While a popular saying says it takes 21 days to form a habit, the reality is that when it comes to overhauling your diet or implementing a new diet, slow and steady wins the day. race. Indeed, as with any lifestyle goal, the old adage “patience is a virtue” is far more applicable.
Research studies have long investigated the role that psychologically banning certain foods from your diet can have; a study showed that participants who abstained from their favorite snack ended up consuming 133% more food when given the opportunity 24 hours later. Although we know that the ban usually backfires on us (remember, prohibition?), food choices are also intrinsically linked to impulsiveness, anxiety, social pressure, Incomeand a myriad of other influencesall of which can present barriers when adapting to dietary changes.
Slow and steady
Challenges aside, if there’s one thing experts in all fields agree on, it’s that for a diet to work long-term, it must first and foremost be as sustainable as possible – to you. Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University, and author of Why diets fail: because you’re addicted to sugarsays it’s imperative to start slowly, just as you would approach an ambitious training plan.
“Most people have an extreme mindset and they want quick results. The best way to overhaul your diet is to start one day at a time and change one habit at a time,” Avena said. “It not only makes it easier to form new habits, but also gives your body time to adjust to a new diet.”
“Making small changes over a longer period of time will avoid uncomfortable feelings towards changes in food and diet,” she added, recommending that people present any changes in a positive light. “Have the mindset to add, not take away. By adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, for example, instead of setting a strict ‘no sweets’ limit, you create a mindset conducive to success.”
The new diet rules
Avena says consistency is key, but so is variety. “Have a routine and change your diet often,” she said. “A lot of people tend to eat the same foods every day, thinking that’s the only way to reach a goal, but it really makes things more difficult and limits your micronutrient intake. Having a routine can also be beneficial for your intake and digestion, as well as a multivitamin.
To stay on track, she advises preparing meals around your goals and taking it easy if you’re fluctuating on the scale. One thing she doesn’t respect, however, is a reward-based system that treats certain foods as treats. “In terms of rewarding with food, it creates a bad relationship with food and labels things as good or bad. I think rewards in general are a great motivator when implemented correctly. Instead of rewarding with a “cheat meal” or dessert, enjoying a day out with friends, a trip to a local park to read, or doing something you love will keep you motivated. that and stay on track.
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Andrea Marcelluslife coach, fitness expert and author of a self-help book, Way access, agrees that daily rewards not related to food and feeling accomplished by reaching a goal help release dopamine in our brains and thus ease the transition. She advises that for any dietary approach to be achievable and sustainable, it must resonate with the way you already eat. Think: tweak and optimize what you’re currently doing, rather than sticking to a whole new diet and sticking to the meal times you know.
Marcellus also says it’s important to be mentally present and engaged while you eat. “The nerves in our jaw signal relaxation when we chew, so it’s important to eat at the table, or even standing at the counter, and not in front of the TV or while you’re working. When we don’t focus on the act of eating, but instead use it as an accompaniment to another task, it’s more of a calming behavior than fueling and nourishing our bodies, which makes it harder to avoid overeating.
Good news for athletes – who tend to be goal-oriented by nature – another thing Marcellus finds helpful is knowing what their motivation is. “People who know the big ‘why’ behind their goal are most successful,” she said. “It’s a matter of purpose.” She advises using an app, like her own AND/life app, to log small daily goals around things like standing, hydration, eating strategy and exercise, so you can track your progress. “It continually fuels your sense of accomplishment and helps turn those beneficial choices into habits,” she said.
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Too many pitfalls, too soon
Jessica Rangel is an endurance coach at Lifetime in Warrenville, Illinois, and one of the best triathletes and graduates of the age group (she has competed in two Ironmans and several Boston Marathons). Rangel says that for athletes looking to implement change, consulting a dietitian or nutritionist is the first step, because there is no one-size-fits-all diet.
“Switching from one meal plan to another too often doesn’t give your body time to adjust to the changes. Just like finishing a triathlon, if someone changes their plans too quickly and doesn’t train properly, it will show in their performance.
“Never try anything new on race day,” she added, echoing a common refrain that again links diet changes to training changes. “Nutrition should be practiced, changed and adapted during training, not on race day. Making a major diet change days before a race, or even weeks before a long-distance race, can have drastic effects on your health and athletic performance, leading to dehydration, cramps, bloating, gastrointestinal upset and fatigue.
Like Avena and Marcellus, Rangel says that letting go of the traditional “equal diet scarcity” mentality will set you up for success. “I often replace the word ‘diet’ with ‘lifestyle,'” she says. , it integrates mind, body and spirit, all of which must be in sync to progress. ”
“A sustainable lifestyle change is one in which an athlete balances their training with their nutrition. I like the motto “Eat to fuel your training, don’t train to fuel your diet”. By maintaining your blood sugar level throughout work, life and training, you will feel more energized and the body will respond better. This will result in improved physical performance, better sleep and improved mood.
The brain/food relationship
Despite our best intentions, these experts are well aware that our complex relationships with food can be emotionally charged. After all, Avena literally wrote the book on food addiction.
“The worst thing is when someone starts a new diet/lifestyle and starts to hate their relationship with food,” she said. “One can also begin to experience extreme hormonal changes, such as being ‘hungry’ during extreme dieting. This can affect relationships with family and friends, leading to more mental health issues and stress. It is also very common to develop body dysmorphia when extreme dieting.
Avena warns against letting your body become emotionally attached to highly addictive compounds, like salt and sugar. “These ingredients are found in many processed foods and are very palatable or irresistible, causing our brains to think we want more even if we’re stuffed. But someone can be addicted to any type of food, even if it is not high in sugar or sodium Food can support emotional connections and feelings of safety Our brains like to feel comfortable and at peace, which is why some have emotional ties and addictions to certain foods.
Beyond the physiological effect, Rangel offers some advice on what athletes should be aware of when trying a new eating style. If you constantly feel tired, hungry, thirsty, achy and have heart palpitations, these are all signs that maybe too many diet changes have been made at once,” she said. Just as extreme soreness, fatigue, and even injury can accompany a workout plan that goes too fast, too fast.
Avena concludes that a healthy relationship with healthy eating should be seen as the ultimate investment in yourself. “Food is not the enemy, and we need it to live a happy and healthy life,” she said, adding that the change might even be imperceptible, but like improvements in fitness on a short period. “Making time for yourself every day and staying positive, even if you don’t see any change, can make habits stick. Think of changing your diet as an act of self-care and reward yourself for putting yourself first. Positivity makes the whole process of building a new lifestyle easier. ”
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