If winter weather triggers carbohydrate cravings, you're not alone. Many people snack more on carbohydrate-containing foods in winter, sometimes in an unconscious effort to boost their mood, says Judith Wurtman, PhD, a former scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet. How can you tell if your seasonal carbohydrate cravings are in the normal range or a possible symptom of winter depression?
It's self-improvement season, but you may find yourself losing motivation. Follow these tips to stay motivated in your diet plan, and achieve your goals.
Set Realistic Expectations
You can pick any diet you like, but if you expect to see any significant results in a day, a week, or even a month you’ll set yourself up for failure. When you start restricting what you eat, it feels like you’ve made major sacrifices and deserve some sort of payoff—or at least an indication—that your hard work will make a difference.
Unfortunately, you won’t get that kind of immediate satisfaction. All diets take commitment and you won’t see results quickly. But if waiting three months or so to see a significant change seems like a lot, think about all the years you’ve spent trying to meet your goals. Consider the diets you’ve tried and the cumulative time they took. You probably spent quite awhile on plans that didn’t work. Sticking with one that you like for a few months likely adds up to a fraction of that “wasted” time.
Pick a Sustainable Program
You can’t approach a diet successfully without knowing how you relate to your food. You need to understand what you like, what you don’t, what you expect to crave, and so on. Your personal needs play an enormous role in the way you’ll react to the healthy changes you want to make, so you have to know yourself well in order to pick a program you can sustain. Bellatti suggests that you ask yourself a few questions to find out what may or may not fit:
“Don't approach this as "choosing a diet", but rather "choosing an eating style." Unlike a diet, an eating style is sustainable, can be done for the rest of the life, and implies more flexibility. Ask yourself: "Can I eat this way the vast majority of the time?". If the answer is "yes," you've made a good choice. If the answer is "no," choose something else. If this way of eating requires you to live beyond your means, rely on ingredients/foods that are not easily accessible, or inconveniences your daily routine, it's unlikely you'll be able to stick with it for long."
Choose a Diet That Creates Good Habits
If you’ve found an “eating style” you think you can sustain, you’ve whittled down your options to the best. Before you choose one, however, you ought to consider a few more things. As Bellatti explains, habits are key:
“The whole purpose of choosing a better eating style is, usually, to improve health, and the best way to do this is with consistent habits. Don't look for a way of eating that is so strict and limited that you can only stay sane if you do it for two weeks every four months; that isn't a recipe for meaningful results.”
Of the habits you create, Bellatti suggests you ought to get used to cooking more:
“Above all, a healthful way of eating is low in processed foods. It should have you in the kitchen preparing food, as opposed to purchasing ready-made meals, pre-made shakes, or processed snack bars. Additionally, if you become dependent on "diet foods", what happens the day they are no longer sold? That said, choose a way of eating that enables you to still have a social life. You should be able to go to most restaurants and order something—even if just an appetizer and a side dish—that meets your needs.”
Don’t Forget to Exercise
You don’t have to spend tons of time exercising, but you can’t ignore physical activity because you’ve chosen a healthier diet. The two go hand-in-hand. You can’t simply work out and live off of donuts. Dr. Stewart agrees:
“Make sure that any weight loss program you consider is partnered with a solid and consistent amount of physical activity. If the program you're considering looks good but doesn't contain any specific exercise information, consult your doctor to design a safe and comprehensive exercise program.”
Just as with your diet, you want an exercise routine that you can sustain, grow with, and even enjoy. Don’t try too much too fast. Take your time and let your confidence build as you grow stronger. As with all health goals, you can’t achieve them overnight. Aim to continue to better your physical health and wellness with every step, and the rest will follow.
Consult a Professional Before You Jump In
You have a unique body with its own set of dietary issues. One great diet that works for many of your friends may not work so well for you. Before you dive in, Dr. Stewart recommends that you talk to a professional:
“Many of the structured diets advertised these days are gimmicks and nothing more, and some can actually damage your health. In order to make the best choice, it's important to put some thought into it and consult professionals. To begin with, speak with your primary care physician. Discuss your situation in depth; what your particular health issues and goals are and how to select a diet that will best address these.”
This post offers advice but you should never make major changes that affect your health solely based on something you read online. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before you significantly change the way you eat.
(Source: Lifehacker – “How to Create a Diet Plan That Doesn't Suck and Actually Stick to It” by
Adam Dachis, Published on 9/23/2013)