Here’s how to navigate some common hazards:
- You’re a perfectionist
What’s your vision of a faultless healthy lifestyle? ‘Many of us believe that perfection is possible if only we try hard enough,’ says psychologist and personal development coach Honey Langcaster-James. ‘But, while working towards a goal is a positive thing, it’s not beneficial if the hurdles are unrealistic.’
So, though your goal to complete a half marathon is fab, if the only thing you’ve ever run is a bath, this shouldn’t be your target now. ‘Lowering your expectations is far from defeatist,’ says Honey. ‘The key is to under-promise and over-deliver – then you’ll feel you’re achieving something.’
Also, apply the 80/20 rule. ‘If you follow the rules 80 per cent of the time, that’s a high standard but a realistic one,’ says Honey. ‘If you try to achieve the other 20 per cent, life is likely to get in the way.’ In practical terms, this means staying committed to healthy eating, but still allowing yourself wiggle room.
- You’re feeling low in confidence
‘Many people with low self-worth turn to food for comfort, which makes them feel worse in the long run,’ says Honey.
Instead, find healthy outlets. ‘Emotional eating tends to happen when you’re tired or feeling negative,’ she says. ‘Try to Dnd another outlet in line with your goal. So, if you’re angry, try a boxercise class. If you’re stressed, do something therapeutic.’ Plus, use the ‘carrot’ approach. ‘Many people with low self-esteem are good at beating themselves up, but not so good at praising themselves. But giving yourself positive messages such as “I’m doing great!” is more helpful than negativity. So when you choose the stairs over the lift, give yourself a mental high-five.’
- You’re scared of change
‘Old habits make us feel safe whereas changes to our routine can feel daunting,’ says Honey.
It’s time to repeat, repeat, repeat – something positive. ‘When you get into a healthy new habit, it becomes easier to do so because, by repeating the behaviour, you’re building and reinforcing a neural pathway in the brain,’ she explains. But don’t change everything at once. For example, it’s a bad idea to embark on a new eating plan and exercise regime, and redecorate the house at the same time. ‘You could feel overwhelmed,’ warns Honey. ‘Get one new behaviour under your belt before you tackle the next one.’
- You’re not asking for support
Whether it’s because you’re embarrassed or would rather keep your intentions quiet, it’s worth knowing that leaning on others for support is proven to help you reach your goal.
It might be time to buddy up, as some of the best future weight-loss buddies are in your meeting or on the online communities. ‘Talking to like-minded people can be incredibly motivating and inspiring,’ says Honey. And don’t play a guessing game. ‘If you want more support from your partner or friends, don’t just say, “Can you help?”. Be specific: tell them exactly what you would like them to do – and what you wouldn’t!’
- You’re feeling deprived
You know the drill: you tell yourself you can’t have something and it becomes all you can think of. ‘Feeling deprived can make you snap, then say yes to everything,’ says Honey.
So, start really enjoying the taste of your food. Losing weight doesn’t have to mean cutting out the food you love. ‘What’s key is gaining more satisfaction from appropriate portions of treats, so you don’t feel deprived,’ she says. ‘Have a small treat, but pay attention to the taste and texture of every single bite.’ Also, choose foods that satisfy. Protein can help you feel fuller for longer, while foods high in fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, give a slow, steady release of energy.