Health & Wellness

Mind Over Diet

Bridget Swinney, MS RD
By Bridget Swinney, MS RD

As we head into “almost summer,” a season of changes, it’s a perfect time to talk about changing your mindset!

Your mind might be saying, “Holy crap, it’s already shorts season!” Or you may be on a different dietary path. Maybe you just found out you have high cholesterol, diabetes, or even better, you’re pregnant!

Any abrupt necessary dietary change, especially when suggested by someone else (ahem, your sister or doctor), is likely to be met with some defensive emotions—you might even be going through some steps associated with grieving:

Shock:Change is hard, and it’s normal to fall back into old habits... Don’t beat yourself up.

  • I’ll never be able to eat X again!
  • No more Happy Hour for me!
  • I can’t believe he wants to me to give up all my favorite foods!

Denial:

  • My cholesterol isn’t really that high… maybe I don’t really have to give up chocolate milkshakes after all.
  • I’m not that pregnant yet, maybe this extra cup of coffee won’t hurt.
  • I don’t think I can lose the 50 pounds my Dr. wants me to, so why even try?

Anger/Depression/Apathy/Lack of Control

  • It’s not fair, my husband eats cheeseburgers every day and he doesn’t have blocked arteries!
  • I can’t eat anything I like anymore. I’d rather not even eat.
  • Well I already blew my diet by eating this cake, I guess I’ll never get my blood sugar under control.

Recognize any of those feelings?

It’s entirely normal to feel threated and afraid of failure when change is suddenly pushed on you. But how to move past it?

First Get Ready

Is your mind ready to make a change? Whether it be diet, fitness or other lifestyle changes, if you’re only half-heartedly approaching it, wait until you’re ready.

Make a SMART Goal

So, your goal is: lose 50 pounds? Great! But that should not be your goal. It’s an end point, but it provides no map to get there. Let’s break that down into smaller SMART goals, which should be Specific, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Losing 50 pounds is specific and measurable, but may not be Attainable, Relevant or Timely.

  • I want to lose 4 pounds per month by eating fast food just twice a week instead of every day.
  • I want to burn more calories with exercise by walking 5,000 steps per day by the end of week 1, 8,000 steps week by the end of week 2 and 10,000 steps by the end of week 3. Fill in those blanks with what works for you. Maybe it’s walking 30 minutes, five days a week the first week, 45 minutes the second week and an hour by the end of the month.
  • I want to eat a healthier diet by eating 3 cups of vegetables, 4 days a week.
  • I will become more aware of what I eat by keeping a food diary every day for 2 weeks.

Give your goals some flexibility. If you say you want to lose a pound a week and you don’t, you may think you’ve failed and give up. Realistically, and as life gets in the way, you might lose 2 pounds the first and 2nd week, no weight the third week and 1/2 pound the last week. You’ve still met your goal!

By giving yourself attainable and measurable goals, you’ll enjoy the process of change more because you’ll be more successful at it! Also, change up your goals from week to week. You’re in the driver’s seat!

Reward Yourself

In the past, I’ve taught weight loss classes for the American Heart Association. The program encouraged a reward for reaching a specific weekly goal. The reward could be small or big. Some busy moms, rewarded themselves with a bubble bath. Others put cash into a jar to help buy a smaller size wardrobe. If a little reward can help motivate you, try it!

Change is hard, and it’s normal to fall back into old habits, especially if you have “off days” where life gets in the way. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead get back on that horse and ride even if slowly, toward your goals!

Need More Inspiration for Lifestyle Changes?

 

Photo by khamkhor on Unsplash

 


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Bridget Swinney, MS RD
Bridget Swinney is a health communicator, award-winning author and well-regarded nutrition expert specializing in teaching people to embrace a healthier diet and lifestyle. In her 25 years as a registered dietitian, she has worked in public health, as a clinical...Read More
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