Contributor: Luke Corey, BA(H), BScAHN, Registered Dietitian
Over the previous two segments of the Healthy Weight. Healthy You. series we identified the main barriers to weight loss and how you can assess your current situation to determine which of those barriers are affecting you the most. The next step is to start making a meaningful change to your diet and routine, and move forward in your journey to a healthier weight.
While some people see this phase as the most difficult one to start, we will provide you with the knowledge, skills, and tools that will help you succeed.
First, you should be extremely proud of yourself for making it this far. It can be an unpleasant dose of reality to assess yourself and see the issues with your current diet. Many people give up after they’ve seen how many issues they have to fix. But, fear not, as we will not be tackling every issue at once. Instead, we will only focus on a few items at a time. The key to sustainable weight loss is to walk before you run. Slow and steady really does win this race.
Second, before you start making changes to your diet, you must have some specific goals in place. Just like a race, you will want to have interval goals that contribute to your overall goal. For example, if you have a goal weight that you want to achieve at the end, you should plan out realistic, interval goals that are easy to meet. Once those goals have been identified, the next step is to identify potential barriers. This would be similar to studying the racecourse and path that you’ll be taking. If you know there will be hills and other difficult terrain, make sure you point them out ahead of time. The same goes for your weight loss journey. Determine the barriers and have a plan in place to easily get past them.
Finally, set your environment up for success. Make sure you have the items you need to win your race, and eliminate or remove anything that will prevent you from doing so. When your course is clear, and your game plan is in place, it’s time to get started!
So, without waiting any longer, let’s plan to make a meaningful change. You previously identified the issues you had with your current eating and exercise habits. Now, take that list and rank those issues from easiest to fix to the most difficult. Next, select the two easiest issues and put the rest away for now. Using those two issues, let’s develop some specific goals that you want to achieve.
For example, if you identified that you are low in fruit and vegetable intake, make it a goal to increase that intake. Even write down, “I challenge myself to eat more fruits and vegetables”. Good, this is the first step to making a change. Tell yourself you ARE going to change. The next step is to develop an action plan for achieving that goal. This is where we get a little more specific.
Using the fruit and vegetable example, if you know that on average you only consume 3 servings per day, your plan of action should be to consume an amount higher than that; say, at least 5 servings per day. Eventually, you will work your way up to the 7+ servings a day. You will cap off this goal by further explaining how you will accomplish this. In this example, you started with 3 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, your goal is at least 5 servings, and you plan to achieve that by including 1-2 servings with each meal, and one serving as a snack. That’s it! You’ve successfully planned out your first personal challenge! Now, do the same with the second issue.
Before moving on, however, we need to make sure the course is clear. Look ahead over the next week or two and see if there are any barriers that will prevent you from achieving these goals on a daily basis. If there are, come up with an alternative plan for meeting your goal on that day. For example, if you know you will be travelling for work and food choices may be limited, try packing a snack bag ahead of time, or research food vendors in the area where you can go to pick up healthy options. Here’s the thing, you don’t need to change the rest of your eating habits just yet. The only thing you need to focus on is achieving the goal you set out for yourself. If the barriers are social or environmental, try to address them right away, and even seek support from friends and family. The journey will not always be straightforward, so anticipate and plan for some setbacks.
Now, you are almost ready to go. The last step is to make sure you have everything you will need to achieve your goal. Using the previous fruit and vegetable example, head to the grocery store and pick up the foods that you are going to use to meet your goal. Head home and stock your fridge with them. You can even pre-prepare some of them by cutting them up and putting them into containers. Planning ahead is the best way to stay on track and not find yourself caught in a difficult situation.
Plan this tasty & healthy meal into your week: Chicken & Roasted Pepper Skewers
After setting up your initial goals, give yourself two weeks to incorporate these changes into your routine. Once you can achieve them on a daily basis, you can modify these goals and further challenge yourself, or introduce new goals to work on. Use the same format to set yourself up for success. Keep a tracking sheet so you can see exactly how you are doing. Your ultimate goal is to achieve your mini-goals more often than not. This is progress. This is success!
Once you have started to make changes to your diet and exercise routine, we can move on to the next step in this journey, which is to implement a plan that will last a lifetime! That will be the subject of the next article in this series.
Note: If you need a helping hand, consult with a Dietitian