Top Tips for Sticking to a Healthy Diet
Here at Inspired to Change we often help people who have been stuck in cycle of diet after diet, gaining weight, losing weight and then putting it all back on again. Understanding how our brain consistently gets it wrong when we are making decisions about food means we can teach our clients how to get out of the diet cycle and create a balanced, healthy approach to food. We’ve pooled together some of our favourite tips to get you started on your own journey to a completely different perspective on food!
Tip 1 – Make it the easiest option
Our brain will always take the least line of resistance so if we are hungry and open the fridge and the only options are healthy it’s much easier to override the cravings for unhealthy options. If the only way we can get our hands on a packet of biscuits is to get in the car and drive to the shop our brain will see that as too much effort and be happy for us to tuck into our healthy salad instead.
Tip 2 – Plan, Plan, Plan
Meal planning isn’t just about making sure you have all the right ingredients readily available (see tip 1). Our brain is designed to act on what we predict will happen next so by planning your meals you are telling your brain what to expect and your brain then kicks in to help make this happen. Use your planning time to actively look forward to your meals increases your feel good hormone serotonin which helps to keep you on track.
Tip 3 – Belly Breathing
Before you eat take the time to take a few deep breaths. Breathing from our belly using techniques like 7-11 breathing (breathe in for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11) triggers off our relaxation response, often referred to as our “rest and digest mode” helping you to get as much energy and nutrition out of the food you eat as possible.
Tip 4 – Eat for Energy
Remember that food is a fuel not a reward. Many of our clients tell us that they reward themselves with a food treat but then often feel bad afterwards. If you wanted to treat a friend or family member would you get them something that you knew would make them feel bad? Of course not! So let’s not do that to ourselves. Instead think about rewarding yourself with things that consistently make you feel good – go for a walk, pick up the phone and speak to a friend, read a book, watch a favourite TV programme. Make sure your reward is one that makes you feel good and reserve food for fuelling your body and mind.
Tip 5 – Don’t be Hard on Yourself
The reason many of us don’t stick to diets is that we are really hard on ourselves when we fall off the wagon. One night of pizza, prosecco and pudding is enough to make us wonder why we are doing this, we clearly can’t stick to a diet so what is the point! Sound familiar? We can’t all be perfect all the time and, with a more balanced approach to food, we can surely allow ourselves the occasional night off. And when we do, rather than beating ourselves up about it, try being kind to yourself. All the research shows us that those people who recognise it’s fine to have a night off, that tomorrow they will be back to their normal food intake are actually much more likely to do just that. Those who are hard on themselves, who beat themselves up for their failure are far more likely to abandon their diet all together and go on a binge.
Tip 6 – Make Time to Eat
Eating on the go often means we are eating on auto-pilot, not even noticing what we are eating and certainly not listening to our bodies signals telling us when we are full. Take the time to sit and eat without distractions. Really listen to your body’s signals – it’s so much easier to pick up on the signals your body is giving you when you actively listen.
Tip 7 – Empty Your Stress Bucket
Many of us carry way too much stress around with us. Too much stress means our primitive brain kicks in encouraging us to eat more high fat, high carb, sugary foods and holding on to all that food as a fat store just in case we need to run away or stand a fight a scary lion or woolly mammoth! Reducing our stress levels helps us function from our intellectual brain where it’s easier for us to make the right food choices and burn that food as energy.
Tip 8 – Go for the Slow Burn
Eating doesn’t just provide fuel for our bodies, it provides fuel for our brain too. Our brain needs about 500 calories a day to carry our all it’s actions from decision making and learning to creative thinking, not to mention all that worrying we do! Our brains function much better on slow release energy rather than the short, sharp energy boosts we get from sugary foods. Good quality proteins and low GI foods are favourites. Top up between meals with healthy snacks like nuts and seeds to keep a good steady flow of energy available to your brain helping to give you all the energy you need to make the right decisions about your healthy diet.
Tip 8 – Stay Hydrated
Keeping properly hydrated is good for our bodies and our brains. By the time we feel thirsty it means we are already dehydrated so keep topped up on water regularly throughout the day. We often misinterpret thirst for hunger so if you feel hungry try having a glass of water first and see if the hunger passes. Our brains require optimal hydration to function properly. Dehydration makes it more difficult to focus and do simple tasks – like making the right decision about what food is healthy – so always keep a glass or bottle of water handy.
Tip 9 – Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential if we want to maintain a well balanced approach to our food intake. If our sleep goes out of whack so do our hormones that impact on how we eat. Our hunger hormone, grehlin, increases telling us we are more hungry and our satiety hormone, leptin, decreases so we don’t get the right signals about when we are full meaning that we are more likely to over eat. So sleep is an essential part of sticking to a healthy balanced diet.
Tip 10 – Make Positive Decisions
If we are constantly making decisions to not have something we start to feel deprived and our primitive brain is likely to kick in. By switching your decisions to positive ones they are far more empowering and motivating encouraging you to carry on making more positive decisions. Try this simple switch in thinking – next time you are considering whether to have that extra slice of cake don’t see it as a decision about whether you want the cake or not, see it as a decision about how you want to feel later. If you want to feel healthy and energised rather than bloated and in the grips of a sugar dip then suddenly the decision become much easier and isn’t about depriving yourself of something you perceive as a treat.
If you’re fed up of being stuck in the diet cycle then maybe it’s time to book your FREE initial consultation with your local Inspired to Change hypnotherapist. Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are based across the UK in Peterborough, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Devon and Kent.
Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are all recognised by the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the UK’s leading not-for-profit hypnotherapy professional association.
To find out how you can train as a solution focused hypnotherapist click here for our hypnotherapy school information