Spring! Its a great time of year to be kicking of new health goals, with beach and outdoor weather fast approaching, the heavy clothing layers getting packed away. Many exercise programmes are in full swing and we are 4 weeks in to the new season already...so how are you travelling with those nutrition goals so far?
Now is a good time to stop and reflect on what your initial goals were and whether you have made the progress you were aiming for. If you're not quite on the track that you thought youd be, and your goals aren't unrealistic its handy to look at why. Healthy eating is not just a matter of knowing what good food is, its a much more tangled web of getting correct portion sizes, avoiding emotional eating, sifting through a maze of nutrition labels and food claims, making the time to plan ahead and have appropriate ingredients handy, eating appropriately in social situations and so much more.
Winning the healthy eating game and achieving your goals can be mostly about staying in the right headspace and keeping yourself in check. After all, your goals may be tangible but often our thought processes are not. It is ok to make mistakes along the way; this is called a lapse, whereby you temporarily revert back to old habits. The most important point is to learn from it, by identifying triggers, generating solutions and minimizing the frequency and extent of these lapses occurring in the future.
To keep motivated, it helps if you can recognize and prepare for different phases of motivation. The first phase of motivation is one of enthusiasm and strong vision, which is great for getting you started. But don't expect this initial motivation “high” to last. The second phase of motivation is all about trial and error. You need to test different avenues for achieving your goals to see what works for you and what doesn’t. During this phase you experience success and failure. Make sure you acknowledge the successes and learn from the "failures." Bouncing back from perceived failure is crucial here - remember its part of the process. In the third phase your motivation starts to dissolve. You find yourself remembering when your motivation was high and you felt like you could overcome huge obstacles. Now that it’s low, everything seems too difficult and not worth the struggle. This is a high-risk phase for giving up. The symptoms of this stage can be anything from slipping back to old habits, finding excuses for not exercising, or doing and thinking things to sabotage your success. When you feel motivation slipping, don't delay; enlist the aid of family and friends for support and encouragement, and make use of food diary apps such as myfitnessPal or Easy Diet Diary, or make a date with your dietitian.
Identify the Pros and Cons
Change can be confronting. Of course the easiest path is to not change. So to keep yourself motivated, you need to constantly reinforce the pros by thinking about them, writing them down, and imagining them occurring. Equally, you need to challenge the cons and stop them from counteracting your efforts. Here are some that I would hear often:
• "I've tried every diet under the sun and none have worked long term, so why should this be any different?"
That may be true, but why didn't they work? Maybe the timing wasn't right. Perhaps the diet was too restrictive or you had lifestyle issues that took precedence. Give yourself a break from negative criticism and look at your previous failed attempts as part of the process that will lead you to success.
• "Diets mean boring food. I won't be able to eat out and I'll miss my favorite foods."
While it's true that you can't eat exactly as you would always like, there are wide varieties of good-tasting healthier options at home and at restaurants. You just have to find ones that satisfy you. This con, like most cons, is really an excuse in disguise!
Celebrate Successes along the way
Setting reasonable, specific, and measurable milestone goals is a great way to keep motivated and feel confident in your ability to succeed. Each goal achieved is a mini-motivator, supporting and sustaining you along the path to your final goal. Make sure you record and reward each success along the way, no matter how small you think it is.
Consolidating the changes you have made takes time and repetition to establish long term lifestyle changes.