Fall, and Back-to-School time, lend themselves to resolutions. Think about it: This is a time of transition, often with a recommitment to routine. It’s a season, too, that lacks the pressure that charges New Year’s Day. Resolutions to change specific, sometimes small, habits are those most likely to succeed, in any season. Lists of “Eat Healthier” or “Eat Lighter” targets have caught on, appearing helpfully at years-end and elsewhere. These suggest small but significant changes that build toward better weight and health. This fall, however, I’m thinking of “Eat More Sanely” targets instead. Such targets surely bolster those aimed at diet. Attitude, self-care, and behavioral goals emerge here—and any one will render the desired weight and fitness goals more likely to happen, and more likely to stick.
As with other resolutions, you can easily scan a list and say, “I need to do all of these!” However, starting with an item that’s potentially manageable can make a bigger difference than you might think. Starting with this one, however small, lays the groundwork for others. This one can help build confidence and a readiness for further change. Also, with these kinds of targets, perfection doesn’t count. Getting started, and keeping at it, counts.
Here are eight potential “Eat More Sanely” targets that can spur important shifts. (Each item ends with a link to related reading to get you started.)
1. Realize that change is a process. People commonly expect to start a diet and lose weight quickly and continuously. Very few people start other change projects—take quitting smoking, for instance—with such a lack of forethought, defying past experience and forgetting all the pitfalls. Change tends to take place in stages, with stumbling and learning along the way. (For more, see http://www.eatsanely.com/slow-and-steady-wins-the-race-especially... )
2. Notice unhelpful thoughts. As human beings, our minds constantly generate thoughts. Many of these are neither rational nor helpful. But we tend to take them seriously nevertheless. With diet change such thoughts can doom our efforts (for example: “I’ve already blown it, so who cares...”). Tracking, catching, changing these thoughts helps in any change effort. (See also Dr. Judith Beck’s PT blog, as well as the Eat Sanely workbook.)
3. Learn where emotional overeating occurs. This constitutes a major project for many overweight people. It alone can thoroughly change how you eat. (For starters here, look through the previous two years’ worth of PT’s Thin From Within blogs—many touch on this subject.)
4. Learn to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness practice helps us see and tolerate uncomfortable thoughts and emotions—an obvious protection against stress-related and emotional overeating. Also, bringing mindfulness to the act of eating itself helps: it prevent mindless or habitual stuffing. (See also Dr. Susan Alber’s PT blogs, or, again, the Eat Sanely workbook linked above, in #2. )
5. Become more assertive around your diet. Saying “no” to Aunt Sadie’s sausage stuffing, or to the gang headed to the all-you-can-eat buffet: these are “assertive dieting” techniques that strengthen your self-care. (The best article I know of here is in the O, The Oprah Magazine archives.)
6. Don’t beat yourself up! You may think that being tough on yourself for your lapses will keep you from overindulging. However, kindness and self-compassion truly allow for better self-care. They make change more, not less, likely to occur. (Read more at this earlier blog.)
7. Open up to help. “It takes a village” to make difficult changes in life. Our social networks affect our weight for better and worse. And few people can change something as rooted in all parts of our body, minds, and lives as diet, without the help of others. (See here for more on this.)
8. Hang out with those who eat well. It’s a fact that those who hang out with healthy eaters eat more healthily. Hang out with overeaters, and you’re more likely to gorge, too. So here is one more way that our relationships and our weight interplay. (The above-mentioned blog, in #7, addresses this issue, too.)