We get started on a diet or plan with the best intentions. Despite that, there are usually a combination of things that prevent 85% of people from succeeding and staying there:
Falling off the wagon (inconsistency)
Not enough time
Stressful life (busy work/stressful personal life etc)
We start on a diet, we stop weeks in and have to essentially restart if we decide to do it over again.
This happens because:
the pain of not doing it is not enough for you to keep doing it
the pleasure of doing it is not enough to keep you doing it.
Imagine a lion chasing you – it’s much easier for you to run and keep running because if you stop, the lion will eat you. We are programmed to avoid pain, discomfort and fear. If we fear losing something eg losing money if we make a bet, or looking embarrassed (losing social standing) if we make a promise we don’t keep, we keep doing the thing to avoid the pain or loss.
The contrast is doing something for the love of it and for pure enjoyment. Imagine eating going out for a drink every weekend with your friends. It feels good so its easy to keep doing it every weekend because we gain more pleasure from doing it than not.
Well in this light, the solutions to building consistency is to create either an avoidance of a certain discomfort, or do things because you enjoy them.
They will both work, but ultimately, a more wholesome and positive experience is created when we do things from a place of love and because it makes us happy.
Choosing to keep doing something to avoid pain or discomfort can definitely be a strong motivator, but lifestyle changes that last usually have the majority of motivation coming from loving to do something rather than avoiding discomfort of something else (80% towards pleasure /20% away from pain).
Please note pleasure is not in the context of hedonism and dopamine adundance i.e. overindulging, taking substances and watching Netflix marathons all day.
In the context of health, moving towards pleasure means discovering that you really like cycling, it gives you energy, helps you lose weight and so you keep cycling as part of your normal routine.
Or doing yoga because it frees up your mind and you can touch your toes. Or eating healthy because you like how much energy it gives you and how well you sleep now.
Find a working program tailored just for you
If you follow what worked for others such as keto plans, 30day challenges that don’t take into account your own lifestyle, preferences, challenges, they wont work.
Following a program that tells you to have 5 small meals everyday while you only have time to eat once or twice a day wont work.
Following a program that tells you that you need to go to the gym 6 times a week while you can only manage 3 or 4 days isn’t going to work.
That’s why a program and a plan tailored around your lifestyle is going to the the game changer for you. You’ll be able to maintain results for a long time because you’ll include the things you do love.
You’ll work around the schedule you have. You’ll work out with efficiency and spend minimal time at the gym. You’ll get a program you like, keeps up with you daily and keeps your relevant goal in line.
This will keep you happy and enjoying things so you move towards pleasure – and are more likely to keep doing it.
You need accountability
You need a partner along your journey who can be objective, but be supportive enough of you goal to give you a caring ear, social support and assertiveness – because you still need to reach your goal.
You will need people in your corner – whether it be friends, your partner, like-minded people, or a supportive coach. They will need to be aware of your goals, needs, be in your corner and give you the push you may need from time to time
This will provide the avoiding the pain factor- because a part of you wouldn’t want to disappoint others around you who are on your team and want to see you win. Its a critical element in success because we rarely succeed on our own without any form of support, counselling or guidance.
This is also a very strong motivating factor that tends to keep most successful people going – being part of a community and having support could mean a world of difference.
If you’re looking for a program, our 1 on 1 coaching provides caring support and tailored guidance, click here to find out more. if its not a good fit for you, it’s no problem. Just find someone, anyone close who can be a caring shoulder to lean on on your journey.
With these 2 elements, it’s much easier to keep going than it is to quit – and that’s consistency in a nutshell.
Dieting sucks. We all hate it. Even those who have been “successful” at it – have to keep doing some of the things they did at first.
Those who are successful at it though, recognise the mistakes and work around them.
Getting started is even harder. Here are 5 things common to ALL dieters – both new and old:
They get comfortable with postponing until tomorrow
It’s really easy to push anything off until tomorrow. It doesn’t feel like we won’t do it, because we tell ourselves we’ll still do it. So it eases our minds, while in reality, it’s giving us an excuse.
Successful dieters have these thoughts, but they don’t listen to them. They do what needs to be done, because what they want most matters more than what they want right NOW.
Excuses now will turn into problems later.
To overcome this, simply give yourself a reward for performing the task you need to do, and get it done as best as you can. Don’t worry about perfection – progress makes more strides, and absolutely no-one is perfect.
They get comfortable on weekends
What does a Saturday look like to an average dieter? Rest. Relaxation. Pigging out on foods they stopped themselves from eating during the week. No gym. Drinking alcohol and getting drunk, while eating greasy foods at the same time (steak and beer anyone?).
It’s not about the one thing they do – it’s about how they look at the weekend. A typical dieter looks at the weekend as a way to get away from the “healthy lifestyle”.
Of course when we see this as a way to “get away” from something, we’ll tend to go overboard with what we felt we were denied. Thus over-drinking, over-eating, overindulging.
However, a winning dieter looks at weekends as a chance to get in tune with their goals – to their advantage. Catch up on your cardio, get some decent sleep, don’t go overboard with alcohol (which are empty calories), and stick to your waking time.
It will build consistency and make the Monday that usually feels dreaded flow instead. Building a steady routine helps you stay on track and not fall off the wagon.
They don’t focus on progressive overload
The common myth is to mix up your workouts; change exercises every 2 weeks to shock your muscles. This could not be further from the truth.
Typical dieters who aren’t successful will switch out a routine every 30 days or only do 2 week challenges with no plan for afterwards. They change the exercises completely from yoga to running to spin classes, yet wonder why they look the same after 6 months of regular 4x a week attendance.
Successful dieters not only understand the importance of keeping active regularly, but how you have to stick to one thing for a period of time and get good at it. When you get good at something, you need to make it harder to push yourself into growth.
In training, we call this progressive overload. There are so many ways to do this – add more weight, more reps, skipping for 2 minutes instead of 3, more advance yoga poses. This is where change is made. You only change when you grow. And you only grow when you constantly challenge yourself.
They stick to a program and learn the essential exercises that take them to their goal, and they get really good at it. Even if it takes 6 weeks, 3 months or 6 months.
Get results with a simple basic plan that is effective – within 8 weeks. Click here for a no BS program and start today.
They overlook the mental aspect(visualisation)
Typical dieters don’t picture how they will look and the habits they will have 6 months, 1 year, 5 years ahead.
They think of only today tomorrow and maybe next week when they’ll be at that wedding (gotta lose those 10 pounds to fit in that dress). It’s easy to get in the moment about what you want right now, because that’s what we want the most.
Those who diet and keep the weight off for the long term think not only about how they will look, but also the action they are taking and how they will keep it up in the future.
In the beginning, visualise how you want to look in 6 months/3 months/ X period of time. When you have hit your goal, you have to visualise how you’d want to be living in weeks to months ie the lifestyle choices you’d need to have to maintain it.
This is a sticking point for alot of people – to a typical dieter the idea that you have to exercise for the rest of your life and watch what you eat sounds like torture or punishment.
Not to a successful dieter – they know that it will take some changes in the beginning but it gets easier over time and becomes so natural for you because it becomes who you are. They also focus on small sustainable changes to avoid getting overwhelmed and quitting.
Make the habits part of your everyday by imagining the “future” you as now – that’s how you make it normal. Visualise visualise visualise.
They care what others think
In the times we are living in, a person who makes conscious effort to improve their health is sadly going to be a minority. When you are in the minority, living your life can become the talking point of others, even those close to you.
An aunt can comment on how you didn’t put enough on your plate, or how you don’t have to go to the gym on a Saturday and just “take a rest”. You may be told or you’re getting too obsessed – when you’re really just being consistent.
I recall a time when I was a student when I brought my homemade lentil salad for lunch whereas most bought cafeteria food, and a senior student looked into my Tupperwear container and commented “what is that? that looks so boring”.
Successful dieters know to ignore what others may say about what they choose to eat, exercise, and when they forgo a night of heavy drinking to sleep early. They know that their path is their own and others may not understand what they are trying to achieve – and they take it in their stride and move along towards their goals.
Our behaviours are intricately tied to how we feel. How we feel is tied to how we think. How we think is tied to the beliefs that we have. And our beliefs are tied to the view we have of ourselves.
How do you view yourself in terms of your health? Do you think you are good at managing your health? Or do you think you always struggle to control your weight, have poor eating habits and that’s just “who I am”?
Who You Think You Are Is How You Act
Here is a different point of view – whatever you think of yourself is true. You will naturally take on the behaviours and habits of the person you think you are. It is why its so difficult to decide to do something different like go to the gym regularly and not have it be a struggle – because you still see yourself as someone who isn’t a fit person/gym goer, you don’t see it as natural for you.
Here is a shortcut to life– you can “hack” your habits, emotions, bad behaviours and not stuggle with working out regularly and eating healthily by deciding to become someone who has it easily.
Yes, you can simply decide to change your view of yourself. And the results will follow. Eventually.
You essentially have to fool yourself into seeing yourself as the person who has no problem working out or making healthy choices the majority of the time. You need to be a little delusional; you need to see it in your mind before anything else.
It requires a change in who you think you are. Think to yourself: if I was the healthy fit version of me – what would I eat? What would I do in the morning? When would I work out?
This requires a level of self-introspection, self-awareness and discipline because when you’re faced with that situation where you have to wonder you might be choosing between taking 15minutes to make a simple healthy meal vs grabbing a frozen dinner from the freezer right when you get home
How Would You Deal With Stress?
Would you decide to indulge in comforting activities such as having a six pack of beer/ bottle of wine and eating up some super greasy steak and burgers – vs taking a night to destress in other ways eg calling a close friend, spending time in nature, taking a nap etc. I.e. partake in activities that won’t necessarily move you backwards on your progress.
Once in a while, letting go might not derail you but a couple times a week/month – and you’re likely to be sliding towards the negative.
Why It’s So Hard To Change
The reason is because you see yourself as you’ve “always been like this, so it must be set in stone”. It’s too much energy to fix and it probably wont work.
The combination of comfort in your lifestyle, anticipated distress cause it means giving up delicious foods and “punishing” yourself with exercise – coz working out sucks.
Self-doubt due to prior unsuccessful attempts and a sunken cost fallacy-esque way of seeing things (I’m too old/there’s no point in changing now, it’s too late!).
These all put in barriers to discourage majority of us from even trying, or trying with the expectation of failure.
Well guess what, you WILL have setbacks. You will have episodes of derailment. However the key to remember is that failure doesn’t actually exist – it only does because we give up too soon and don’t stick to it long enough.
Persist In Your New Self Image To Succeed
If you decide to act as if you were the healthier version of you – and wake up early to go to the gym – or try to sleep earlier every night or swap out the cool drink for the sugar free version, it’s not so difficult to do for a week, or 2 weeks or even a month.
But what happens in majority of cases? What do they say that 85% of diets fail? They don’t fail because they don’t work, the fail because people give up.
And people give up because it is so uncomfortable and unnatural for them, and they cannot stand to be uncomfortable for a long period of time. What NOT giving up does, what deciding to continue to act as if does is, it actually makes ehat felt uncomfortable more natural instead. It’s essentially settting in new behaviours to become your new habits.
You get used to it and it becomes your “normal” thing. It’s no longer so mentally taxing to choose the grilled option when going out and when you go food shopping you buy less packaged stuff and more natural foods.
It might take weeks or month to get to this state though and it’s why people get stuck and give up. We say “it’s too hard”.
Decide to be a healthier version of you, take up the behaviours and act as if you are already the fit version of you.
And you have to stop coddling yourself to always want to be comfortable if you are trying to get somewhere. Unless you’re where you want to be then yes, by all means, live life in comfort.
However if you have a goal, you probably will be in growth/discomfort mode quite often.
So if you can learn who you’d want o be and how you want to see yourself, ask yourself “what would healthy version of myself do in this situation” majority of the day, keep doing that for weeks on end until it’s natural for you, you will succeed.
Hunger as the true feeling of hunger – not hunger to relieve an emotion (boredom/fatigue/procrastination/stress) or even thirst?
Create Self Awareness Around Food – WHY Are You Eating?
Food is delicious – and in the primarily hedonistic world we live in nowadays, eating food fulfils a lot of roles – comfort, reward, currency, and commonly a mode of escape from different aspects of our lives. The main reasons people get hungry include:
Genuine hunger – maintenance of bodily functions (true hunger)
Thirst – most don’t drink enough water (distraction)
Reward/celebration (neutral – neither distraction nor true hunger – based on food as a form of pleasure)
Notice that most of this list is using food to attempt to fix a non-food problem. The second is mistaking thirst for hunger. The reality is that this is the way we operate 80% of the time – our hunger cues are off course.
Get down to the nitty gritty reason why you want to eat – which can be an uncomfortable activity. This is because we might realise we are feeling that hunger as a craving to fill ANOTHER emotion.
Embrace True Hunger
If you have generally unhealthy habits in your life, you might find your reasons for hunger are usually beyond true hunger OR you indulge in foods that are less nutritious (“unhealthy” foods). Take away all the emotion, craving, dysfunction and want and you will have pure hunger for food left.
Our health journeys thrive best when we return to our simple preferred basics and roots (in fact most of life becomes easier when you simplify). Plus there is more room to eat what you crave from time to time and still be healthy if you are primarily simple with your nutrition.
The basics on food are – eating to NOURISH your body – you should feel better after you eat and even more so hours after you eat. This is a more basic level of understanding that would benefit most people.
Move from seeing food as something that plays numerous complex and psychological roles in your life to seeing food with a simple basic purpose of providing nutrition. This require removing bad and unhealthy habits, and replacing them with good ones.
Accepting Hunger Is The Way Forward
This is to say that you shouldn’t run to kill every feeling of hunger that you have. Get to know that experiencing hunger from time to time is one form of being comfortable with discomfort which is a key in maintaining success in your health journey.
Get to find out your TRUE source of hunger – and when it truly is because you need to eat, aim to make more nutritious food and less of hyperpalatable foods which will tend to make you overeat and less likely nourish you.
Coping with hunger and not being impulsive as a rule is a form of self discipline that will work in the long run. It will be easier to fight temptations the next time, which will build momentum and builds confidence.
How To Tell If It’s True Or False Hunger
One way is to identify the feeling attached to wanting to eat. Will having the thing you’re craving fix the feeling that makes you want to eat in the first place? If the answer is yes – then it was likely a food a craving. If the answer is no – then you a probably using food as a fix for a non-food problem.
One other way is to pay attention to the kinds of food that you desire to eat. Salty food? Sour Food? A cold glass of juice? Or vegetables?
Although what you crave will probably be what you have been used to eating. A person who has grown up disliking vegetables and usually doesn’t eat them has developed a “taste” for foods other than vegetables – even if they are craving vitamins and nutrients.
It is more complicated when we get to the specific foods because if you lack awareness to your body’s true nutritional needs, the cravings may go unsolved – craving cold juice might mean you should probably drink some water instead.
Get to know and understand your cravings and you will find the solution to what you need.
An Exercise To Understand True Or False Hunger
The next time you feel hungry or a thought comes for you to eat – take 30 seconds to think about it and ask yourself a few questions:
-Is there an urgency or a sense of anxiety or NEED to have this food? Then it’s likely from a place of distraction.
-Will you be uncomfortable if you don’t have this food? If the food you feel hungry for is replaced by a meal with substance (whole foods, nutrients etc) – will your hunger be sated? If no, then it’s likely from a place of distraction. If yes, then it is true hunger.
-Is there something you know you should be addressing in your life and instead of tackling it, eating seems a better course of action? If yes, then it’s a high chance of being a distraction.
-Will the issue still persist after eating? This is probably the biggest sign of eating as a way to deal with a non-food problem.
Master your hunger awareness and gain control back of your nutrition.
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I have great news for you – you can eat anything you want and be healthy. Yes this is a true statement – of course with the exclusion of poisonous and dangerous foods – there’s in reality no such thing as good food or bad food.
You can eat exactly what you want and lose weight. You don’t have to workout 6 days a week and eat only leaves and dry chicken, cut out all starches and have all your meals tasting like cardboard to be healthy. Blanket statement such as certain foods are for weight loos or certain foods make you gain weight are technically misleading. To truly understand why, we must see food within the context of your lives and not right up close.
These are the 2 points to remember:
Healthy food is better to eat regularly and over time (weight loss beginning stage).
You can eat unhealthy foods from time to time and be healthy if your lifestyle is in check. (weight loss maintenance stage).
Everything Adds Up Over Time
Starting a weight loss journey or pursuing a health journey/goal, it’s important to note whether the food is taking us towards or away from where we want to be. This is the mindset towards food we must have if we have a goal (weight loss, weight gain, build muscle etc). And then from there decide to do more of what takes us toward rather than away from your goal.
In the article The Power Of The Compound Effect we briefly went into how a 1% change everyday will lead to 365% improvement in a year. Having one salad isn’t going to make you a healthier person overall. In the same way eating pizza isn’t going to undo all your efforts.
However these behaviours will have cumulative effects over time. It’s probably better for you to keep good food and reduce or even eliminate foods that make you overeat/overindulge, trigger foods etc IN THE BEGINNING STAGES or if you aren’t where you want to be.
You want to build the habit of having good food and better meals so it’s better to focus more on the good and this will take you to reaching your goal.
What You Eat And What Else You Do Is What Actually Matters In The Long Run
This is regarding point number 2. It is a more advanced idea that more people who are in beginning stages or not reached their goal might not easily implement because as we start off, most things are seen as black and white – good and bad.
But when you have some experience with reaching your goals, and are now at the maintenance stages, you become more flexible and realise that there are grey areas and you don’t really need to be strict. You need more self-awareness and big picture thinking about your lifestyle.
Let’s take these 2 people:
Person A: workouts out 4-5 times a week resistance training and cardio workouts, drinks 2.5L of water a day, calorie conscious (eats at or just below maintenance), aims for 25g of fibre a day from mostly whole foods including vegetables daily, and follows IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) style of eating, has double cheese burger for lunch 3x a week and makes sure she has extra vegetables on those days she does.
Person B: Doesn’t work out, stays up late watching Netflix 6 nights a week resulting in 5-6hours of sleep a night, hydrates with juice and soft drinks, drinks <1L of water/day, doesn’t really watch what they eat and frequently has take out or pasta for dinner but makes sure to have a salad for lunch 3x a week coz she has heard eating salads makes you healthy.
In these examples, the idea is Double cheese burger = not good and salad = good. However from these two, the reality is that person A will be significantly in better terms of their health because what actually moves the scale is all the other behaviours. Long term success is based on birds eye view and not looking at a particular thing but at everything.
Health Is Not Binary, It’s A Spectrum
Such is to say that there is not one single act that will change things magically. There can be certain behaviours you change that will trigger OTHER positive changes in your life.
For example a person saying cutting out sugar is what helped them lose 10kg likely means – they stopped eating processed foods containing sugar and replaced them with more whole foods – high fibre starches and vegetables (decreases appetite so you eat less), ate more protein (muscle sparing and decreases appetite), drank more water instead of juice and soft drinks.
Improvements that bring results rarely happen in a vacuum and it’s this point that matters. You can make little changes that will add up but making one change and not shifting your whole lifestyle around will not work in the long run.
How To Make It Simple To Carry Out
Take a paper and write down your daily habits and behaviours for 1 week – observe and document what you eat, how much of it you eat, how much water you drink per day, how many hours of sleep you get, whether you eat to feeling full at your meals, how much exercise you got that day, how your energy levels are, your mood, how many meals with vegetables you eat, how much take out/junk food you ate and how often.
Keep the record for a week and you will find yourself already noticing behaviours you may not have noticed you were doing and instinctively want to change them even without anyone having to tell you.
And the even better news is once you do one thing, make one change, you won’t want it to “go to waste” and it’ll be easier to make other changes for your benefit.
So a cheese burger is not wrong in the same way a salad is not right, they are a 0.5% impact action with power to influence things over a big enough scope of time. It is more potent when you change other behaviours around you.
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As we come towards the end of the first month of the new year full of craziness, our health remains pivotal. Even among a pandemic we have the same desires for a better version of us.
With that, studies have shown that >90% of people who lose weight regain it – so what do the successful <10% do to beat the stats? They understand that you need these 5 unconventional things:
1. A Plan That Works For YOU
When you make a decision to finally do what you need to do and make a lasting change – you’ll need a system and not simply an instruction manual.
Using a plan that doesn’t take into account your own preferences, challenges and allowing for flexibility will take you to a short distance, yet in a few weeks will likely lead you to fall off the path.
Personalising your journey that fits into your schedule will always yield better results than blindly following someone. A bodybuilder who has time to hot the gym 6x a week will not help a busy employee working 2 jobs and has time for the gym only 3x a week. So you’ll need a .
It’s a fact that when you have someone to keep you in check, you are more likely to reach your goal. This is because we tend to not want to disappoint others, whereas without someone to account to, you are likely to let things slide.
Using a friend or family friend could work, however the best is someone who will be objective and tell you what you’ll need to hear and not let things slide too easily – a coach is actually your best bet if you haven’t been successful in the past. (Click here to find more about our coaching.)
3. Tenacious Changes
Once you have the plan that works for you, you will need to be able to see yourself carrying out those behaviours for the next few months if you want a lasting change.
“How you get it is how you’ll keep it”
In this case, the changes you make to LOSE the weight is what you’ll need to do to maintain it. It’s the reason why crash diets and eliminating food groups doesn’t work long term- it’s simply not sustainable.
You need to create small changes doing things you can see yourself doing – and it’s why they have such great effects – they are not too far away from your own reality and they won’t seem so difficult to do – so you can see yourself doing them all at the time, and you’ll keep what you’ve worked for.
4. Reliance On Habits More Than Willpower
Using sheer force will help in the beginning – however it’s a limited resource. There will be days where you will be too tired,stressed or sad to even want to make the right decisions. Too many of these days can undo all the work you have done using all your will power if you havn’t catered for them. You have to create a system of habits in the beginning that you will fall back on when life definitely gets in the way (it is a guarantee to have bad days – it’s simply those who handle bad days better than others and make sure the bad days don’t do too much damage, who win over the long term. Do you want to be a winner long term? Then take the time and put energy into your habits and not just your decisions in the day to day.
5. A New Version Of You
You have to come to terms with the fact that the person you have been until now has gotten you here. The person you WANT to be who has lost 10kg, is full of energy and confidence requires a different version of you – otherwise you’d be them already!
This means you have to let go of some things you have been used to doing and eating – in the name of “I’ve always been this way” or “It’s always been like this”. The truth is that for you to truly achieve your weight loss goal you have to start seeing yourself as the person who has lost that weight – how often do they eat, what do they like to snack on, what is their attitude towards exercise etc.
Once you have that solution, then you need to ask yourself one question: “how can I be more like that person today?”. And then make a decision in line with what they would do.
Over time without noticing you’ll BE that person – and it becomes much easier to make healthier decisions because you have accepted it as who you are – and not a person who clings on to excuses and reasons why they won’t do the right thing.
This probably the most challenging part initially but it’s the ultimate reason for success in the long term. BECOME the person you want to be. Everyday.
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We know we should eat less processed food and more vegetables, and probably hit the gym more.
It’s a common decision to cut it all off – no carbs, no sugar, no cake, so sweets, no eating out. Because we know that being healthy means no cake, or KFC and no pizza.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. The concern is not the food, its not the sugar or the candy. There are no good foods and bad foods. There are only good eating habits and bad eating habits. All foods are good within context.
It’s not the one thing that you do that matters, its the sum of the things you do over a long enough period of time that matters. Not in the fact that not eating cake is the reason why someone is healthy – but more that the healthy person doesn’t :
Overdo it and eat half the cake at once – everyday.
Feel guilty about it to the point where they decide to give it up and toss it all in because all is lost – and proceeds to skip the gym for good.
Have cake for breakfast (not the issue in general), then have pizza for lunch and a bowl of cereal for dinner (lacking nutrients all day).
It’s about how one goes about the eating of the cake and how the rest of their lifestyle ties in. Is there a balance?
You Need Only 51% Of Good To Be In A Positive Balance
The good habits (eating well, drinking water, staying active) need to be at least 51% to make positive movement. This means you can screw up 49% of the time and still make some sort of headway.
This means that having cake on occasion or that drink with the colleagues after work doesn’t have to be detrimental to your progress. However it’s most important not to look at the things you can get away with and be happy about it.
Instead try to see it as having celebrations, missteps, binges and cravings and falling off the wagon – as part of the journey and to get back up on the horse.
To have the perfect day and perfect meals – and NO urges, cravings or binges – is imaginary. The world tells you that nothing is perfect and we know ourselves as not being perfect – yet we want to hold our life source – nutrition, health to a perfect standard. It’s setting an unfairly heavy burden that sets you up to fall short inevitably.
If anything, that’s being completely unfair on yourself. It is one of the reasons why self-acceptance is a critical part of any transformative process – because you will definitely be human and have things go off plan. It’s part of the journey of life.
“All Or Nothing” Is Making It Harder Than It Needs To Be
This isn’t to say that you can slack and do what you want while putting in minimal effort. It’s more about putting in effective effort in moderate amounts. You don’t have to go to the gym 6 times a week and eat salads every day.
However you do have to be conscious of the food types and quantities you eat on a regular basis (calorie and nutrient awareness), have some physical activity at least for 150 minutes a week and drink enough water. Minimise activities that HURT your progress such as alcohol intake, smoking and just generally health avoidant behaviours.
It just has to be MORE of the good things than the bad. Don’t feel discouraged when the “bad” moments happen, simply move on from it as if it didn’t happen.
The ultra-successful people have mastered a better percentage of good – 90-95%. You don’t need to aim for such high figures because it is usually a rigid, programmed and usually restrictive way of living – and is usually for a purpose (eg competing, professional bodybuilders).
It is also completely unrealistic. Especially for everyday life.
I’d rather focus on keeping things realistic and sustainable – for the majority of us who simply want to improve our health. It’s not our job to be healthy, but improving our health can improve our relationships, job and self confidence, so it’s something definitely worth working for.
Aim for 70-80% good, start where you are and work slowly and sustainably, allow for slip ups and get back up each time.
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I was speaking to a colleague of mine at the hospital the other day, who casually mentioned how she currently can’t step on a scale and would avoid one at all costs.
I asked her why, and she said at the beginning of last year, she weighed around 80kg. As the months went on, come Christmas time she was already 10kg heavier.
“I can’t step on it now because I don’t even want to imagine what the number will say.” It’s now been almost a year since she last stepped on the scale.
Most of us tend to have a love-hate, emotional rollercoaster – type of relationship with the scale. More commonly than not, it tends to be thought of with disdain, sort of like the “bringer of bad news”. An update when stepping on it can throw our whole mood off for the rest of the day.
Majority of us put a very high emotional attachment to the number we see on the scale. I am here to share with you instead how to bring the scale on to your side, why people who successfully maintain their weight loss over time tend to keep a scale and use it regularly- and how you can too.
The Scale Is A Messenger
The weighing scale is looked down on because it brings objective and direct information of what you may not be happy with, yet tend to avoid. It will be a reality check, and there are a lot people who live in the land of delusion about their weight – which is one measure of their health overall.
A story tells that an ostrich will stick its head in the sand when trying to hide from a predator. It thinks because it can’t see the enemy, the enemy can’t see it. Which is completely ridiculous because the ostrich is the size of, well, and ostrich.
It’s the same way we tend to see the scale – if we don’t step on it, it won’t tell us just how much weight we’ve gained. Even though we are already getting out of breath when climbing a flight of stairs, or our shirts have tightened, and the buttons on our favourite jeans don’t close so easily. In everyday reality when we don’t actively work on our health, the scale can make us face truths we don’t want, but actually need.
However this shouldn’t matter purely on a health journey. It’s true, scale weight is not the be all end all of any fat loss journey – there are so many better markers of progress: your energy levels, how you look in the mirror, your gym progress, lost inches on the waist while keeping the same scale weight (body re-composition)
Here are some facts that explain why we shouldn’t put all our eggs in the basket of the weighing scale:
Your scale weight fluctuates daily – taking weekly averages and the trend of each week is the most reliable way to assess – may be within 1-2 kgs a day eg if you had a high sodium meal which you don’t usually take.
Women experience more weight fluctuations – due to hormones that change throughout the menstrual cycle – hence don’t trust daily weights – trends are more accurate.
Your scale weight doesn’t tell whether its fat or muscle – you may be “overweight” but have gained muscle and lost fat (have you seen that picture comparing 5kg of muscle and 5kg of fat? You will be leaner with more muscle but may weigh more.)
It’s one of the least reliable ways to measure progress at the early stages of weight loss (eg if reducing carbs in the beginning such as keto, loss of glycogen and water may show up as a 4 kg loss in a week – around 3.5kg may be water, and only 0.5kg of actual fat loss)
It is a better tell of fat loss if your diet isn’t very fluctuant in carbohydrates and salt (which lead to water retention) – yo yo dieting, juicing, cleanses and binge episodes would increase the fluctuations more and not give good accuracy.
When To Use The Scale As Your Barometer
At the beginning of a weight loss journey, the focus should be on developing better habits including eating more protein, more vegetables, drinking more water and finding physical activity that you enjoy that you can maintain easily.
It’s not a focus to use scale weight in this stage because it’s better to create systems and create good habits rather than look at only the scale as a sign of progress. If you look only at the scale and feel good when the number goes down – keep in mind the number is always fluctuating and isn’t accurate (as explained in the points above).
However if one month your scale puts you at 75kg, and 2 months later, you are now at 87kg, this is most likely fat gain and can and should be a wake up call for you to fix up your diet.
Another scenario is if your weight trends as follows over a 12 week period:
This kind of weight gain is slow, insidious, and all too often what happens to most of us. Over a 3 month period, “only” 3.5kg was gained. However if we expand it over a year, it could mean a 10kg unchecked weight gain.
(Click here for a post about weight gain that creeps up on us and how to intervene.)
Its in cases like this I believe you should use and thank the scale instead – once you see this and notice it, you can now take action on it.
The action is commonly to reduce the weight – however there are people who find they might be underweight and keep losing weight and it could also be a signal to eat more. As you take action (reduce portions, walk more, etc) you then continue to use the scale and over the weeks you will be able to see if your numbers have reduced (if you want to lose weight) or going up (if you are underweight).
How It Is An Easy Maintenance Tool
In addition, the scale is to be used not just for now, but as a lifelong strategy to keep an “eye” on where you’re at – once you are at a weight you are happy with, as a self-check.
The biggest challenge once you have lost the weight/gained the weight as per your own goal, is that we tend to relax and settle into the ease of things. You release pressure to keep your portions in check and make time for the gym. This is why it’s important to build good habits and systems as these will become your base minimum.
How you lose it is how you’ll maintain it.
Even with that, life happens and we might deprioritise our health. And we are back to weight creeping on us – so to avoid this long cycle of trying to play catch up, step on the scale from time to time, as if its a compass, simply to obtain the data and adjust accordingly.
It’s a simple tool to use, and does not need the negative connotations it usually gets. Remember, the scale is just a messenger – it is YOU who has to take the responsibility for your health.
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When it comes to reaching for our goals – there may seem to be big hurdles to overcome – more than one in fact. Indeed it will require some work, but we can use certain mindset shifts and activities in order to kill that fear of “climbing a mountain”, and make it more realistic and manageable.
1. Understand And Accept That It Will Take Weeks/Months, Not Days
Impatience will be the death of your progress. You will need to set your mind to know that what you want will take longer than you think for it to happen. Probably weeks or even months longer. Sure, you can decide to do a quick fix/crash diet/do a 30day challenge, yet what happens when the challenge is over? Most likely the results you have obtained may not last because they haven’t been backed by long lasting habits to keep them.
Results happen after pushing for weeks – and most importantly – results are KEPT after pushing and working for months. This doesn’t mean that nothing will happen for this period of time – increase in mood, energy levels, appetite and better sleep can happen within a week.
It is also during this period of time that other important aspects are being built; building good habits, finding exercise and healthy meals you enjoy and learning to love the process and yourself for pushing through.
2. Get Used To Thinking Ahead
Living life on the fly with no preparation of thought of the future is a way to increase chances of failure due to the inevitable challenges, distractions and difficulties that happen daily. Planning for the future doesn’t have to mean planning every single thing in your life, but you can put in place strategies such as meal planning, grocery shopping and avoiding keeping trigger foods and foods that are easy to overindulge in your home.
Such strategies set you up for success and you will have more good than not-good moments and will drive you closer to your goal rather than sabotage you.
3. Pick An Active Hobby
Sure most of us love the social aspect of gyms and aerobics classes, however it is also wise to adopt a hobby that involves physical activity eg swimming, hiking, cycling etc. Keeping physically active in a variety of ways decreases how sedentary you are and improves your overall health.
It is easier to maintain your desired weight when you keep active in non-formal ways that you enjoy too – rather than stick to a gym routine only as a way to keep active. The aspect of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is a way of measuring how active in general you are. The more active you are, the better – for your goals and your health.
4. In Tough Times Think Of What You TRULY want
Whenever the alarm rings in the morning and you’re supposed to go to the gym, or you get home from work exhausted and feel like emptying 2 bowls of cereal and downing 500ml of Coke – think of what you TRULY want. In the moment you may “feel” you want it because it will give you that dopamine hit – and it will.
However 5 minutes when you are done and that feeling of guilt comes it – the feeling of guilt comes because your actions are not in line with what you truly need – which is nourishment and hydration. Your subconscious knows what you need and the feeling you get after taking an action is an indicator of whether you are acting in true accordance with what you need.
There will be moments where we give in to our urges and have the whole box of oreos, however make sure to keep these occurrences to a minimum – and listen to what you truly need – and give your body that.
It takes setting up some good strategies to have a good chance to reach for, achieve and sustain good goals. It is important to be realistic in order to give yourself the best environment and create the proper mindset to reach your goals.
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Ever eaten food that’s been too delicious to stop? Nowadays our taste buds are under attack. It’s a full on war.
Let me introduce you to an era of foods known as hyperpalatable food: food that is so delicious that when you take a bite, you feel like you’ve been taken to a new world. Food that just hits the spot. Food that we end up craving, can easily overeat, and is oh-so-satisfying.
There is a chemical formula to creating foods like this. Certain combinations of flavours come together to completely and utterly annihilate your taste buds leaving no option but to have those dopamine shots exploding in your brain, making you even do a little dance with each bite. These are the foods even when you no longer feel hungry, find yourself craving or wanting and can always make space for.
Cake, bacon, chips, chocolate, Biscuits, burgers, milkshakes; have you ever wondered what makes them so tempting as opposed to craving apples, grilled fish, or spinach?
Hyperpalatable foods have played a big role in our increase in worldwide obesity – which was previously seen as a first world problem. Nowadays the rate of non-communicable disease has a faster growing rate in low and middle income countries. Especially since alot of these foods have found themselves internationally available – even the smallest village i know has access to Simba crisps and even Lays and Doritos.
According to Medscape.com, hyperpalatable foods are defined by foods that have combinations of:
Fat and sodium – for example, bacon and pizza; or
Fat and simple sugars – for example, cake and ice cream; or
Carbohydrates and sodium – for example, bread and chips.
Individually, these flavours are not inherently addictive – have you ever had a craving for a teaspoon of salt, or tablespoon of sugar? Or even a block of butter? Probably not. However when they are combined, they have a very super-tasty result. The food industry knows this and they try to take advantage of it so they can keep you eating and buying.
A glorious example is Doritos – or pick any of your favourite potato chip/crisps. Firstly, they have a combined sweet, salty, fat flavour bomb. Have you ever really wondered why it’s so hard to have one or two and just stop? It’s because the flavours are too delicious and designed to be. They are not only calorie dense, they are cheap, easy to access and are utterly irresistible
Your Taste Buds Are Skewed
Have you found that when you eat the normal food that “healthy people” talk about, the instinct is to not like it, or worse, to be disgusted by it? Or at the very least, find it boring, and not what you look forward to eating when you come home from work hungry.
That’s because your taste buds have gotten so used to the unnatural flavours of hyperpalatable foods that simple flavours that are usually associated with simple foods such as baked potatoes (plain starch), grilled steak with gravy (mostly protein with minimal fat, and some salt) and roasted veggies (plain carbs) – these will seem so boring.
These will not trigger the same dopamine spike you were used to. Due to your brain getting used to instant gratification in the form of these dopamine shots, you will instinctively not like them.
I know people who shun these foods because the claim they don’t eat to live, they “live to eat”. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with making your meal process enjoyable (mindfulness and joy all the way), do try to be mindful of the meals you have. Are you mindfully enjoying these foods or indulging in these foods because you need the taste/flavour?
Eating out is also a weight gain bomb for this very reason – most foods prepared outside the home are laden with fat,salt, sugar, and/or a combination of all those. It’s a reason why restaurant food is so delicious. Adding salt, sugar and fat in food is a cheap way to make food more delicious than it naturally is. It’s all in the annihilation of the taste buds and creating a hyper-natural experience that produces dopamine levels that you don’t usually get with homemade meals.
Reclaim Your Taste Buds – And Health
The risks of submitting to the widespread culture of regular consumption of hyperpalatable foods will be that you’re programming your taste buds to prefer instant gratification. It will also leave you less likely to prefer whole natural foods – high fibre, lean protein, satiating and nourishing.
If unchecked over a long period of time, due to the higher calorie content and lower nutrient, you are at a much higher risk to develop these metabolic conditions (hypertension, diabetes, obesity and some cancers).
Something happens when you decide to cut off these foods. In the beginning it will feel like an upward mountain – your body is now craving that dopamine it was used to. Choosing the lean steak over the fried chicken wings will be a test of willpower initially. Choosing a salad instead of mac and cheese will feel like lifting a 1000kg boulder. It’s all your brain playing tricks though.
Keep it up for a month or so and you “re-set” your taste buds – simple whole foods will become tasty once again, and you’ll need less additives such as salt,sugar and dressings to fully enjoy your meals.
You’ll begin to appreciate the taste of favouring foods with herbs and spices instead of salt, and find that when you once put 3 teaspoons of sugar in your tea turns to 1, that it tastes “equally” as delicious.
Then one day when you have a sip of a milkshake, because your taste buds have reset, the milkshake will actually become wayyy too sweet, to the point of disgust with more than 1 sip(this happened to me).
The reason to do this is that you will no longer be a slave to your cravings, to your urgent needs for a family sized bag of Doritos (which you can easily wipe by yourself). You will then be able to eat these foods on occasion and ENJOY them mindfully, instead of eating under a subconscious compulsion (which you may not be aware of).
And then the argument of balance becomes truly applicable – once in a while, when you eat these foods eg on a special occasion, as they should be eaten, it’ll be a memorable moment.
So how do we do this? There are strategies that you can implement in your life, however as with everything that you may wish to change, it begins with AWARENESS.
Audit your food environment
How many times a week do you have those chips? Or how many times a day? Do you always have a store of them in your house and graze all day? Do you indulge every tea time at work with those free cookies/pastries/cakes/fat cakes?
Reduce their presence in your common areas – work and home. Out of sight and out of mind, truly works in this case.
2. Change your normal diet + stay hydrated
As far as altering your normal diet, increasing your protein and fibre intake, will work to alleviate your hunger. You will feel less ravenous thus will have less of an impulse to dive into the whole box of Oreos.
Drinking plenty of water and reducing your added sugar intake is very helpful in reducing cravings and getting on a better track. This will make sure when you are hungry you are actually hungry rather than thirsty.
3. Non-food appetite control
Incorporate exercise in your routine if you haven’t or alter it if you already have. Activities such as HIIT training and resistance training can lower your appetite, and some such as steady state cardio (running, walking, swimming,aerobics, cycling) can actually increase your appetite. This is not to say stop walking and start Phil Heath’ing it up only – these are just some observations in terms of specific activities.
Of course ANY exercise is a positive step, so if you do love that aerobics class, you’re doing awesome and you should be proud of yourself. With any activity, the most important is to make sure you don’t eat back the calories you consumed if you are aiming to lose weight – it’s a common trap that I want you to avoid. Otherwise exercise is an excellent additive to regulate your hunger directly – plus your mood and emotions.
4. Tackle emotional eating
Emotional eating is such a huge hinder to most of us – and the relationship with emotion and food is a very complex one. The main thing to gather for yourself if to work on not attaching food to emotion and mental state – such as indulging when happy, or when sad, or when angry. Instead, try to find non-food ways to release those emotions.
How many movies do we see where the girl is dumped by her boyfriend, and in her sad, shattered state, grabs the 5L tub of chocolate caramel ice cream and has a night in. While completely unfortunate, when we do have emotional equivalents in our life (work stress,relationships, business etc), how often do we each and every time give in by heading for a hyperpalatable food.
Their ultra deliciousness feeds the vicious cycle – they give you the immediate, feel good high, are easily accessible, are reliable – after all, that cake is always going to be there and have your back, unlike that snake Susan.
In the moment where you feel an emotional craving to eat due to a particular feeling or mood, pay attention to what you are thinking, feeling and imagine how you will feel after eating the whole box of Oreos after having a large pepperoni pizza. Instead choose to do something else you equally enjoy – that has nothing to do with food. Call your best friend, listen to your favourite music, hug your pet, tell someone you care about that you appreciate them (PS when you express positivity to another person, you feel it too).
Even if you are unable to eliminate emotional eating, increasing it’s awareness is the first step towards overcoming it. As you eat these foods less and less, you will not only discover better ways to cope with emotions but also help reset your taste buds.
5. Sleep enough
Sleep plays a big role in appetite control – not enough sleep can make you overeat and give in to your hyperpalatable foods. Regular sleep patterns regulate your circadian rhythm and appetite. Give your pillow a chance to make it up to you. It’ll do you wonders.
In summary, these foods are around us at an increasing and alarming rate, but fret not because you have the ability to restore your taste buds once again, improve your health and come out smiling for it.
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