Mid-Year Reboot: Change the Way you Eat for Good

New Year's Diet Resolution - remember that? The one where you vowed to ditch the desserts, nix the nibbles, curb the carbs and eliminate the alcohol? Well, if you didn't quite stick with your resolve, now is the perfect time to reboot your new year's health and diet resolutions, Emma Bangay discovers.

Ringing in the new year often means a raft of resolutions to ‘better’ yourself. And for many women, the top hit has something to do with diet.

“Dieting is more prevalent in women than men,” says Leanne Cooper, nutritionist and author of ‘Change The Way You Eat – The Psychology of Food’.

But it's not all bad news if you haven’t stuck to your healthy food resolves, she adds. “To a degree the sense of not meeting our goals can be a good motivator,” she points out, “but what we need to do is ask ourselves what obstacles were in the way of success the first time and rethink how we do things.”

Resolution Re-evaluation

If your resolve to improve or fine-tune your diet wasn’t successful back in summer, ask yourself:

• Did you set your goals too high?
• Did the goals have meaning?
• Did you have small goals to give you a sense of being able to do this?
• Did you change things around to make it easy when making changes?
• Did you enlist people around you to help keep you on track?
• Did you have enough strategies to practice over and over to change your habits?

Why now?

The cooler months often call for ‘comfort food’ – all the heavy dishes and delights you may have tried to kick to the curb in summer - so now is a great time to reboot your new year's diet resolutions! Here are Leanne’s 10 Tips:

1. Downsize your plate

Studies have shown this is a single strategy can have the greatest outcome.

2. Think about your vision of what you want to achieve

"But pick just three small tasks that will help you work towards this vision and focus on one at a time," suggests Leanne. "Don't set yourself up for failure by taking on too much all at once."

3. Don't allow yourself to go hungry

That is when we are most vulnerable to bad food choices, Leanne cautions. "But at the same time be mindful of eating without need."

4. Avoid over-eating

This means being in tune with your hunger and satiety levels.

5. Ensure you have a little protein in each meal

"This is the nutrient that tells you that you are full," explains Leanne.

6. Take care with fat-altered products, they can be high in sugar

Sugar stimulates insulin which then causes fat storage and retention, "not great if you are exercising for healthy body weight."

7. Associate food with health and not being skinny

One of them will bring you happiness, the other guilt, shame and anger.

8. Avoid dieting and counting numbers of this and that

Food is really not rocket science, says Leanne. “Look at your plate; does it have colour and lots of foods that are reasonably unprocessed? Yes! Then likely it will nutritionally cover your bases and not add anything to your body that shouldn’t be there."

9. Use small tasks, to practice new behaviors around eating

“Education alone is not enough to change our health behaviour, we have to take new behaviours and practice them over and over,” says Leanne.

10. Be kind to yourself

You deserve it. 

3 Steps to Turn Mindless Snacking into Mindful Eating

1. Ask yourself how hungry you are before you start eating, how much you think you should eat based on this and then when you have finished, wait 20 minutes before you decide if you need more (it takes that long for the brain to signal you are full). “Be in tune with your hunger and satiety,” urges Leanne. 

2. Recognise that emotional hunger comes on quick, whereas physiological hunger comes on slowly. "There are increasing signs such as tummy pangs, lack of concentration and so on," Leanne explains. "Don’t confuse the two."

3. Place food as a positive in your life, not something to be controlled, counted, restricted, and used for punishment. Tip this system on its head by doing the reverse, see food as healthy, something to be enjoyed and sampled, eat a wide variety of foods with pleasure, but keep the balance via portions.

Steady your Resolve Long-Term

Step 1: Break your nutrition or health goal down into a series of smaller goals, Leanne advises, then further down to activities (behaviours) that you can use as your small achievable strategies. "Focus on giving yourself the opportunity to create a feeling that you can do this via small achievable actions which will work towards larger and larger goals down the line."

Step 2: Where possible try to build in self-assessments, not critical ones but rather ones that enable you to track your progress, tweak your strategies and pat yourself on the back. "Self-assessments have been shown to be important in changing our habits, just as repetition on the new behaviour is also," says Leanne.

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