When it comes to making a permanent change in the way we eat, diets typically fail.
I’ve seen this first hand over many, many years with failed diets I tried or my friends and family tried.
Ever had boiled chicken and spinach for a week? GROSS. That’s probably the worst diet invented.
Here’s how the old method of dieting works;
You decide to lose weight. You prepare yourself by reading diet books, nutrition plans or visit a doctor who recommends some kind of meal plan.
Then, come Monday, you dive right in.
The meals you’re eating are very different to what you ate last week. Your plain toast without butter or margarine is dry and tasteless. Your ritualistic morning coffee is bitter without the regular two teaspoons of sugar… and so the day rolls on. Each meal leaves you with an unsatisfied feeling which subconsciously reminds you that you’re missing out on the ‘good stuff.’
One eating event after another is a disappointment. With each new day you’re battling with your brain the moment you wake.
I…. am…. on…. a…. diet….
Surely, this won’t last you the rest of your life??
If you’re like me, the most you’ve been able to sustain a diet like this is 12 weeks.
It’s mentally exhausting.
Each and every meal is like preparing for an hour long mathematics exam.
You’re thinking about what you can eat while your hunger pains are screaming in your stomach and demanding a delicious slice of anything.
Ultimately, it’s too much.
That diet was way too hard.
You give up and give in to another slice of pizza. After all, all of your skinny friends are enjoying it, why can’t you?
The new incremental diet;
What if you were to try something totally different? What if you took a brand new approach to losing the weight you’re desperate to lose?
This is what I call the incremental diet, and it seems to be working for me so far.
In September last year I realised the only way I could reach my target weight of 80 kilograms would be to make changes that would last a lifetime. But I also knew, I wasn’t in a rush to make it happen. I knew if it was going to last, it would be a slow, purposeful life change that would make it work.
It took me 20 years to gain all this weight. I gained it by practising unhealthy eating habits. Slowly, but surely, year after year I’d gain a few kilograms. Now, my goal is to reverse that trend. Slowly but surely, month after month, I’m going to lose a few kilograms.
That’s why I decided to take incremental steps towards living a more healthy life. I’d make one small change and keep that change for 30 days.
Here’s an example;
The first change; Stop adding sugar and milk in my morning cup of tea.
Pretty simple right? WRONG.
My cup of tea is a morning ritual for me so this is a significant change. My tea of choice – English Breakfast.
At first, I tried having a black cup of tea without milk and without any sweetener.
I couldn’t tolerate it. For a few days I was pouring out failed cups of nastiness and knew that the drink I wanted was right there staring me in the face – that brown sugar on the bench would solve all my taste problems. But I wasn’t ready to give in.
The first weekend I paid a visit to T2 in the city. They have a huge range of teas and I figured I’d get something natural and then I won’t care about the lack of milk and sugar.
I bought three different teas. Two of them were fruit mix teas. I thought they had a nice aroma so I figured they’d be OK to start. Plus, being fruit I thought they might be a little sweet. The last tea was a black tea.
Over the course of the next few days I tried all of them.
They’re not my cup of tea.
So here I am a week later trying to resolve my morning cup of tea issue that is now bigger than Ben-Hur.
I made a quick stop into the supermarket that day to get some Jasmine tea – after all, I quite like green tea when I eat Chinese food.
NEWS FLASH: Chinese tea tastes disgusting when there is no Chinese food to go with it.
That left me with two options. Drink Iced Tea instead, or work out what kind of sweetener I could add to my English Breakfast that wasn’t as bad as sugar.
I tried iced tea – the diet variety. Ultimately, I don’t like the idea of me drinking more and more diet drinks. The artificial sweeteners in those are almost as bad as the sugar in non-diet drinks.
So I checked out artificial sweeteners and found there’s a range of good and bad sweeteners.
Here’s the bad;
Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal and others)
This is made up of phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol. Methanol breaks down into formaldehyde which is a cancer causing substance. Probably best to avoid this one. To see the extent of possible harm to your body, read more here.
This is made from sugar by chlorinating sucrose. Studies have shown that sucralose had negative effects on test animals like rats, mice and rabbits. The problems caused by Sucralose are enough to give pause adding this to your drinks.
Studies have shown that large doses could cause cancer in laboratory animals. However, recently studies have shown that Saccharin could be a cancer inhibitor. Here is a dilemma which at some point you’re going to have to address for yourself. Who do you choose to believe? I’ll dive into that subject in the near future as it’s a doozy. For me, I tend to lean on the side of caution, so Saccharin was out.
Here’s the good;
This is a herbal sweetener and is a natural shrub native to South America. It’s about 200 times sweeter than natural sugar, has almost no kilojoules and does not raise blood sugar levels (great news for Diabetics).
Switching from sugar to stevia has enabled me to stick to my English Breakfast tea in the mornings. I can buy a box of sachets and use about half a serve for a cup of tea.
It’s a slightly different taste than what I am used to, but it’s been a great compromise that I’m happy to keep up.
One Change – One Month
The above example is why making just one small change in a month can be such a challenge.
Consider the effort involved behind changing your cup of tea in the morning. There’s the research, the disaster of alternatives and then ultimately finding a solution that fits. All just over a cup of tea!
The good news is, four and a half months later I’m still drinking my English Breakfast with a pinch of stevia in the morning – and I’m happy to do it!
That one change removed an average of 3 teaspoons of sugar from my daily diet and I can still enjoy two cups of tea in the morning.
I’ve successfully reversed one bad habit that I was practising for 20 years.
After 30 days, I chose my next target.
I allowed myself to pick something small (biscuits). Then I worked on finding a substitute that I was happy with (dates and nuts). When I wanted a snack, I’d grab a small handful of almonds or macadamia nuts or sunflour seeds and a couple of dates.
The Incremental Diet Plan
The following is just an example of the choices I made. They are specific to me and not my recommendation for you because we’re all different. The idea is, decide what you would like to change, then find an acceptable, healthy (or healthier) alternative.
First 30 days choice: Eliminate sugar and milk from my morning tea
Alternatives: Black tea, Herbal tea, Green tea, Alternative sweeteners
Outcome: English Breakfast tea with Stevia
Second 30 days choice: Eliminate biscuits (Tim Tams, BBQ Shapes, Cookies)
Alternatives: Healthy snack foods
Outcome: Snack on Medjool dates, Nuts
Third 30 days choice: Eliminate deserts (Ice cream, icy poles, cake)
Alternatives: Fruit, sugar free lollies
Outcome: 3 – 4 sugar free lollies or a small handful of grapes
Rinse and repeat.
There’s no rush with this. You can take your time working on one small change each month. It can be eliminating something all together or restricting food or drink to weekends only.
If you’re a big drinker you may decide to only drink on weekends and not weekdays.
If you drink Coke you might decide to change to a diet drink instead if your plan is to reduce your sugar intake.
This isn’t about being perfect. People would argue that a diet drink isn’t good for you either. But cutting down sugar might be a bigger win for you right now.
Cutting out the sugar from biscuits but having natural sugar from dates might not be a perfect choice, but it is a better choice – and that is the point.
Small, incremental changes that reverse the bad choices you’ve habitually practised for years.
So here’s the challenge I’ll put to you today if you haven’t yet fully committed to changing your lifestyle to a more healthy alternative; Can you change just one thing?
Just choose one thing. That’s it! No more, no less. Then stick to it for 30 days.
Make it something small and allow yourself time to find an alternative solution that suits you and ultimately makes you a little healthier.
Now, if you’re joining me on this journey – perhaps not to lose 50 kilograms, but maybe 4 or 12 or some other number – then I’d ask you to comment below and let me know of the small change you’ve decided to make.
Leave a comment below and make that commitment. I’m here on this ride with you and if I can offer you support, I will!
So tell me, what are you choosing to change for the next 30 days?