As moms, we spend much of our days caring about our kids, and spend not-so-much time caring about ourselves. We neglect our health, we don’t take time to eat properly and we barely sit down to breathe. One of the biggest things that moms struggle with is eating properly and maintaining a healthy weight. And we often turn to quick-fix diets to solve it.
Here’s the thing: Dieting is a lot of work—more than you have time for. And considering the fact that 90% of diets end in failure, it might be worth trying something different – something that helps you enjoy the foods that you love, model healthy eating to your kids, and doesn’t suck the life out of your already busy one!
The good news? It turns out that achieving and maintaining your healthiest weight comes down to trusting your body. To do that though, you need to tune in and listen to it.
My advice as a dietitian mom who has been on the diet rollercoaster herself before? Ditch the quick fix solutions and try these five things instead:
1. Leave the “wagon” behind
So much of why diets don’t work is because people beat themselves up for “failing.” When that happens, they usually throw in the towel, then plan to “start fresh” later. This all or nothing mentality often translates into weight gain and guilt and puts people right back on the dieting rollercoaster.
The key to not falling off the wagon is two-fold: First of all, make the wagon really hard to fall off. In other words, your goals should be realistic and not feel too restrictive. On the other hand, if you do “fall off,” jump right back on at the next meal or snack. Real life isn’t perfect, and neither is real eating. It’s when the towel is thrown in and unhealthy indulging carries on for days, weeks, or months that weight gain happens.
2. Savour it
In order to experience “comfortable fullness,” you need to slow down at meals (which can be hard if you’re used to rushing through). Most of us power through meals and snacks because we’re anxious to get to our next task (um…kids), so we either don’t eat enough (which increases the chances of overeating later) or eat too much (and feel guilty afterwards). Try this-- put your fork down in between each bite, chew your food and savour it. Don’t rush through your meal (especially when you’re eating out) and stop when you feel comfortably full. This might be before your plate is clean!
3. Be picky
When it comes to sweets like candy, donuts, cake, or ice cream, I could take them or leave them (which means that I usually leave them–they’re not worth it). Chocolate on the other hand, I can’t live without. This is why I make room for it everyday (and don’t feel guilty about it). Instead of eating a sweet treat just because it’s there, or just because you see it, be picky with your indulgences. Decide which treats will bring you the most satisfaction, and don’t waste your time or calories on the mediocre ones.
4. Don’t rely on will power – it won’t come through for you!
Many people blame themselves (and lack of will power) for not sticking to their diet. The truth is, will power doesn’t have an on/off switch. In other words, we (no matter who we are) can’t rely on our will power to get us through times of restriction. Hence, why diets don’t work. Every time you deprive yourself of a certain food (this could happen hundreds of times a day) you drain your willpower little by little until you just throw in the towel and give in, over-indulging and going off of your diet for a period of time. This can undo days of restrictive eating and create unhealthy habits long-term. Instead, control your eating environment so that tempting treats aren’t accessible all the time and give yourself permission to eat all foods, which makes it easier to say no, unless it is 100% worth it. Restriction (and/or constant exposure to tempting foods) –> will power drain –> over-indulgence –> guilt.
Always include some protein
Protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, eggs, and dairy products are not only nutrient-dense, but also satiating. This explains why you might be fuller longer if you have eggs for breakfast rather than breakfast cereal. Including protein in every meal and snack helps to fill you up, preventing over-eating (and excess calorie consumption) during – as well as after – a meal. Try to fill about 1/4-1/3 of your plate with protein-rich foods at meals and try to always include some protein if you have snacks in between.
Above all, trust your internal hunger cues—truly listen to your body. That’s hard when you’re lives revolve around your kids and you’re caring for other humans. But it’s really important, because it will make you a more mindful eater, improve your nutrition and health, and will help set a better example for your kids when it comes to eating and food.