As a nation we tend to look at dieting as a short term strategy to reach our physical goals. MNU Nutritionist Rabin Das gives us a run down on how we can structure our diets for not only that holiday in 2 weeks but also for the long term.
Dieting is hard. Regardless of how people talk about it nowadays, it's not always a fun thing to do.
It tends to involve a massive lifestyle change (even if your already decently healthy and familiar with the process). In the early stages it’s tough to get used to eating less of the things you really enjoy.
It’s difficult to generate that initial kick of motivation that eventually starts the snowball of progress.
With all that in mind, here are FIVE steps to help you better structure your diet for long term success.
1) Give yourself enough damn time!
Dieting is difficult, even at the best of times. We feel that everything around us is working against us to sabotage our efforts.
Years of working with clients has shown that we rarely give ourselves enough time to get to where they want to be, at least in the short term.
The rise of the 6, 8, 10 and 12 week transformation tends to feed this behaviour. We seem to believe that picking one of these approaches will get us to our goal in a single round. Often times though, this is unfortunately not the case.
Giving yourself enough time can help overcome a lot of the bumps in the road that you can encounter. It can also allow you to have a little more flexibility from an ‘enjoyment’ perspective. The charts below simplify this point:
|More time = more opportunity to reach your goals and utilise more methods
As you can see, with a longer time frame it can be a more manageable to get to you goal. With a shorter time frame, success may be dependent on how difficult you want things to be.
If you feel that you have a lot to lose, or that you have a deadline on the horizon, set a suitable and realistic goal within that time-frame and look to achieve that first. Then, re-evaluate and plan the next phase.
2) Create diet 'check points' and 'back offs’
It’s good to set targets over the dieting phase so that you can gauge your progress. This may or may not be a number on the scale. It may be how your clothes fit. It may be how you look in more recent photos.
Whatever the metric that you are following, setting mini-targets to aim for can aid in keeping you motivated and on-track, particularly if you are someone who finds ‘linear’ and ‘long-term’ dieting difficult.
Setting ‘back off’ periods can also prove to be useful as well.
As mentioned, dieting can be tough on you. Allowing a ‘back off’ period can give you a much needed psychological break. If you’ve reached a mini-target for yourself, a period of time away from your current dietary intake may help keep motivation up as well.
So you’re saying take a break from my diet?
For the ‘back off’ phase, you don’t want to go #yolo with all your hard earned dieting gains. You want to take the foot off the pedal just a little.
Aim to eat a ‘maintenance level’ of intake or introduce an extra meal that is still based around sound nutritional principles. The key here is to stay in the zone but not keep the pressure on.
Do this for a week to ten days and then get back to digging.
3) Don’t be afraid of going faster
Sometimes, you may be able to experiment a little with pushing harder than normal to get to your goal when motivation is high.
If this was a long term practice, muscle loss might occur but because high protein intakes are recommended as well as some form of lifting, this shouldn’t happen to any great extent.
If you are structuring things well, you could pick a time frame to push things a little harder and then back off. Getting to your goal earlier can take away the stress of the final few weeks.
This allows you to enjoy things a little more, whether that’s in the lead up to a holiday, physique competition or part of a revenge plan.
If you’re one of those people who can diet ‘well’, this may be a method to try.
4) Don’t entirely ditch the scale
While many voices are championing abandoning the scale entirely, I’m here to preach temperance on the issue.
What do I mean?
While I do feel that we can place too much emphasis and identity on the numbers we see, the scale is useful as a metric of progress.
Regular scale measurement has been shown to contribute to long term weight maintenance. In short, people who lose weight and continue to weigh themselves on a regular basis maintain their new weight for longer.
So how can we develop a better understanding of using the scale?
Scale measurements can fluctuate on a daily basis depending on how much food we eat, fluid intake and menstrual cycle phase (females only, obviously). Some of these factors can mask where our progress truly is.
If you have a poor relationship with ‘the scales’, pick two back-to-back days to weight yourself. Do the same each week so that you get a better picture of what’s happening.
If you don’t have any concerns over the scale, opt for a daily morning weigh in. This will give a greater idea of what daily fluctuations look like and why they might be happening.
5) Have an ‘exit strategy’
So what is an 'exit strategy'? In simple terms, it’s what you do after you get to your goal. The ‘exit strategy’ might be the most important part of dieting and it's often why so many fail.
The reason for most people regaining weight after successfully losing it lies in not knowing what to do afterwards. ‘Exit strategies’ gives you freedom with some restriction. An open field with a perimeter.
An ‘exit strategy’ could look like an indefinite ‘back off’ phase.
You’ll practice good eating habits, keep up things like increased protein intake, nutrient dense whole food sources for the most part but factor in having a life as well.
You’ll check in with yourself from time to time too. This ensures that you’re not allowing yourself to 'fall off the wagon' and lose all your hard earned ground.
Of super importance here is staying as active as possible. Get out each day - walk, run, go to the gym, play around and be mindful.
There you have it. Five ways to help your structure your diet for long term success and ‘long term living’.
Let us know if you’ve found this helpful for your nutrition journey!
Rabin Das is an MNU Certified Nutritionist and holds an MSc in nutrition and metabolism. Passionate about all things nutrition related, he hopes to make a difference with the spread of honest, trustworthy and actionable nutrition information. Check him out on Instagram or at dasnutritionconsultancy.com