You had the enthusiasm like that of a New Year Resolution—cutting out carbs, fat and sugar. You worked out 4 days in a row, but then the headaches started, followed by rapid mood swings, fatigue and digestive issues. Never mind the irritability and brain fog that makes you feel like a zombie. Changing your diet should make you feel energized and happy, not crabby. Your body has basic needs. Ignoring them can compromise your metabolism and your health.
Here are four reasons why your diet fails in the first week. Learn why and avoid these pitfalls:
On the autobahn to Fail Town
If you feel like you’re always hungry it usually means your diet is unbalanced or just plain inadequate. Starving yourself defeats the whole process and will actually cause your body to conserve energy and resist weight loss. Aim to eat foods that promote satiety and keep you fuller longer. Go for lean protein, fiber, and good fats. Get even more volume without racking up calories, by eating water-rich fruits and veggies and airy starches like popcorn and puffed whole grains. There is plenty of food you can pile high on your plate and feel satisfied. For instance, a cup of black bean soup, topped with avocado, 2 cups of asparagus and 1/2 cup of quinoa is 350 calories; the same as a tiny frozen diet dinner.
Resistance is futile
It’s perfectly acceptable and recommended to indulge from time to time. Trying to be perfect will make you feel deprived, resentful, angry and depressed. It may even cause a binge fest, which will derail your progress and make you feel hopeless. Lose the “all or nothing” attitude. Once a week splurge on something that will really satisfy your craving. Take your time. Sit down and enjoy it without guilt. Split a dessert while dining out or buy one cookie from the bakery, instead of an entire box. Keep seemingly indulgent foods that are actually nutrient-rich like dark chocolate and almond butter on hand.
Don’t check out on the weekend!
Unstructured time can leave us bored and nibbling more. Even if your weekend is busy with family gatherings or watching junior’s soccer game, the weekends seem to be a time for checking out on healthy eating. If your trouble is boredom, plan projects with deadlines. Knit a scarf for an upcoming birthday present or check out the endless volunteer opportunities at dosomething.org.
If running from event to event is more your issue, pack lunches and snacks instead of depending on fast food or stadium food. Weekends are also time for reconnecting with friends but studies show friends who eat together eat more than those paired with strangers. We tend to give each other “permission” to overeat. This doesn’t mean you have to be a social outcast, just try scheduling social gatherings around activities that don’t involve food. A special exhibit at the museum, the theater, or something active like a rock climbing wall or paintball. Being mindful on the weekend and when Monday morning rolls around you won’t dread stepping on the scale.
Medicating with food
A study by the University of Wurzburg in Germany showed we may keep eating fatty foods when we’re down and out because we’re less likely to taste the fat in the food. The subjects in the study were given a sample variety of creamy drinks that contained different amounts of fat. Before tasting the drinks, the subjects were shown three different videos. The first one depicted a happy scene, the second, a sad one and the third was neutral. The neutral video had no influence on the subject’s taste buds, but after watching the two emotional clips, the subjects were less able to tell the drinks apart.
Emotions can impact our sensory perceptions of food. Our rational thoughts often fly out the window and distance us from the consequences like plunging into a carton of ice cream. Time to get those in check or you’ll check out of your diet. Frued said, “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth in an uglier way.” It will take some time and patterns will have to change but it is doable.
While some emotional eating issues may require a professional counselor, there are a few things you can try on your own. Place the tempting food on the highest shelf, inside a container. Same plan with the freezer and refrigerator foods. Release the emotions head-on by having a good cry, intensely scrubbing the shower, going for a walk or calling a friend. Each time you replace food with something productive you’ll make significant progress in changing this unhealthy pattern.
Lisa Marie Conlkin is a personal trainer and keeps her stress in check by punching the heavy bag on a regular basis.