In the last article, I shared the No-Resistance Diet Strategy. If that’s not the easiest way (ever!) to start a diet, I’ll eat your zero-calorie hat. I think the benefits of starting a diet slowly are pretty obvious. I like to think of it as a way to start eating healthy by NOT eating healthy. Even though you’re actually eating some healthy foods, you still get to have your cake and eat it too! This plan allows you to smoothly merge into healthier eating without feeling deprived, without feeling like you’re completely giving up your favorite meals and snacks, because you’re not. I would also like to point out that once you add the No-Resistance Exercise Strategy (coming soon), you may even be able to enjoy your weekly Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream or your favorite pizza for dinner and still lose weight. Yes, it is possible to start eating healthy while also not eating healthy. Cool, huh? (By the way, I say this from experience.)
Help! I need to lose weight, fast!
Suppose you’ve been invited to a wedding in a few months and you simply MUST lose some extra weight before then, even though you really want to start the No-Resistance Diet Strategy. Well, when you have to start a weight-loss diet overnight, you might experience resistance that threatens to crumble your effort like the chocolate chip cookies from last night’s eleventh-hour cookie binge. So I’m going to focus on more diet strategies for the most common dilemmas that we typically have to deal with when trying to stay on a diet.
The Magic of Planning Ahead
This is where things can get a little crazy. You need to lose weight fast so your method of choice is to start your diet on Monday. So on Sunday you eat the way you normally do, plus maybe a little extra…some “last hurrahs”, because you know that tomorrow, you’re “starting a diet”. Right now, you’re probably cringing at the sound of those words. It’s like a death sentence when you say that you’re “starting a diet”. That’s because a lot of people leave a trail of failed diets in their wake. Everybody knows how hard it is to stick to a diet. There are so many weak moments that we have to fight, so many temptations that we’re not prepared for. But, with a little planning ahead, we can gain the upper-hand and be ready when a weak moment strikes. Planning ahead can be your first defense against weak moments.
Tackling your weak moments
The most important thing you can do on your diet is to prepare for potential weak moments (which are going to happen). I cannot stress this enough! Being prepared might actually be the single most important way to prevent a blow-out of your motivation and a complete collapse of your diet. I’ve touched on some of these concepts already, but I want to be a little more specific.
Here are a few common situations you may find yourself in and what you can do to prevent going off your diet.
Snacking at work
- Assume you’ll get hungry for a snack
- Choose your snacks the night before
- If you have periodic breaks at work, snack lightly on every break
- Take one more snack than you think you’ll need but only eat it if you really need it
- Try to find a way to make your job more interesting (if you’re bored, you’ll get hungry faster)
- Eat an appropriate lunch (including fiber and complex carbohydrates)
- Have a vending machine plan, in case of emergency*
*The vending machine plan is a last resort. I suggest you avoid going anywhere near the vending machine, if at all possible. If you have to get a drink out of a neighboring vending machine, do not, I repeat, DO NOT even look at the munchies inside the snack machine. Avert your eye or even close them…seriously! If you DO have to get a snack from the vending machine, do the best you can, but try to understand what caused this situation and plan for it next time so you won’t be compelled to buy from the snack machine, which is usually filled with foods you shouldn’t eat.
Snacking away from home (but not at work)
- Assume you’ll get hungry for a snack
- Choose your snack before you leave the house
- Give yourself enough time to choose a healthy snack (not as you rush out the door or you may make a poor choice)
- Snack before you leave the house if you need to (but still take a snack with you)
Snacking at home (this is easy to deal with)
- Plan and prepare (if necessary) all your snacks ahead of time
- Eat on a schedule (about every 2-3 hours during the day)
- Eat ONLY the snacks you’ve prepared and planned on eating
- Don’t wait until you’re hungry or you’ll be more likely to make a poor choice or over-eat
- Try to include fiber and/or complex carbohydrates in every snack
An unexpected trip to a restaurant
- Know your plan before you get in this situation to begin with*
- Be the first to order
- Order lean and light (and only look at this part of the menu)
- Try to order non-breaded anything and stick with chicken, fish, or clear soup
- Partition your food in half and ONLY EAT HALF (take the rest home)
- EAT SLOWLY
- Drink plenty of water or a water-like drink
- If you are powerless to stop yourself from ordering unhealthy foods, order only off the kids’ menu
*I’m going to give you credit for being brilliant. And since you’re so brilliant, I’m going to assume that you know dieting “right” from “wrong”. If the food looks heavy or unhealthy, don’t order it. You’re going to need to make an emergency restaurant plan way ahead of time. Know what your plan is and follow it without second-guessing yourself. You can do this!
Dealing with unexpected hunger (at any time)
It is more important to snack when you’re hungry, even if it means going over your calorie limit for the day, than to have a complete diet implosion and wolf down 2 McMega burgers and a jumbo order of chili-cheese fries, which accidentally happens to be up-sized, of course. Eat when you’re hungry; assess the damage; determine what circumstances led to the weakness that caused a poor choice; make adjustments, and try to plan ahead for this specific weakness.
By being prepared for those weak moments, you’ll have a strategy ready so that you can get past them without going off your diet. The key here is to experiment with snacks until you find some healthy snacks that you can eat without consuming a ton of calories and without getting hungry again, five minutes later.
Addressing triggers and cues
We all have habits and routines that we tend to follow daily, some good, some bad. When you’re dieting, it’s important to pay attention to the things you typically do without thinking, and plan ahead for these moments when snacking may be involved. Some things you may experience regularly may act as triggers for eating. Here are some examples:
- Watching TV
- Talking on the phone
- Stress at work
- Stress at home
- Waiting for… (people, time-related events, return phone calls, etc.)
Recognition or awareness of these moments is the first step in dealing with them as triggers. If you can make small adjustments in your daily schedule and avoid the triggers all together, this is the best approach to take. But sometimes, this isn’t possible. When you can’t rearrange your schedule, yet you know you’re likely to get the urge to nibble during these moments, plan ahead and make sure you have something prepared ahead of time. Also, consider putting a limited amount of your snack food in a container or zip bag so you don’t end up eating a whole bag, even if it is healthy food.
I tried to cover most circumstances where you may find yourself unprepared when hunger strikes because that’s where weakness tends to lurk. All it takes is one moment when we’re caught off guard with no game plan and, POW, there goes the diet…again! So if you absolutely MUST lose weight fast, the strategies above should help you avoid weak moments and making bad choices. But there are still some other things to consider when you’re trying to lose weight. The following strategies and tips should help fill in the gaps.
Don’t weigh yourself
Yeah, you heard me! People pay too much attention to weight and not enough attention to body fat percentage. So I suggest you start paying more attention to that because if you go too low, just as when you go too high, you could cause problems for your body and overall health. A certain amount of body fat is required in order to properly regulate some body functions and overall health. I don’t know what body fat percentage is best for you, so you’ll have to find a doctor or fitness expert to ask. But measuring how much fat you have on your body is a better indicator of how healthy you are then only weighing yourself. Also, just take a look in the mirror. If you’re happy with the way you look, then stop losing weight and switch to weight maintenance.
Eat more…lose more weight
Sooner or later, you might experience what is commonly referred to as a plateau. That’s when you’ve been dieting and losing weight consistently for weeks, then, suddenly, your weight loss stops for no obvious reason. You just can’t seem to lose weight even though you’re still eating strictly healthy and you’re exercising like a mouse running full-throttle on a wheel. But still, nothing changes. Well, my suggestion for that is to eat more.
Okay, I admit that this suggestion is a little odd, but for a couple weeks, increase your calorie intake by 200-300 calories per day. I know that may seem shocking…and it is. You’re going to do that to SHOCK your body and mix it up a little. The extra calories shouldn’t be enough to cause you to put on any substantial weight. Then, after about 2 weeks, go back to the calorie intake that was working for you before. Even if you gained a pound or two, it’s no big deal. Think of it as revving your engine before a race.
Don’t worry if your weight loss doesn’t start up right away. It will start up again. But since you’ve lost so much weight, you may start losing weight more slowly when you get closer to your ideal weight. I can’t guarantee that this technique will work for you, but it works for some people. Whatever you do, don’t let this be the brick wall that stops all your hard work. I guarantee that if you keep on keeping on, you’ll eventually get past this plateau. Remember, your goal is a healthy lifestyle. And if you’re doing everything right, you’ll still be living a healthy lifestyle, even if you hit a plateau.
Play with your food
If you’re not having fun, then you’ll get bored. If you get bored, you might not be so on-the-ball when planning your meals and snacks. If that happens, you’re creating resistance and inviting weak moments into your diet. So have fun with your meals and snacks. Once a week, try a different breakfast, dinner, or lunch. Find a great recipe that fits your time and tastes buds and try it out. Also, look for fun and healthy ways to snack. Go ahead, play with your food, it’s okay! In fact, it’s required!
Though this comes down to personal preference, some people really enjoy finding a partner in crime so they can both start a diet at the same time and also keep each other motivated. You can even enjoy healthy meals together, give each other support at restaurants, share in the joy of another weight goal reached, and even share recipes and tips. The only thing I can suggest is to try dieting with a partner and without and see which you prefer.
Key Points to Remember
- PLAN AHEAD FOR MEALS AND SNACKS! This is critical to your success. You should know exactly what you’re going to eat for every meal. And you should prepare food ahead of time (when you’re NOT hungry) to remove barriers that might stop you from eating healthy foods. Once you develop a routine, you may allow more flexibility, but for the first few weeks, be overly cautious.
- If you wait until you’re hungry to start preparing food, you may already be too late. An intense hunger can make us weak, irrational, and more likely to grab familiar and unhealthy foods that are fast and more convenient.
- You should have your snacks preplanned and ready to use if you need them, and when you need them.
- You should try to prepare for the unexpected as best you can.
- Consider your lifestyle and avoid any routines that promote unhealthy eating. For example, don’t drive by Starbucks if you can’t resist stopping to get a Double Chocolaty-Chip CARBicino with whipped cream (you bad puppy!).
- Have a plan in place for when you unexpectedly find yourself at a fast-food or dine-in restaurant. People are usually unprepared for such emergencies. When a tough choice is suddenly thrown your way, if you’re not prepared for it, you’re more likely to choose what you’re already familiar with, which usually means eating the unhealthy foods you always eat simply out of habit.
- Start exercising before eating healthier to increase your chances of sticking with your weight loss diet
- Try the 8-Week Easy Diet Plan for Healthy Eating to ease into healthier eating or try the 16-Week Easy Diet Plan for Losing Weight to kick-start your weight loss program so you can stick with it.
The “E” word
Well, friends, I’ve covered many ideas and strategies about dieting in this and the last article that should help you better understand where your resistance comes from and how to remove the barriers that cause your diet to whither on the vine. But we still have to tackle the “E” word…you know…exercise!
I admit that exercise can be hard work, but in the next article in this series, I’ll be addressing how to stay motivated to exercise regularly. There will be effort involved in exercise, I’m not going to lie to you. But when I cover the no-fail plan for starting an exercise routine, you’ll minimize the start-up cost of beginning a program of regular exercise. Starting an exercise program couldn’t get easier than this!
Next on the menu…Exercise, the “No-Fail” way! This is probably going to be the easiest way to start exercising since the couch-potato method (pushing buttons on a remote control) was invented! Stay tuned!