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If you’ve ever struggled to stick with a diet, this post is for you. After years of yo-yo dieting with programs like the South Beach Diet and Atkins, I began to wonder why I just couldn’t stick with any diet that I tried – and I finally found a solution.
At the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, I saw some very discouraging family photos. I had often hidden from pictures, but I really didn’t think I looked that bad. Unfortunately, photos don’t lie. I remember being shocked at my own appearance and wondering how I’d been in denial for so long. I have a small frame, and those extra pounds from four babies had seemed to find a permanent home on my body.
That was when I discovered the then-newly published Trim Healthy Mama diet. I jumped in, and even though I made a few mistakes at the beginning, I lost over 30 pounds in three months and then stuck with THM in maintenance mode, easily keeping the weight off for two years until I got pregnant with baby #5. I had a Trim, Healthy pregnancy with only about 20 pounds to lose after she was born.
That means that I have successfully stuck to the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating for over 3 ½ years! It got me thinking – how and why did I stick to THM, when I couldn’t stick to any of the other diets I’d tried before?
Well, part of my success is due to the fact that Trim Healthy Mama is an excellent, balanced approach to weight loss. I don’t starve for carbs or binge, and I don’t feel deprived at all.
But the second part – the part that has less to do with diet and more to do with me and my willpower – is HABIT. And this is the part that can help anyone to succeed with whatever diet they are on.
Habits are what kept me trapped in a soda addiction for 20 years (I have a free Quit Soda Challenge running right now if you struggle with this and want to break free!). Habits are what kept me turning to sugar when I would get stressed out. Basically, habits made me overweight.
After adopting the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle, I originally continued to struggle with sugar and soda, even though I was eating healthy foods and my sugar cravings were diminishing. I realized that I always gave in when I was in the habit of giving in. Afternoon homeschool slump? Get a soda. Driving through Chik-Fil-A? Add a cookie to the order. Working hard on a project home? Dessert for a “reward.” These habits became so ingrained in my day-to-day life that I almost didn’t notice them!
I started to keep a week-long food journal to figure out where I was slipping up, and that’s when I saw patterns emerge. I was not eating healthy because I was in the habit of eating poorly. One of my favorite things about the Trim Healthy Mama book is that they give lots of alternatives to bad food choices, so even if you are following a different diet, you may find those helpful.
I had to develop new habits to be successful, and those habits ultimately changed my life:
- I developed the habit of exercising 5 days a week.
- I developed the habit of reaching for healthy drinks instead of sugary ones.
- Thanks to what I learned from Trim Healthy Mama, I developed the habit of eating healthy foods every three hours.
Here are a few things I learned about developing habits:
- Rewards – I had to figure out when I was rewarding myself with unhealthy food choices and find something else I truly enjoyed to use as a reward instead.
- Convenience – I was in a habit of derailing from my healthy eating plan when I was in a rush, or I had nothing prepared. I had to create a habit of keeping healthy foods stocked in my pantry and fridge so that I would have no excuses.
- Willpower – I realized that, for me, my willpower would diminish as the day went on. Now, I make sure that those more vulnerable evening times (when I’m more likely to cheat) are spent at home with only healthy choices available as often as possible.
If you struggle with sticking to a diet or healthy way of eating, I would encourage you to evaluate your habits and make changes. Researchers say that it takes 66 days to develop a new habit – if you start today, think of where you could be just over two months from now! If you need some extra THM motivation, here are my Top 10 Tips for Getting Started with (or re-committing to) THM. If you need a little extra push, you can check out the Quit Soda Challenge or the Quit Sugar Challenge (or sign up for both!) now.