayers hang out with your supporters, that will be a more effective way in helping them understand why you’re making your healthy lifestyle change. If you already have lab tests or objective data that shows what you are doing is helping you in your health and mood, then also talk to them about that because they are in your life because they care about you so if you’re objectively doing better, that should be a good way for them to see that these changes are truly important for you.

  1. Limit alcohol:

Alcohol itself has calories but above and beyond that, alcohol lowers your inhibitions so you might consume more and eat the foods that aren’t good for you. Try to limit alcohol to special occasions and limit to the amount where it won’t alter your judgement. This might be very important in your early months of a healthy lifestyle change to stay on track.

  1. Pre-plan meals and budget:

If you have a lot of work meetings or trips, look at menus ahead of time at the restaurants you’ll be going to so you can pick the healthier choices. If you are at home but have long work days, try to pre-prep meals on weekends and freeze some so that you always have healthy food options even on busy nights and days. Planning ahead is so important because life happens and it’s sometimes unexpected but if you plan for the unexpected, even when it happens, you have a plan.

  1. Keep realistic goals:

All too often, I see my patients aiming for unrealistic goals and then when they inevitably fail at achieving all of it, they neglect to celebrate the weight they did successfully lose. I generally recommend my patients to lose weight in incremental goals. If you know you need to lose 60 lbs, aim for 10 lbs at a time, because every step towards your healthy weight needs to be celebreated. In each celebration, you will gain confidence to move closer to your ultimate goal.

  1. Sleep:

Sleep is the time when your body heals and regenerates. You must sleep in order for your body to recover for all it has to endure during the day. If you are lacking in sleep, not only is your metabolism not optimized, but your hormone levels that regulate appetite isn’t ideal, so you end up craving foods you shouldn’t be eating. If you are getting enough sleep, you will be better able to regulate cravings and appetite and your body will be better able to metabolize optimally the foods you do end up eating.

  1. Chase joy:

As we get older, and become busier, we frequently are so caught up in our work life and family/social obligations that we forget to just have fun…for ourselves. The reason why this is important in your journey towards a healthier you is because if you are emotionally and spiritually more fulfilled, you feel more satisfied and whole; which then means that you are less likely to try to use food to fill the empty gaps of what you would prefer to chase for joy. Just remember you are worth the time, so even if you’re busy, work it out with the people who care about you and try to find time daily to fulfill your inner emotional and spiritual needs. Whether it’s 30 minutes or 15 minutes or 2 hours, it’s just important that you remember to make time to chase your own happiness.

  1. Eat more vegetables:

Vegetables are Mother Nature’s way of helping us be healthy. The anti-inflammatory impact of the nutrients and fiber that’s positive for our health is tremendous. The good thing is that with all the fiber, it helps us stay full. Also, with how low calorie they are, vegetables are great for snacks too with it as being healthy snacks multiple times per day, without packing on the weight. I cannot stress enough how pro-vegetables I am, it truly has been so incredibly helpful in helping my patients lose weight and shut down inflammation. If vegetables aren’t your favorite thing, try blending them into sauces or smoothies and blending them chopped up into meals. Slowly but surely, you’ll learn to enjoy them and they might just be your healthy lifestyle’s best friend.

Ultimately, the most important thing is your first step. Aim for those healthy steps and try utilizing theses tips and eventually, it’ll become second nature…and that’s when you know that staying healthy isn’t a chore, it’s just part of your every day life.

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