Should I get my own cone or split an ice cream sandwich with my husband? Wasn’t kicking sugar one of my New Year resolutions? Look at that happy elderly woman eating that huge cone of rocky road. Maybe that’s the key to longevity.
So many of us go through these scripts over something as simple as a snack. Does eating always have to be so involved? Luckily, no. Here are six expert tips on managing the mind so you can manage your diet.
1. Don’t rely on willpower
Edward Abramson, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Chico and author of “Weight, Diet, Body Image, What Every Therapist Needs to Know”, says that you should not prohibit any food to the extent that you feel deprived. “Willpower is a resource that is in limited supply. So if you exercise your willpower to talk to your boss, to drive slowly on an open road ahead of you, and then the opportunity to eat ice cream comes along, you have already used up all your willpower,” says Abramson. Figure out how much ice cream you can reasonably eat in a course of a week while still maintaining a weight loss strategy, before lining up at your favorite ice cream stop.
2. Own your splurge
Clinical psychologist Janet R. Laubgross, Ph.D., is no fan of diets. Instead, she advises her clients who are working toward weight management and making thousands of food choices every day to focus on this question: how can I best take care of myself? “If you want a scoop of ice cream, have a scoop of ice cream, but take ownership of it. Would I enjoy it as much if I had a smaller amount? What can I do today to prepare for that? If you constantly take ownership of what you do and eat in moderation, you will have a healthier lifestyle,” says Laubgross.
3. Show your favorite treat a little respect
If I see leftover birthday cake in the fridge when I’m hungry, I know I will be tempted to have a sliver of it for breakfast, but it is a better idea to savor it as a dessert. “Don’t eat your treat when you are really hungry as that will promote more consumption. Allow yourself to really enjoy what you need from it,” says Abramson. Give all the attention to it that it deserves, and refrain from devouring it while you are multitasking.
4. Quiet the dieting mind by preparing in advance
This tip really helps when you are getting ready for a special night out or an indulgent brunch with friends. “If you have plans to celebrate a friend’s birthday at a restaurant in the evening, check out the menu beforehand, and ask yourself, ‘How am I going to arrange what I eat today if I’m going out at night?’ Look at the menu online to see what healthy options there are so it is not overwhelming once you get there,” says Laubgross.
5. Self-monitor through the temptations of the seasons
Abramson cites a 1997 study where dieters who tracked their food intake during the holidays were able to keep losing weight while non-trackers gained weight. This was before the invention of fun smartphone apps to make self-monitoring fun. In a more recent 2014 study by Arizona State University’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, researchers discovered that people who used the smartphone app, Lose-it, were more consistent at recording their food journals than those who used the Notes app or paper and pen. The good news: each group that self-monitored their meals lost equal amounts of weight.
6. Set a goal you think you’d be disappointed with
“Lots of times people are unrealistic with their goals setting and get discouraged. Reach that reasonable weight loss goal and allow yourself to feel that accomplishment,” says Abramson. Researchers at Washington University’s Center for Human Nutrition discovered in their study that even losing five percent of your body weight reaped many health benefits including reduced body fat and less fat in the liver.