Extreme Dieting vs. Healthy Habits

Have you guys been following the news on the weight regain of The Biggest Loser contestants this week? None of it surprises me. Most often when we see people lose huge amounts of weight very quickly, we also see them gradually regain that weight over time. This link talks more about the contestants and  the reasons why this is happening. News flash: extreme dieting leads to metabolic damage and slow down and interferes with our hunger signals. Crash diets and simply slashing calories: they might work in the short term, but they’re not the answer and if anything they’re setting us up for failure.

Moderation isn’t sexy. Healthy habits: not sexy. You know what though, they work.

I would much rather teach my ladies how to incorporate healthy habits and moderation into their lifestyle and watch them thrive and reach their goals over time, than serve them an unmanageable meal plan of egg whites and chicken breasts and steamed broccoli. Of course a calorie deficit is a part of weight loss, but a strict ‘plan’ doesn’t teach us how to manage our hunger, energy and emotions and it doesn’t empower us as grown women to make the right choices for our own bodies.

This week in my newsletter I was chatting with my ladies about habits. I shared with them my number one not-so-healthy-habit. If you want the gossip, you’ll have to sign up for my newsletter here. Today I want to talk about an approach for managing our less than stellar habits. That could be anything from: stopping at the coffee shop on the way to work in the morning for a muffin, mindless snacking on candy in the afternoon to night-time eating once the kids are in bed. Instead of just saying I’m going to cut habit X, let’s bring some awareness to it.

Let’s take a habit, like night time eating as an example. Habits have a cue, a routine and a reward (We can thank the researchers at MIT for that snazzy little framework). Becoming aware of them is key in managing our habits. Let me dig a little deeper.

In the big scheme of things is having a snack at night the end of the world? No. Should you never eat a night-time snack again? That’s a bit of a joke, right?! While having the occasional night-time snack shouldn’t cause us guilt, it’s important to recognize that most of the time it’s more about habit and craving than actual hunger.

The routine here is snooping around in the kitchen cupboards and in the fridge looking for a satisfying snack. The reward is enjoying anything from fruit to ice cream or chips. The reward is pretty powerful because it squashes the nagging craving. Exploring the cue that sets the wheels in motion is probably the most important step. For a habit like night-time eating the cue could be relaxation, an end to our obligations for the day or the flick of the TV power button. Whatever the cue is, it sets us into auto-pilot: snack-time.

What to do? Substituting the reward can be an effective solution and then checking back in with our cravings in a few minutes. Some examples for this particular situation: hot shower, cup of tea, read a book, conversation with the husband or a friend. Many times, if we substitute the reward and check back in we’ll find that it truly was just ritual and craving. If we check back in with ourselves in 15 -20 minutes and we’re still feeling the same way that’s fine too. I’m not asking you to get rid of the habits cold turkey. The point here is the awareness piece vs. just mindlessly engaging in a habit that’s not so beneficial.

I’d love to hear if you could you see yourself applying mindfulness of this cue, routine reward loop to a habit in your own life? Send me a quick note to let me know!

Xo Justine

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