As you start making nutritional and behavioural changes you expect to see results right?!
Like – bam! Because you’re doing everything asked of you and you’re a super focused machine!
However, it didn’t take you a few days or weeks to put on the weight you’re wanting to lose or to have depleted your body of the micronutrients it needs to function at it’s peak. Many of your negative behaviours or attitudes around food are also a product of your life to date – many starting right back in your childhood. So, logically – it’s going to take time to see any nutritional improvements to be reflected in you. As for the formation or breaking of any habit – behavioural change also takes time and it is often this which is the hardest to address.
Generally, by the time most people come to see a nutritionist – they have figured out (often via the hard and expensive way) that there are no ‘silver bullets’ and that there is no fairy dust that anybody can sprinkle on you to turn you into the woman, man or unicorn of your dreams overnight.
Many ‘diets’, 12 week challenges or shake programs may well provide quick weight loss results in the short term, but can leave you feeling exhausted and awful with downright weird and unnatural attitudes towards food. Unfortunately, the quick weight loss is more often than not associated with quick rebound – where often more weight is gained than originally lost. Few of these programs teach you anything worthwhile about nutrition for long-term health. There’s a host of reasons for this – aside from it being really good business to have the steady stream of return customers, but I won’t start ranting on that now.
In short – Be realistic about your expectations – true results will gradually come and they will be far longer lasting and enrich your life far more than ‘weight loss’ results alone.
For long term improvements of health and improved weight management, you need to:
1. Learn basic nutritional principles – You wouldn’t ask your mechanic to teach you the principles of neurosurgery, so don’t get your nutrition advice from celebrities or wellness bloggers – they are true fountains of nutritional liquid excrement!
Invest in yourself by making a few appointments with a reputable nutritionist to really learn about nutrition – knowledge that will benefit not only you but your family and friends around you. As seeing a personal trainer once won’t transform your beer keg into a 6-pack, don’t expect to walk away from one appointment with all the knowledge and skills you need for real change.
2. Prioritise your nutrition – organization is key and you must make time in your week to shop and prepare food properly – see our article ‘How to meal-prep like a boss’ for some ideas. You may even have to learn to cook if you don’t already know how – otherwise, you’ll have to work hard at becoming the most skilled shopper and evaluator of processed foods/take-out meals. However, without controlling or undertaking most of the cooking yourself, most will find it exceedingly hard to reach their goals.
3. Be prepared to ‘win some and lose some’ – ride the ups and downs, be flexible and indulge in moderation without guilt of shame – as food is there to be enjoyed and life is there to live. While not losing sight of your long-term goals, appreciate and enjoy special moments with a cheese platter or a mud cake without transforming into a humanoid demolition derby!
4. Listen to your body – this will take time and practice – but tune into your hunger and satiation cues, learn to use food as fuel – not as a stopgap for boredom or to deal with emotion. Start counteracting external cues with strategies – such as those suggested in ‘The Dreaded After-Dinner Munchies’.
It takes consistent attention to what you’re doing to make lasting change and some are lucky enough that over time, good decisions and eating appropriate diversity and quantities of food become second nature and they never have to think about what they’re eating (or not eating) again – good nutrition has simply become part of their lifestyle. Others though will have to maintain more vigilance and consistently or periodically monitor what they’re eating and how they are using food in their life.
So if the scales aren’t budging yet or weight-loss is not the primary goal – How do we know what we’re doing is working? Assuming you are not monitoring your glucose or are on a first-name basis with your local pathologist who is periodically monitoring your bloods for inflammation markets, lipid profiles or micronutrient status, you may notice signs of beneficial changes reflected in:
- Improved satiation. One of the first signs when you improve your diet quality and hydration is that you feel more satiated. You may find that even though you are consuming less energy per day than before – you no longer feel hungry!
- Reduced cravings – we all tend to want more of whatever we’re eating – this certainly goes for dopamine-inducing alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages, chocolate, or those optimally-designed processed foods that are deliberately formulated to provoke embarrassing public drooling. Put simply, the more you have, the more you will want. So when these are reduced in the diet, the desire to track down these foods like paleolithic hunter looking for a Big Mac also usually falls. There is also research to suggest that micronutrient deficiencies increase the likelihood and strength of ‘cravings’, so these get fewer/easier as your diet becomes better rounded nutritionally.
- Better moods – you’re now smiling more than you are scowling – goodbye resting b**ch-face! Both improved nutrition and your new direction and positive focus on change will improve your brain chemical balance, hormonal balance and outlook on life.
- More energy and strength! You actually feel like getting out of bed and starting the day, you’re pumping out your workouts (or for the first time in ages – you actually feel like doing and are enjoying a workout) and you find you have enough energy at the end of the day to actually do your dinner dishes and not leave them until tomorrow! Winning!
- Better sleep – poor nutrition can affect sleep patterns – notably caffeine, sugar or alcohol ingestion, especially late in the day will certainly interfere with your zzzzz’s. Also having dinners that are too heavy can also negatively affect sleep. Poor nutrition and lack of the right proteins and micronutrients can negatively affect hormone production and functions which are required for a restful night.
- Better fitting clothes – So your ‘weight in kgs’ may not have budged at all – but you may start noticing that your waistband is a bit looser. This is as your body composition is changing and you maybe losing fat while increasing your muscle and perhaps even increasing your bone mass – or if you have lowered your sodium intake, you may have found that you are bloating less. Periodic body composition monitoring is far more useful to illustrate these changes than weight scales.
So whenever you may be feeling worried that the scale is not moving yet – please reflect on the above and assess when you have started to make progress as real progress is so much more than just a number.