LIFE

Eating Healthy: The Major Things Sabotaging Your Good Intentions

According to a health coach.

15/06/2016 8:17 AM AEST | Updated July 15, 2016 12:54
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Why is it so hard?

By now we know that crash diets don't work and that a healthy, sustainable diet lifestyle is key to long-term (and safe) weight loss.

Though despite this revelation, sticking to a healthy eating and exercise plan still proves difficult for many of us.

It's something Nik Toth, personal trainer, nutritionist and founder of The Lean Body Coach sees firsthand.

"I've worked with so many clients who've tried countless diets that they stick to for a week, or maximum two weeks, and then give up because it just becomes too hard," Toth told The Huffington Post Australia.

But it's not simply the restrictive diet plans alone that are setting people up to fail.

According to Toth, there is a combination of factors at play that are sabotaging our collective pursuit of a healthier life.

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Being overwhelmed

"When someone starts a new regime there are usually a lot of changes they need to implement immediately. But once they incorporate these changes they become extremely overwhelmed and it results in them not making any of these changes and in most cases, giving up altogether," Toth said.

Just as we wouldn't start training for a marathon by attempting the full 42 kilometres from the get-go, we shouldn't be drastically shaking up our lives when embarking on our health journey.

"Try changing one or two things each week. By making small changes that you know you can actually achieve, your confidence is going to improve in a way that will help you believe these changes are possible," Toth said.

This is where a workout buddy, coach, nutritionist or personal trainer can help.

"Once you get that confidence up and get into the right mindset of believing you can make positive changes then there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to do it long term," Toth said.

Emotional attachment to food

For decades, we've been conditioned to think certain foods are bad for us. We've discriminated against bread, sworn off fat and sent ourselves down countless guilt-induced rabbit holes all because of a family size block of chocolate.

According to Toth, letting go of this emotional attachment to food is the most significant step in changing our eating habits.

This is because by and large, that family size block of chocolate or the 3pm choc-chip muffin isn't due to our lack of knowledge when it comes to healthy eating.

It's due to us trying to fill a void in our life through food, which isn't helped by the fact that food is a socially accepted way of celebrating or even treating ourselves.

"If you've ever opened a diet book or magazine, you know what to eat and not what to eat to lose weight. The obvious things to avoid are sugar, soda, processed foods and so on. But the reason why we can't stick to it is because we have this attachment to food which comes from underlying emotional problems," Toth said.

Once you identify the trigger, you are no longer on what I call 'auto-pilot' and that's when the real work begins.

Toth advises keeping what she calls an "emotion diary", particularly in the first week of a new health regime so you can work out exactly what triggers these poor food choices.

"When you reach for food whether it's chocolate or a snack, write down exactly what emotion is triggered at that time. Is it boredom? Are you procrastinating? Or perhaps it's love or a cuddle that you're after?" Toth said.

According to Toth, by the end of the week it's extremely likely you'll find a common pattern. And once you know why you are reaching for certain foods, this habit is a whole lot easier to deal with, and put an end to.

"It's usually the same thing each time. Once you identify the trigger, you are no longer on what I call 'auto-pilot' and that's when the real work begins," Toth said.


Negative conditioning

Toth implements the general rule of "no scales" for all of her clients.

"Our weight fluctuates on a daily basis depending on our hormones and the kind of food that we eat. It's no way to live when you have to weigh yourself every day to justify whether you did 'good' or 'bad' the previous day," Toth said.

Instead, Toth encourages her clients to track their progress by taking a picture of themselves in the mirror at the start, and then every two to three weeks. She also advises to go off how their clothes fit and feel.

This is largely due to the important role self-confidence plays in an individual's weight loss journey.

For Toth, each reading of the scales can paint a picture of failure and she believes this can be detrimental to their progress.

"Not believing that you can actually stick to a healthy lifestyle is one of the biggest challenges. This is especially the case if you've 'failed' many times before as a result of crash diets," Toth said.

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