A new year diet is one of the favourite resolutions, especially after an indulgent Christmas. But come February will you still be snubbing chocolate? This is my essential tool kit for losing weight – and it works
How many people made a diet their New Year Resolution? How many will fall at the first hurdle? Will that be you again? Are you reaching for the next fad diet thinking that it can bypass all that calorie-counting grind? Time to get real.
My new year diet plan means I will lose at least a stone by around spring time. More come the summer. I can confidently predict I will because (a) I’ve set weight targets before and achieved them and (b) I’ve set weight targets before and NOT achieved them and (c) I know the difference between (a) and (b).
When I’m NOT serious about dieting it usually involves lots of pretend restraint and lots of guilt. I’ve failed one hundred times. But I know I’m serious about dieting when I get serious about dieting. And that’s the crucial first step.
For me, that involves seven actions.
1 Count calories in your new year diet
Count ’em. All of them. Religiously. Not guessing or hoping or believing. If you burn more than you take in, you get thinner. Simple as that. So I count every calorie so I know at any given moment how my day is going. Apps like My Net Diary make this easier and will help provide daily targets. I know I’m going to lose weight when I’m counting every calorie I eat. All other times I’m just fooling myself.
The test comes when you know how many calories you’ve eaten because you’ve done the maths in your head. At that point, the temptation is to stop tapping in those calories. Don’t stop. Keeping going. Because that’s the very moment you revert to self-delusion and trickery. The discipline of recording calories forces you to keep your mind focussed on the matter in hand – controlling your intake.
2 Keep a control of portions
Counting calories in your new year diet is easy when the number’s on the package (and apps have brilliant barcode scanners). But another method of delusion to slap a portion of buttery mash on a plate and guess at 200 calories when it’s nearer double that. I got this portion control plate (pictured) for Christmas. It’s going to be my best friend (along with my little weighing scales).
Likewise, I won’t be buying big bags of crisps or tubes of Pringles which encourage more-ish snacking. I’ll be having crisps in small individual bags with the calories written on the side. Meanwhile, I’ll say hello again to my old foe-cum-friend vegetables – they’ll fill the plate, fill your stomach, they do you good and (joy of joys) cost next-to-nothing in calories.
3 Know the science
You don’t to have a degree in biology but it helps if you understand what you’re doing. You want to lose a pound a week (which is a sustainable rate). A pound is 3,500 calories. That’s 500 calories a day less than your basal metabolic rate.
So an average man may need 2,500 to sustain his weight. Therefore 2,000 calories a day means losing a pound a week. You might be able to “earn” more calories through exercise but that’s up to you. Use the apps to do your own maths – it helps understand what’s going on and helps you make a bespoke plan.
4 Dieting is not a deprivation it’s a lifestyle choice
Time to change your outlook. You won’t last the distance if all you’re thinking is that some cruel force is depriving you of chocolate. This change is a positive choice that feeds into the tapestry of your day to day life. Forget food, this is about gaining control.
Doesn’t mean you won’t be hungry (you will) but hunger is good. A reasonable level of hunger says it’s working, it says you said “no” when you once said “more”. Learn to love that feeling of going to bed not being full. You will lapse – it’s inevitable – but you’ll pick up the slack the very next day because you’ll learn to trust yourself to stay true to your plan. Remember, it’s not dieting – it’s your life.
5 Rewire your brain
Cheese is one of my guilty pleasures. But I won’t be buying cheese now until my diet is done. No point is buying a slab for treats and rewards because it’ll be gone in a flash. Don’t buy the things you don’t want to eat (and that’s why you shouldn’t go shopping hungry). Go cold turkey on cold turkey. Yes, I’ll miss cheese at first, crave it even, but soon I’ll have that amazing breakthrough and come to a point where I go cheese blind.
Cheese will become like walking on the moon. Or winning The X-Factor. Or being 18 again. Yes, it’d be great – but it’s simply not part of my life. No point in having pointless yearnings for the out-of-reach. Soon it’ll be blanked out my existence and I can skip down the cheese aisle without a second glance.
6 Stay positive (despite the setbacks)
I’ve been there before. You diet all week, climb on the scales and nothing’s happened. Or worse, you’ve put on weight without any explanation. It’s easier to despair or get obsessed. (I restrict myself to a once-a-week-weigh for that very reason.)
But your body is a complex thing and you’ll encounter frustrating phenomena like the plateau. But, if you’re eating less than you’re burning then you’re losing weight. The overall downward trend is inexorable and inevitable. Ignore the week-to-week fluctuations – unless they provide a clue to what you’re doing wrong (see Portion Control).
7 Make it a habit
You are what you do everyday. If you do all of the new year diet disciplines listed here (and add your own), that’s who you are. Habit is a more powerful mechanism for change than willpower because habit is thoughtless, passive and instinctive. Habit gets you out for your weekly walk on a wet Tuesday when willpower has given up and sunk on the sofa with a plate of chips. Habit scorns fads, distractions and down-days. It puts you where you need to be doing the right thing at the right time.
Habits don’t become habits overnight (that’s kinda the point) but when deliberate lifestyle choices and determined daily routines evolve into unthinking habits, that is a magical moment of accomplishment. Now you can let your subconscious mind share the management of your resolution.