Why you Aren’t Sticking to Your Eating Plan!May 04, 2022
By: Tedi Nikova, MPH, RD
Edited By: Brianna Bavota, RD
The most common phrase I hear as a Registered Dietitian is, “I know what to eat.. but why can’t I stick to it!” Most of our clients entering the Best Weight Program have extensive knowledge on WHAT to eat, however, they seek our guidance on WHY they are choosing food options that are not aligned with their health goals! It’s this implementation issue they are struggling with.
I want to share the top 3 mistakes that may be detouring you from sticking to your eating plan long term.
You are going ALL IN!
Are you ALL IN when you start a new program or eating plan? If so, I encourage you to keep reading! This “all in” mentality is most likely driven by your past experiences in commercial diet programs. You may have been given a set of rules to follow at the beginning of the program, and expected to follow these rules right away, and if you didn’t … well you might have been given the guilt trip!
This mentality is often lead by feelings of failure, guilt, shame, regret when things don’t go as planned. One thing I see with my patients who go “all in” is they are successful at sticking to changes in the beginning until they aren’t – until life throws curve balls, gets too busy, or the plan gets too hard to follow. This leads to unsustainable changes in your eating.
The problem with this thinking, is it can lead to these up and down cycles in your weight, and often the “all in” choices that you are making are not quite sustainable to follow for the rest of your life.
So, here’s what you can do to ditch the ALL IN mentality to help support long term weight loss ...
Start slow and steady when implementing a new eating pattern. For example, start by focusing on 1 meal, let’s say breakfast. Focus on building 3-5 balanced breakfast ideas that you enjoy, but also support your health goals. Starting with realistic changes in your eating plan will allow you to set the foundation for a sustainable eating regime that you can maintain long into the future. You know what they say … slow and steady wins the race!
When making any changes to your eating plan, ask yourself, “is this a change that I can sustain for the rest of my life?”, this shifts the focus on what the ‘right foods’ for weight loss are, too, “‘what will I be able to sustain”. This mindset shift will allow you to set realistic goals that are sustainable for you!
Focusing too much on the scale to define success
When you start a new eating plan, is the scale the first thing that you check to confirm if the eating plan is working for you?
Seeing no weight loss often leads to thoughts such as, “this is not happening fast enough”, or “this eating plan is just not working!”. This thinking will then start the vicious cycle of negative feelings, leading to negative actions and results, ultimately getting you further away from your desired outcome. When you are too focused on the number, you cloud all the other progress you are making or have made.
Let me tell you something … the scale does not define your success, especially at the beginning of your weight loss journey; sustainable fat loss is slow. Seeing rapid drops in weight on the scale may be an expectation that you are holding onto from previous fad diets. Sometimes those quick drops of weight at the beginning of restrictive diets is a result of losses in water weight.
The number on the scale is only one of many measures of successful weight loss. You can try to focus on other non-scale measure of success such as the way your clothing is fitting, energy levels, health metrics, progress pictures, improvements in daily tasks, the way you feel, etc. You can also challenge yourself to not use the scale for the first month or two of your weight loss journey, rather focus on forming consistent healthy habits.
Failing to catch your patterns
Can you recognize any patterns that might be hindering your weight loss success? Maybe its skipping meals, eating while watching tv, pouring yourself a glass of wine after a long workday or maybe it’s snacking on some crackers while making dinner. Naturally, because we are all human, we develop these learned behaviours and patterns that may lead us to derail from what will serve us.
To adjust your eating plan permanently, you first need to notice these patterns, including any emotional drivers (ie. eating when bored), and physical drivers (ie. under eating during the day), and have a plan to break these patterns.
The first step in breaking a learned behaviour is to gain awareness of the behaviour. Consider the two steps below:
1.Map out your High-Risk Times (HRTs) of day. Answer the following questions. Are you eating when you are not physically hungry or overeating past the point of physical fullness? Are there specific times you snack? Do you find yourself de-stressing with food? Be specific.. what time of day is this, who are you with, what are you doing currently?
For instance, your HRT may be at 9 pm while watching TV with your family, where you choose popcorn and wine as a snack, when you are not physically hungry.
2.What are your triggers. What are the emotional and/or physical triggers to overeat at your HRT? For example, a physical trigger can be watching TV, or seeing your family members eating snacks. An emotional trigger may be boredom, or stress!
In our Best Weight Program, we work with our clients through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques to re-frame their thoughts, and behaviours during their HRTs. There is no one size fits all approach to break a learned behaviour, as your eating behaviours will be unique to you!
The main driver that may be pushing you away in consistently sticking to your eating plan is what you may be focusing on and slipping into patterns that are not serving you. Putting your focus on an eating plan that you can sustain forever, will help you make lasting changes and be successful in your weight loss journey.