It is no secret that proper nutrition is the key to good health. But maintaining a proper diet can be tough. We can be limited by time, which makes the convenience of fast food very tempting, and we are constantly inundated with giant diets that promise instant and inarticulate results.
Here are 10 helpful tips to help you maintain a healthy diet. Follow these tips to keep yourself on track.
- Avoid fad diets! The ads certainly look cool and the alleged results are very motivating. However, every fad diet also has a wealth of flaws … which they easily fail to mention. There are no quick fixes. You need to think about what is sustainable.
- Check parts: As standard portion sizes have increased, so have our waists. Compare plate sizes from today and 20 years ago and you will see that they have grown much larger, going from 10 “to 12” in the 1990s. In the 1950s, McDonald’s offered only one size of French fry, now considered small and is about 1/3 the size of the large one (Young & Nestle, 2002). I also can’t think of too many people who enjoy counting calories. It can be very tiring and can make you crazy. Portion management is a better solution and you can easily stick to it.
- Be observant: Erin Kuh, RD suggests “eating when you’re really hungry and stopping before you’re completely drunk”. Eating past the point of fullness will greatly reduce your energy level. Not only that, it can actually become an addictive habit. Of course, controlling your portion sizes will hurt.
- Check the scale: Be careful about this and don’t get obsessed with it. However, it may be helpful to check your weight once a week. You can use the scale as a barometer for how you feel about your nutrition and exercise. If it starts to go up, you know that you need to be a little more careful about your diet and your exercise schedule.
- Have breakfast: I have trained many clients who do not eat breakfast because they say they are too busy or they wake up and do not feel hungry. However, eating breakfast is crucial to your health. A recent study found that eating breakfast actually weighs less and suffers from fewer chronic illnesses (Timlin & Pereira, 2007).
- Keep a food log: This can be a very big and important eye opener for most people. It has been my experience that people actually eat more than they think or eat more unhealthy foods than they realize. We often eat mindlessly and it does not detect that we eat a lot of calorie-dense foods such as chips. While this process can be tedious, it is worth it. The good news is that you don’t have to do this forever (unless you want to). Just log 3-4 days and you should have enough information to decide what to change about your dietary habits.
- Restrict TV watching: talking about mindless eating, in front of the TV is where most of this happens. Snacking while watching TV is a habit and is pretty much the same as smokers who feel the need to light up when driving. That National Weight Control Register, a database that tracks over 5,000 people who have lost at least 30kg and maintained that for at least a year they have found that those who have been successful in losing and maintaining their weight watch less than 10 hours a week.
- Start now: Avoid the “last chance” binge! Often people are inspired to make a positive change in their lives by eating healthier and exercising in the middle of the week, but feel like they have to wait until Monday to get started. While waiting, they indulge in the foods they plan to strip to get it out of their system. This is very counterproductive as it actually increases our craving for such things. Don’t wait until Monday! Get started while you are inspired and your motivation is at its peak.
- Be optimistic: Starting a new health and fitness regimen is tough and can sometimes start to thin you out. It is important to remain positive and optimistic for long-term success. A study by Tinkler et al. (2007) found that people who are optimistic are more successful at changing behavior and losing weight.
- Be aware of activators: A big part of being successful in maintaining a successful diet plan is staying away from people who will sabotage your efforts. I call these activists. I recently spoke with a lady who had lost 150kg and she told me she had to tell her friends and family to stop asking her to eat out and eat exhausting food in front of her. Furthermore, she had to ask them to stop encouraging her to “not be obsessed and just try some of the food”. She likened it to taking a recovering alcoholic to a bar. Probably not a good idea. Even research supports this. A high-quality study of 12,000 people followed over 30 years found that obesity spreads through social ties (Christakis & Fowler, 2007). In an episode of A & E’s hit show called “Tung,” a young woman had to move out of her house and get a new job to stay away from the temptations her family and job presented. Big surprise … it worked.
Follow these 10 tips to make sure you start properly and maintain a healthy diet. It will be hard work, but everything worth doing is worth working for.
Christakis, N. A. & Fowler, J. H. (2007). The spread of obesity in a large social network over 32 years. New England Journal of Medicine, 357370-379.
Timlin, M. T. & Pereira, M. A. (2007). Morning frequency and quality in the etiology of adult obesity and chronic diseases. Nutrition Reviews, 65(6), 268-281.
Tinkler et al. (2007). Forecasts for dietary change and maintenance in the women’s health initiative diet modification trial. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 1071155-1165.
Young, L. R. & Nestle, M. (2002). Contributed to expanding portion sizes for the US obesity epidemic. American Journal of Public Health, 92(2), 246-249.