The word "diet" can strike fear in many of us. Chances are you have tried a few in your life, and after the initial loss and your elation at stepping on the scale, the pounds begin to creep back on, leaving you feeling depressed and craving your old comfort foods.
While cleanses and juice diets might give you immediate results, the effects don't last. This is because we tend to go back to our old habits over time, and then repeat the cycle when we put on the pounds. This creates a viscious cycle of "always" being on a diet, and yet never being happy with the results.
Instead of looking to lose a few pounds, it's good to approach a new diet in a more helpful and healing way. Instead, look at your new diet as a lifestyle overhaul. I don't mean drastically changing what you eat or your daily routine - I'm talking about making small sustainable changes over a period of time.
Following are five tips that help keep the weight off for the long haul:
Get Enough Sleep
I know this one is difficult. There are so many things to do during the day, that by the time your head hits the pillow, you have to wake up in five hours. Instead of taking your laptop or iPad to bed with you to watch TV, try turning off your shows an hour before you would like to go to sleep. Turn the lights down in your house. Take a warm bath. Put the kids to bed earlier. Don't check your emails past 7:00pm. All of these things can help you adjust and be ready to sleep when the time comes.
Up Your Vegetable Intake
Many of us think we are getting our vegetables for the day when we have a salad for lunch. In reality, every meal should include vegetables - and at least two-thirds of total calories for the day should be from fruits and veggies, compared to carbs and protein. There are so many options - you can make a green smoothie for breakfast, or avacado toast; and there are plenty of good frozen veggies to grab from the store to pop in the oven or microwave for dinner - it's not as hard as you think.
Exercise Regularly, Including Cardio
The truth about working out is that we all fall into a comfortable routine at some point. Instead of relying on your morning jog or weekly hike for exercise, try adding a yoga or zumba class once a week, or try riding a bike or lifting weights. Your body's muscles go into sleep mode if they aren't being used, so it's up to us to add variety to our exercise routine to keep our muscles engaged and the weight from settling. Weight lifting and yoga build great strength, while running or swimming helps endurance and cardio. Try a new activity to see what you like - this is most important. If you don't look forward to an activity, you likely won't keep doing it.
Probiotics are all the rage, and for good reason. Many of us have less-than-ideal gut bacteria, which is why we feel run down and food doesn't digest properly. Not to mention our stomachs are definitely affected by stress, which is unavoidable. Adding probiotics to your daily routine can help you metabolize food better, and keep your good gut bacteria at higher levels, which contributes to maintaining a good weight.
Cut The Sugar
In order to keep the weight off, it's time to get serious about your sugar intake. Most prepared foods already have high levels of sugar - so get in the habit of reading labels before you buy. And those coffees from Starbucks? You might as well eat a cupcake, the sugar levels are so high. To maintain weight loss, it's imperative to lower sugar intake. You can substitute fruit for dessert, and perhaps some dark chocolate. You will find after a few days that you aren't craving sweets as much as you used to - or salty foods (bonus!). If you have a real sweet tooth and need your "sugar fix," then I suggest you try some low-sugar recipes using maple syrup or honey, which metabolize better in our bodies than sugar.