Each New Year many of us resolve to do something about our weight. And many of us, looking for a quick fix, will be seduced by the promises of innumerable diets from cleanses to juicing and cutting out major food groups. Most of these faddy diets are entirely unsustainable for anything longer than a few days. And so, lots of those who embark on a diet, will stumble or go off-track within a short period quickly slipping back to their old habits.
For anyone serious about losing weight this year and keeping it off, whether it's a few pounds after Christmas excess or several stone, the key is to follow a plan that is sustainable and that doesn't require deprivation or going hungry. By making small tweaks and changes to the way that you shop, cook and eat and choosing foods that help fill you up and stay satisfied you'll be more likely to stick with your new eating plan.
When you're trying to lose weight it's inevitable that, on occasion, life will get in the way. Whatever weight loss plan you choose to follow it's increasingly clear that learning to be kind to yourself when you have a lapse is critical to how successful you'll be with your weight loss. How you respond emotionally to going off-track can dictate whether you recover and stick with your plan or whether the lapse will lead to you giving up completely.
Our research among Slimming World members shows that slimmers are often very hard on themselves after a lapse and, far from being motivating, this can actually knock their confidence even further.
After going off-track on a past diet, many slimmers say that they felt 'weak', 'a failure', and even 'disgusting' or 'stupid', with only a small proportion seeing themselves as 'human' or 'determined'. Yet, while slimmers are often critical of themselves in this way after a lapse, very few of us are similarly harsh with someone else in a similar position, which suggests that we know deep down that it just isn't helpful.
Recognising that slimmers have psychological and emotional needs is essential in responsible weight management, as is developing an understanding that when slimmers are self-critical after a lapse it has a detrimental impact on weight loss and on slimmers' resolve to continue on their weight loss journey. In response to negative feelings after going off-track on a past diet, many slimmers turn to food for comfort or give up completely.
We know that slimmers who learn how to reduce how critical they are of themselves when things go wrong and learn to be more self-reassuring and kinder to themselves, are more likely to stick to their weight loss campaign. Those slimmers who see themselves as 'human' and 'determined' rather than 'weak' and like 'a failure', rather than taking comfort in food, tend to get straight back to making healthier choices and succeed in losing weight and keeping it off.
It's clear that humiliation, criticism and stigmatisation are counter-productive to weight loss success and that to succeed in the long term you need to have compassionate support and understanding of others as well as learning to treat yourself as you would a best friend, in a way that's encouraging, supportive and without blame. Learning self-kindness and self-reassurance is the key to losing weight and keeping it off.
Here are eight tips to help you be kinder to yourself and succeed on your weight loss journey.
1.Eat satisfying, filling foods. Lots of us have emotional relationships with food, we eat when we're happy, when we're sad, when we're angry. Losing weight and eating healthily shouldn't mean having to give up the foods you love or feeling deprived, hungry or guilty. By finding a healthy eating plan that enables you to enjoy your favourite meals and satisfy your appetite whether that's a big breakfast, a spicy curry or a hearty cottage pie, you'll be able to indulge in comfort food to your heart's desire, without feeling an ounce of guilt!
2. Start afresh. If previous weight-loss attempts haven't been successful, stop beating yourself up for it. Reframe your experience - you didn't fail, it was the diets you tried that failed you, perhaps because they were too restrictive to keep up for long or lacked support along the way. When things do take you off-track, it's important to learn to be mindful. That's about understanding how to focus on the here and now, and making the most of the present moment, rather than being distracted by negative emotions or beating yourself about past mistakes.
3. Be aware. Learn to calm your inner self-critic. Be aware of how you respond to your behaviour and when you are self-critical the damage it can do and learn to develop self-soothing techniques.
4. Be your own best friend. Learn to treat yourself as you would a best friend, in a way that's encouraging, supportive and without blame. Remind yourself of the things that you have already achieved and remind yourself that one bad day doesn't mean that you've blown everything.
5. Be kind to yourself. Change the way you talk to and about yourself. Learning to be self-reassuring and reduce how critical you are of yourself will mean that you are much more likely to get back on track after a lapse.
6. Make a positive move. Exercise endorphins are a great way to improve your mood and, when you feel more positive, you'll find it much easier to see yourself in a positive light. Plus, research shows that getting active not only boosts your weight loss it helps you stick to your new healthy behaviour. Start small and increase the amount you do each day.
7. Make time for yourself. As well as being kind to yourself, give yourself time. There is good evidence to show that getting a good night's rest and plenty of sleep helps with successful weight loss.
8. Peer support not peer pressure. To give yourself the best chance of success, choose a healthy eating plan that is realistic and sustainable and get inspirational and motivational support to help you to stay on track. Slimming World's survey showed that a whopping 98% of people questioned had experienced a lapse when trying to lose weight. By sharing problems and solutions with other people, you'll realise you're really not alone and you have a network of like-minded people who really understand and care about your experiences to help pick you back up when things go wrong.
Jacquie Lavin, PhD, RNutr, Head of Nutrition and Research at Slimming World