First article – When Treats Turn into a Daily Indulgence

Second article in a series on Rebooting Your Way of Eating

Good health is not something that happens naturally. It is something that needs to be thought through and planned, like saving for retirement or preparing for a holiday, even though planning a healthy lifestyle is not the easiest of the three! However, as in most things, failure to plan means planning to fail. Find what works for you and remember the plan you create needs to suit you and your style, but don’t expect health to happen.

Having a research background, my personal planning model loosely follows an Action Research style.  In short, Action Research is a cyclical process that seeks improvement through informed and incremental change.

My dietary/health plan is characterised by five clear stages:

  1. Consider what action needs to be taken through reflection and research;
  2. Implement a plan through taking action;
  3. Collect and track data on the actions being taken;
  4. After a period of time review the results gained from your actions;
  5. Identify opportunities for improvement or consider when additional management is required.

A very academic exercise you may think, but by writing down the actions you intend to take is the first step toward achieving them! Writing is also reflective and helps you understand what you want. Or what you may need! For me, at this time, I have cycled back around to step 5 – the “management phase” -with the aim of getting back on track with my dietary goals.

No matter your eating style, picking up bad habits and collecting a series of unhealthy ways of eating along the way, is something that happens to everyone at some stage. But if you have a strategy to get back on track, there’s no problem.

Having been away on a trip recently I noticed that I was starting to deviate from my normal way of eating and diet creep was evident, with a few bad habits beginning to take hold. The back story is here.

My own personal spin on eating is somewhere between a low-carb /intermittent fasting /portion control approach – in a mindful way. But there is no need for labels!  After the maintenance period, and you are back on track, you can resume a guilt free, non-obsessive way of eating. Then you can reintroduce certain foods to have a more varied diet. But when in maintenance mode, you do need to be strict and disciplined.

The time period I allow for a reset is generally 14 days with the aim of getting back to my core way of eating after that time. The loosing of 2 or 3 kilos is a benefit of the reset but NOT the purpose. It is important that this is not regarded as a crash diet plan! Yes well it is a diet of sorts, but it should be treated as a part of your overall plan for maintaining a healthy diet using the readjustment to get back on course.  When completed you can get back to practicing your way of eating by using the fundamental principles of mindful eating and being non-obsessive.

So what’s the reset maintenance plan?  The first thing to do is plan for the right time to undertake a reset. You do not want to do this when under stress and should not be done through feelings of guilt. It is just a normal part of a healthy lifestyle – you note change is needed and so you take action to enable the change take place. It’s a positive process, not a negative one.

Secondly, you need to carry out the process in an environment that supports your goals. Let others around you know what you are doing. Ensure it’s at an appropriate time to do this. It may sound a no brainer but at home is best and not something undertaken when business trips or holidays are planned. You need to be comfortable in a place where it is easy to install the routines you will be following.

Third, is to essentially decide on the basic changes you intend to make during the maintenance period.  What food changes will you introduce? Will you start or ramp up your exercise? How will you handle the inevitable temptations?  How exactly are you going to put this into action? Remember to strive for excellence, not perfection!

The final act is the collection and tracking of your data so that you can celebrate success at the end of this time. Initially get your baseline data, weight and measurements. As you go, keep track of how you feel, your daily food choices, eating times, exercise taken, liquids consumed and a note of your “outputs” (toilet habits!) with a diary.

But more on putting this action plan into practice next time.