Ahh, February. The official month of candy hearts, slushy grey weather (at least in DC) and getting real about health goals. The rosy optimism of our New Year’s diet resolution has faded, and it’s time to be a little bit more realistic. Maybe your three day cleanse lasted about six hours (believe me, I’ve been there…), or perhaps your “Whole 30” was more of a “Whole 7.” No matter how dire your crisis of will power or how epically you fell off the diet wagon, this is no time to beat yourself up. Instead, let’s look at four ways to diet-proof our diets. These tips will give you longer lasting results than any cleanse… and they are infinitely more fun:
1. Spot the fads and steer clear
The first step of diet-proofing is to stop the fads in their tracks. These days it seems like there is a new diet fad born every minute. One week it’s Keto, and the next it’s some new super-cleanse. Though these attempts at “biohacking” may come in all shapes and sizes, they usually have a couple things in common… including big, unproven claims. See a diet that promises quick fixes to health problems or rapid weight loss? Approach with caution. Even if a diet plan helps you lose weight rapidly, chances are it isn’t healthy or feasible to sustain over the long run.
2. Honor your internal cues
Instead of overhauling your diet completely, resolve to get to know your internal hunger and fullness cues. Using a hunger scale can help you differentiate actual hunger from boredom or stress. You can also use the scale to rank your fullness during the meal, so you can finished when you are satisfied and avoid that uncomfortable, overstuffed feeling.
3. Get acquainted with MyPlate
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are the gold standard for science-based diet advice. That’s why nutrition experts and health professionals count on the guidelines to set goals for their patients, and lawmakers rely on the guidelines to steer nutrition policy. With tools like the USDA’s MyPlate, you don’t need an advanced degree in nutrition to eat according to the guidelines. Using MyPlate can help make sure that you get the right mix of food groups you need to build a healthy eating pattern. It’s also easily adaptable, so you can still put your own unique spin on your meals and make your diet fit your lifestyle.
4. Set “SMART” Goals
Vague or unreasonable goals are a recipe for failure. Instead, use the “SMART” acronym to set yourself up for success:
- Specific: Make sure your goal is specific, so you’ll know exactly what you are trying to achieve.
- Measurable: Set some quantifiable markers to measure your success.
- Achievable: Take a moment to make sure the goal is reasonable.
- Relevant: Think about the biggest health and nutrition priorities in your life right now, and adjust your goal so it aligns with those priorities.
- Time-limited: Have a deadline for the goal.
For example, the goal of “eat more vegetables” can be reframed as “eat at least one serving of vegetables during lunch, every day for the next month.” Resources like registered dietitian nutritionists and certified health coaches can help you not only stick to your goals, but to also set SMART-er goals in the first place.
Put these tips into practice, and you’ll never have to worry about an epic diet disaster again.