Over my lifetime, I’ve been on quite a few diets. Okay, a lot of diets. And sometimes, they just work. Like now – after a month I'd lost nearly a stone in a month and it really hasn’t been hard. But there have been other times that they just don’t click. Like last year – and this was a big reason why I took a break from the WAMK team. It felt like every week I was making an excuse for gaining weight or not losing and I couldn’t think of any content for the blog because, honestly, I wasn’t dieting well or properly. So what’s changed?
Mindset and Motivation.
It’s not really a secret that the key to a successful diet is about motivation, and I’ve actually been getting quite a few queries lately about my motivation so I thought I’d share them here.
1. When you start a diet, try and do a month without breaking it once, even for little treats.
It’s my theory that it takes 3-4 weeks to get properly ‘in the zone’. If you start a diet and then in week 2, have a friend’s birthday dinner, chances are you’ll end up having what you fancy, rather than what’s diet friendly. It’s important to get the ground rules of your diet straight first of all, and then you can add in the occasional day off. That’s why January is amazing for starting diets, because most of us don’t really go out in January.
2. Be totally honest with yourself.
I work in a social office and we are often handing around boxes of chocolates or big bags of crisps. The other day there was a box of maltesers open, and although a single malteser is only 11 calories, I know full well that I can’t have a single malteser. So I had none, because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop if I started. Other people, though, have more willpower. And in these situations, I have another tip…
3. Allocate for diet-friendly treats within your allowance and then you won’t crave the worse versions.
On Weight Watchers, you can have anything as long as it’s within your points for the day. 1 finger of Kitkat, for instance, is 1 point, and a bag of Skips or Space Raiders are 2 points. So if I want crisps or chocolate, I can have it. It means that I haven’t been craving giant bars of Dairy Milk or any other crisps, because I’m still having them most days. And because I’m having chocolate as my sweet treat after lunch, I’m not even getting to the craving stage with it. Which means that I’m normally fine with 1 finger of Kitkat and saving the rest for the next day. I know, it surprised me too! But because I knew that I could have the other finger if I wanted, I felt less cravey about it.
4. Eyes on the prize.
Honestly, I want to lose weight because I’ve gained a lot recently and I feel rubbish. It’s not just for one day, and I am focusing on that most of all. But I think a goal really helps, and for me it’s my best friend’s wedding in October, at which I’ll be a bridesmaid. I want to feel nice in the pictures and I want to be wearing a size 12 dress. And honestly, I want that more than I want a Burger King.
5. Variety, variety, variety.
Being on a diet does NOT mean that you have to eat salad for lunch and grilled chicken every night for dinner. I normally have soup for lunch as it’s low and filling (and there are a ton of different flavours - and that's not even thinking about making it myself!) and then for dinner I experiment with recipes. I’m doing loads of cooking at the moment in bulk form and then freezing portions which keeps me going for the next few days. It also means I don’t have to cook every day! This is really working for me. I am genuinely getting excited about finding recipes that are WW friendly and making little tweaks. Tonight I’m going to try and caramelise leeks! I AM EXCITED.
6. Track what you eat.
Just being aware of what you eat every day makes an enormous difference. If I wasn’t tracking, I probably wouldn’t count the odd biscuit or I’d estimate roughly how much my lunch was, and assume it was fine – but you know what, now I AM tracking I am realising that a lot of the lunch options I thought were fine are not! I also snacked a lot more than I realised. And that’s making all the difference.
7. Don’t let yourself run out of food.
Let’s face it, most of us are on diets because we love food and we love to eat. But in the past, I tend to slip on diets when I don’t have any food in the house or don’t have any snacks in my desk drawer - I want something and it's whatever's on hand. Now my desk is full of WW friendly snacks (Kitkats, Skips and Space Raiders – god, I love Poundland!) and I know that if I get snackish, I can have a low point treat and feel sated. Also, I’m eating a LOT of fruit.
8. Diet buddies.
My best friend and I are doing WW together so we’re constantly texting or emailing or tweeting each other with recipes and ideas, and when we’re together we are talking about points pretty much all the time. We’re spending our weekends experimenting with WW recipes and eating a lot of crudités. It's a bit sad, but it's helping! Because having someone to talk about all that with really helps! It makes you feel less silly about it. Also, my colleagues are all on the healthy eating wagon. While we were buying junk food in December, now we are all supporting each other by thinking healthy. We’ve even started a team fruit bowl where we take it in turns to buy £10 worth of fruit every week, meaning that if any of us crave something sweet, there’s a healthy option available.
9. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.
This is where I slipped up last year. I would try and diet in the week, but then at the weekend would have a dinner or a party or something and think of it as an evening off the diet and have exactly what I fancied – we’re talking chips with mayo, deep fried halloumi, burgers… it’s little wonder I wasn’t losing weight consistently! If you are serious about losing weight then you need to be serious about what you’re eating all the time, and when you think about the fact that a burger and chips at some restaurants could be in the region of 1000 calories, and a bottle of wine is 500 or 600 calories… and that’s after eating breakfast and lunch… yeah. Makes more sense now, doesn’t it? You can still have those things, but you just need to make good choices. Have the wine but have something for dinner that you know isn’t too bad. Or have the burger, not the chips. Try not to think of it as ‘having a break from the diet’ and keep accounting for everything you eat. In my first two weeks of Weight Watchers, I had Pizza Express, Nandos and Wagamamas and still managed to lose, because I was tracking everything and also making up for what I was eating elsewhere in the day. That’s what’s working. When you start writing meals off, you’ll start losing track of what you’re eating.
10. Find the diet that’s right for you.
I’ve tried almost all of the big ones: Jenny Craig, Slimming World, Rosemary Conley and the only one that worked consistently was Rosemary Conley. But honestly I feel much happier doing Weight Watchers because it suits my lifestyle. It states very clearly clear that a little of what you fancy does you good, and I can still have crisps, chocolate and cheese – all the Cs! I found SW too complicated, and JC and RC too restrictive. I’m not saying WW will work for everyone but I’ve seen results so quickly, I feel pretty confident that I’ll keep seeing results as long as I stick to it. And I’m really not finding it hard to stick to. In the past, when on diets, I’ve been proud of myself for going to bed hungry – I never do that now, and to be honest, I really shouldn’t. If a diet is right for you, it shouldn’t be difficult.
My last tip is that sometimes it’s just not the right time for dieting. I ended up taking the decision to take most of last year off dieting because I was struggling so much, and every weekend brought another temptation – parties, weddings, holidays, etc. I managed to lose a bit of weight before my birthday in the summer and then just started eating again and didn’t stop until January. Not the healthiest plan, really, but I needed to get it out my system. By the time January rolled around, I was so ready to eat healthily again! So, er, maybe I wouldn't recommend a year of bingeing, but I’m a firm believer in giving yourself a last hurrah before embarking on a new diet. You have to WANT it. If you want to lose weight, you need to do it by yourself – all diet plans and diet classes give you is support and advice. You’re the one making the changes.