If diets don’t work what is the alternative?

While we know that diets don’t work for long term sustainable weight loss, it can be a scary concept to grasp.  If we don’t diet, what do we do if we want to lose weight? The good news is that there is an alternative; one that is easier, more fun and more likely to achieve long term success.  It is also a way that looks after your health!The alternative involves making tiny habit changes, one step at a time and in a way that involves the least sacrifice.  Many tiny habit changes add up and soon start to make a difference to health and weight.  The energy you reclaim motivates you to further change and so the process goes on. The important word here is “process” – it is the journey that is important, not an impossible weight loss goal.
It does require commitment and practice however, but as the process is step-by-step, the resolve and effort needed also happens in small manageable steps.  The main challenge is to put weight loss goals aside and focus instead on improving your health and vitality.   Once you start you will be carried along by the increased energy and zest of life that you will begin to experience.

Getting started is often the hardest thing to do
This may be because we associate losing weight with dieting and we know this process is depressing. Who, apart from those with an indomitable iron-will would willingly sign up for weeks of deprivation and self-discipline?  -  particularly when they are likely to end up no better off or even worse off than when they started.

The best way is to start with one simple habit change. Choose one that requires little sacrifice and work on it until it becomes your new way of operating.  This may be switching from blue top milk to light blue top milk or switching from white bread to a higher fibre variety.  One change at a time is the mantra and only when you are ready should you move on to another.

How do I know where to start?
In my last blog I talked about the value of a food diary (and how to do one).  A food diary helps you learn about your eating and enables to you identify foods and habits that may be contributing to weight gain.  I recommend listing these foods and habits and then prioritising those you would like to change. To keep it achievable, start working on the change that involves the least sacrifice first.

LOW sacrifice foods are foods you could do without with little discomfort.
Butter would be a low sacrifice food if you would be just as happy to use an alternative.

HIGH sacrifice foods are those you are not ready to do without
If you feel you could not do without chocolate or wine; these are your high sacrifice foods / drinks.  The challenge with high sacrifice foods is to get satisfied with less of them, but this is something you can face later when you are more ready to do so.

As an example. Lisa identified the following habits and foods that were contributing to her weight gain.

Habits Priority to work on
I eat when I watch TV 2
I drink wine every night 3
I don’t eat breakfast 1
Foods Low or high sacrifice?
Butter Low
Full cream milk Low
My morning tea muffin Medium
Alcohol High

 Lisa decided that to start her journey to health and a healthy weight by having a healthy breakfast. She also decided that she would use a lower fat alternative to butter on her toast since butter was a low sacrifice habit she would barely miss

Focus on one achievable habit change at a time and go at a pace that works for you. For each unhelpful habit think of a replacement behaviour that might work e.g.  “I will use hummus or extra light cream cheese on my bread instead of butter”.

Test this out and if the replacement behaviour or healthier food substitutions do not work for you, go back to the drawing board and look for other strategies that might work. The important thing is that whatever you do becomes your new enjoyable normal way of doing things.  Above all, GO SLOWLY; you have the rest of your life after all!


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