5 things you never knew could sabotage your health goals
It’s all about food right? Not quite… There are many other factors to consider if you would really like to take charge of your eating habits. Many of these factors might seem odd until we take a closer look.
We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare… However, in this age of immediacy, we seem to always need results yesterday!
There are many approaches out there that can provide accelerated results and, depending on your goal this might be the right way to go initially. The one thing to consider, though, is whether you want the results to last a lifetime or just briefly.
For example, methods for losing weight fast typically have two disadvantages when it comes to long term sustainability:
1. Such methods typically help you achieve your goal by getting rid of muscle, water and some fat. The muscle loss leads to lower metabolism and, therefore, means sooner rather than later, the same amount of food that was fine for maintaining your weight previously, is now too much and has you putting weight on again!
2. Another disadvantage is that such methods tend to rely on will power to cut out whole food types or very low-calorie intake. Will power is difficult to sustain for very long periods. Also, because the process has been very fast, no new habits have been formed, therefore, you return to previous habits very quickly (but put on even more weight because you now have a lower metabolism – see above).
The root of yo-yo dieting is impatience. The advice I tend to give clients is that, for long term results, we need to give the body (and mind) a chance to become accustomed to a new way of doing things – we need to provide enough time to develop habits that stick.
Have you ever tried to fight food cravings when you're tired? If so, you will already know how incessant and nagging such cravings can be. There are several reasons for this:
1. Hunger hormones – Ghrelin and Leptin regulate your hunger. Ghrelin makes you hungry, Leptin signals that you're full. When you're sleep deprived, the body generates more Ghrelin and less Leptin – so you feel like you're starving and, of course, eat more.
2. Research has shown that sleep deprivation impacts our choice of food with a tendency to go for higher calorie options. When sleep-deprived, our ability to make good decisions is adversely impacted. Therefore, any self-control around food is compromised.
3. Research also shows that portion sizes and frequency of eating increases the longer we stay awake for.
4. Sleep deprivation can result in muscle loss which, in turn, lowers the metabolism. So, you burn fewer calories than if you regularly got good sleep.
If you want to manage hunger and cravings, a good place to start is in your bed getting your ZZ’s.
Whether you say you can or you say you can’t – you are right.
Sometimes we might long for a goal consciously, however, our subconscious continues to sabotage our overt efforts – usually by keeping us wedded to old habits that are not serving us.
If there is a part of you that believes the health and vitality you used to have is really beyond your reach, then you will act as if it remains beyond your reach and bring the thinking to bear in real life.
A key area of support many people require in order to achieve their goals is a change in subconscious messaging. This has less to do with what you eat but why you eat. Understanding the inner workings of your mind and changing patterns that are not serving you requires significant attention and sustained effort. A good place to start might be exploring mindfulness or meditation – either on your own or, with the help of a coach.
Friends and family
Sometimes our friends and family can be our worst enemies when we decide to do something different. Especially if the difference we are choosing has an impact on their life or their expectations from us.
It is normal to have spouses say, “You're fine the way you are” – when what they really mean is “I know the foods I like, and I do not feel like exploring anything new thanks!”
Or family members who always organise events around food and take offence if you don’t sample every single dish in large portions. Or children who say “Eww” when you suggest fish instead of a burger.
It can be draining, trying to stick to your resolve when everyone around you seems to be going in the opposite direction.
At times like this, having a support group or an accountability partner can make a big difference. This provides an outlet for you to share your concerns, compare notes and get tips about how to manage your eating without necessarily offending all of your social circle.
Of course we need goals – don’t we? Well… Yes and no.
Goals are necessary, however, in many cases, they are not underpinned by a clear problem. When I am not clear about why I want to achieve a goal, it's all too easy to let the effort slip as soon as things get tough.
Saying “I'd like to lose 10kg in 10 weeks” sounds like a smart goal. However, without identifying the real problem/reason/benefit behind the decision to lose weight, it's very likely you will get distracted; and 10 weeks later you'll be saying: "Well, that did not work!" The missing link is the problem/benefit.
If, on the other hand, you had a specific problem – "I can no longer climb the stairs without wheezing" or "My doctor said I am pre-diabetic" – the solution might result in the same process i.e. losing 10kg. However, the motivation to stay on course would be much stronger, as you can remind yourself of a clear benefit when you waver.
It is our consistent, small habits that define the result we achieve, not necessarily the “go hard” once in a while grand gesture.
Making a 1% change consistently daily will result in more than 37 times better by the end of the year. By contrast, 10% improvement once a month for a year will result in three times what we started with.
I know which I prefer…