by Emma Brown, Nutritionist for Nutracheck
Losing weight can be hard – but embracing better eating habits is easier.
What if we told you that you could lose weight while continuing to eat all your favourite foods? You’d call us crazy, but we’d tell you it’s the best way. Think about your last diet – what did you try to cut out? How long did it last until you caved in? We’d bet it was much sooner than you’d like to admit. And that’s because you’re trying to change what you eat rather than trying to adopt healthier eating habits.
The reason many of us find losing weight so difficult is because the majority of weight-loss strategies begin by eliminating foods from your diet. While that certainly makes sense, stacking up major diet change on top of major diet change is overwhelming, and can also make you feel deprived and disheartened. As a result, you might lose weight initially, but it will just as easily come right back.
Nutritionist Emma says: “We have to repeat actions in order to make them become true habits. All our habits are formed under the same principles – stimulus, response and reward. And the end reward is usually the thing that prompts us to repeat the action. Recognising this ‘stimulus, response, reward, repeat’ process can be really helpful to us when we want to develop new ‘good’ habits and potentially break old ‘bad’ habits.
“So, rather than changing what you eat, focus on thinking about how and when you eat. As you’ll find out, these minor adjustments can actually pay off and keep off the pounds in the long run.
“We make more than 200 food decisions a day, and most of these appear to be automatic or habitual, which means we unconsciously eat without reflection, deliberation or any sense of awareness of what or how much food we select and consume. So often our habitual behaviours override our best intentions – but we can change that.”
6 habits to help with weight loss
- Drink plenty of water – at least 2 litres a day
- Control portion sizes – most of us simply serve too much
- Plan meals in advance – takes away guesswork
- Eat more fruits and vegetables – prepping makes this easy
- Take regular exercise – just 10 minutes a day is a good start
- Track what you eat to monitor calorie intake – (and stick to it!)
How to make these actions habits
Firstly, it’s important to want to develop these habits. Secondly, you need to make them as easy as possible for yourself, so set reminders or place things in convenient spots. Thirdly, you may need to choose a reward for yourself if there isn’t an instant automatic one – these should be something that you truly view as a treat/reward.
Here are some examples of how you might turn an action into a habit.
Drinking plenty of water
How to: Purchase a handy water bottle with times of the day marked on it as prompts for you to drink water at these times.
Stimulus: Seeing your water bottle on your desk with the next time line to achieve clearly marked.
Response: Grab the bottle and drink down to the next line.
Reward: Get up from your desk and walk down the corridor and back. The screen break and stretching your legs will give you a small energy boost.
Controlling portion sizes
How to: Find a reasonable sized plate and draw a line down the middle, then half one of those halves. So you have 3 sections – a big one for vegetables and two quarters for protein and carbs.
Stimulus: Plating up your evening meal.
Response: Pick out your chosen plate and load your vegetables, then your meat/fish, then your carbs into their sections.
Reward: If you stick to the portions set out for yourself, treat yourself to 1 square of dark chocolate after dinner.
Planning meals in advance
How to: Place your diary next to your cookbooks in the kitchen, along with a notepad and pen. Then set a reminder for 10am every Saturday morning to plan your week before doing the food shop.
Stimulus: Saturday morning at 10am.
Response: Head to where you keep your diary, cookbooks and notepad – take a seat and plan through your coming week and what meals you’ll be having.
Reward: Saves you time when you get home from work and stops you reaching for something high in calories.
Eating more fruits and vegetables
How to: Chop up pineapple, melon and strawberries and put them in a sealed container in the fridge. Make sure they’re at the front of the shelf, which is in your eye line when you open the door.
Stimulus: Heading to the fridge for a snack.
Response: Grab the first thing you see, which is most convenient,
Reward: Satisfying your hunger with delicious fresh fruit within seconds.
Taking regular exercising
How to: Place your walking shoes right by the front door every day, so you see them when you get home.
Stimulus: Walking through the front door after work.
Response: Grab your walking shoes and head out for a walk.
Reward: Watching half an hour of your favourite TV show before making dinner.
Keeping an accurate food diary every day
How to: Make it as easy as possible, so install the Nutracheck App on your phone and keep your phone in your pocket at all times. Also have some kitchen scales out on the work top next to where you prepare food.
Stimulus: Preparing a meal in your chosen spot in the kitchen.
Response: Weigh each ingredient and add it to your Nutracheck Diary as you prep the meal.
Reward example: Put £1 in a jar every day that you complete your Diary accurately and at the end of the month, treat yourself with your £30 savings.
REPEAT! With all of these habits, the most important thing is to repeat them regularly as that is the only way to truly turn an action into a habit. When you do something automatically without thinking, you’ve made it a habit. So make life easy for yourself and take steps to make each action as easy as possible – set reminders, place things in convenient places and give yourself a true reward each time. Good luck!