It’s the new year, and as usual, there will be a spike in interest in dieting and weight loss. Unfortunately, these resolutions are often made in ways that definitely do not set up dieters for success. We are better at shifting habits when we can find truly meaningful motivation.
If your goals for healthy living include any aspect of managing your weight, keep the following thoughts in mind for a sustainable approach to achieving your healthiest weight yet.
Don’t Wait to Begin — Do It Now
Looking for benchmarks to start a new way of eating, quit an old habit, or begin an exercise routine is natural, but unnecessary. You can change direction at any time. If you missed the opportunity to start your new routines on January 1st, you don’t have to wait until next year or even next month to make a change. You can do it now!
If you fall off the wagon, you don’t have to wait until next week or even tomorrow to try again. Look at the next possible opportunity you have to make a healthy choice that leads you closer to your goals and make the choice, right then and there.
Make as Many Ideal Food Choices as Possible
It’s easy to get caught up in strict rules around eating when weight is in mind. The odds are good that if you make more ideal food choices than not, you will feel better and the weight goals will follow.
If you have the opportunity to choose your food six times throughout a day (let’s say breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and after-dinner treat/snack), and you make healthy choices that meet the criteria that you have set for yourself at least three times throughout a day, you will be meeting your goal 50% of the time. If you can work up to five out of six, that’s 83%. It’s not a zero-sum game where each day becomes an automatic failure if you don’t meet 100%. Each opportunity to choose is a fresh slate and doesn’t require waiting for the next day to try again.
Choose One Change at a Time
As you set out to make a series of new choices on your journey, you will find that some choices achieve the desired results while others don’t seem to be working for you.
If you’re trying to make a million changes, think about slowing down. Give each change the attention it deserves, one at a time. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too many changes at once and feel discouraged if you aren’t able to keep up with a whole slew of modifications. Making more than one change at once may mean not being able to determine what results correlate with each change. Isolating the adjustments helps you to determine which steps are working, and which are not.
Put Your Carb Counting in Context
As people living with diabetes, we are always aware of our carbohydrate consumption. We count carbs, we know the difference between high-quality and low-quality carbs, and we study how different amounts and types of carb consumption affect our diabetes management and overall well-being. And it’s easy to forget that there are other pieces to the puzzle, like fat and protein.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about carb counting that may help you to dig deeper into the relationship between your diabetes management and weight loss goals:
How does my fat and protein intake affect the absorption of the carbohydrates I am eating?
What foods can I use as building blocks for my meals that will have a minimal impact on my blood glucose levels?
When does the timing of my insulin/medications and food work best for achieving my diabetes goals?
Where do I have the opportunity to make dietary changes that work for my vision of weight management, diabetes management, and quality of life?
Eat When You Are Hungry
This one seems like it could be a no-brainer, but like many of the behaviors associated with weight management, it isn’t always easy. If you are hungry, eat. Make the healthiest choice possible for your meal or snack, enjoy it slowly, and give yourself the time to sit and feel full before thinking about whether you need to go back for more. If you are not hungry, don’t eat (unless your blood sugar is low, of course!). Try to eliminate situations where you are eating for other reasons, like emotions, boredom, or habit.
While it is important to be flexible for occasions that demand it, creating a daily routine for eating is helpful for both weight and diabetes management.
Listen to Your Body
Our body gives us feedback that can guide us in healthy decision-making. For example, if your body is sluggish and reliant on caffeine to make it through the day, perhaps it is telling you it needs more “clean fuel,” like sleep and whole foods. Every individual is different, so the cues for one person may not be the same for another.
Think about how sensitive you are to blood glucose fluctuations in either direction, and try to apply that kind of responsiveness to your hunger levels. If you can get more in tune with the messages your body is sending, it’ll pay off.
Mentally Prepare Yourself for Success
If you have struggled with managing your weight in the past, you might be dealing with internal messages of self-doubt. That is normal. However, embracing a positive mindset and the spirit of willing experimentation will get you far.
Look in the mirror and repeat the affirmation “I have the tools and knowledge to reach success. I am strong enough to make this journey.” You can come up with your own affirmation that speaks to you. Write it down. Say it aloud. Most importantly, believe that it is true.
Celebrate Your Journey
The road to weight loss is generally not linear. It takes a while to figure out the combination of modifications to see progress. Sometimes circumstances throw us for a loop. Results may come easily, then stagnate or reverse. In the moment, these are frustrating roadblocks. In the big picture, these are small inconveniences.
Celebrate when you make a healthy choice and follow it up with another one, make it one step closer to your goal, and see how the changes you are making are positively affecting your diabetes management. Success is not simply a destination; it can be found throughout the journey. Find joy in each of these moments as you move forward.
Monitor How Your New Habits Are Affecting Your Diabetes
As we know, eating differently or adding physical activity are just two of many factors that can affect our blood glucose levels. Lifestyle modifications may require you or your doctor to consider changes to your insulin or medication, or otherwise alter how you self-manage your diabetes. It helps to make notes of these changes so you can keep track, both for yourself and for your doctor.
Cardio exercise and lower-carbohydrate diets are two popular weightloss strategies that can quickly shift the amount of insulin or other glucose-lowering medication that you need. Be prepared to counteract hypoglycemia with fast-acting carbohydrates, like juice or glucose tabs. Losing weight increases insulin sensitivity and may affect your basal insulin or mealtime doses, making adjustments accordingly.
Remember: Your Weight Management Journey May Vary
You are unique. Your weight management journey is going to be different than that of your neighbor or the person posting about it in your diabetes Facebook group. You can try strategies that are suggested by others, but don’t be discouraged if that advice doesn’t necessarily reap rewards for you. Keep your eye on the prize (your goals!), do what is best for your body, and the rest will follow.