Monday 24 October 2016

Doctor's orders: Get the healthy habit, and it is easier over time

Two weeks gone, and if you are struggling, don't worry, there's plenty of time left in our 'slimmer for summer' project.

Ciara Kelly

Published 27/04/2015 | 02:30

Healthy eating: stick to the plan and make sure you enjoy your food
Healthy eating: stick to the plan and make sure you enjoy your food

Week two of our Sunday Independent 'slimmer for summer' project will have separated the men from the boys. Some of you will be on track going strong and finding things are getting easier, whereas some of you will have slipped and slipped badly, and now feel that the thing you wanted so much two weeks ago - to lose weight, slim down and get fitter for summer - is now a mere pipe dream, and there are parts of the paper you're skipping past as they're making you feel guilty.

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The good news is we're sticking with our plan for eight weeks, so even if the first two weeks haven't gone well, that still leaves you with a full six weeks from now to get back on track. In six weeks, it's very possible to lose a stone and drop a dress size; so even if you haven't been doing well up till now, you just need to refocus and realise that even though you got off to a bad start, that doesn't mean all is lost. There are tortoises and there are hares when it comes to weight loss, and once you're moving in the right direction and once you keep going, you will get there in the end.

Weight-loss and healthy living is a matter of habit. The more you regularly repeat something , the easier it gets. You can't build habits out of fad diets - they're unsustainable - that is why they are always doomed to fail. You can only build habits out of something that it's possible to maintain over time.

That doesn't mean healthy choices are easy to make. They're not - especially in the beginning - but when you do establish them, they become your new normal and then they do become, if not exactly easy, then definitely easier. You don't question them, you just go with it. In fact, once you have established healthy habits, doing unhealthy stuff becomes difficult. So if you're used to eating only low-fat food and going for regular walks, then eating fish and chips and sitting watching TV all day becomes the difficult thing.

It takes about three weeks to make or break a habit. So the great news for those of you who have been sticking with your plan for the past two weeks is, in another week this'll all become second nature to you. And for those of you who've been struggling, come on! In three short weeks you can break the habit of a lifetime and get yourself past the choppy waters of fighting constant temptation, into the plain sailing of being one of those people who simply don't eat crap. Three weeks is all it takes, and in the greater scheme of things, that is nothing.

To break bad habits, you simply have to say no to cake, coke, crisps, chocolate or whatever your particular weakness is - this time. Don't worry about next time, that will take care of itself. But resist this time and next time will be easier, I promise you.

To form good habits make a plan at the start of each day of what you will be eating. Plan it. Look forward to eating it. And savour it. Enjoy your food! One of the things people who've an unhealthy relationship with food do is they don't enjoy it. They feel guilty when they eat and they bolt their food, failing to actually take any pleasure in it. Don't do that. Eating tasty food, is one of life's great pleasures - don't let anyone tell you any different.

But make sure you're sticking to the plan you made that morning. Don't allow yourself to sneak in extra calories by bumping up portion sizes or throwing in extra snacks where no snacks should be. It's motivation that gets you started, but it's habit that keeps you going. Keep it up - week three is the turning point.


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