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Tips for staying on track of your Nutrition Plan
With everything that has been going on in the last year, a lot of us have been finding it more difficult than ever to stay on track of our nutrition plans. Nevertheless, it is important that we aim to consume a well-balanced diet as best as we can, not only to achieve potential physique goals, but for our overall health and wellbeing. Consuming an inadequate diet increases chances of disease, infection, fatigue, low performance, and a decreased sense of self (1).
If you’re looking for tips to stay in control of your nutrition plan, look no further!
Below are 5 strategies to help you stick to your nutrition plan this year.
Set realistic goals
Studies suggest that those who vividly describe or write down their goals are up to 1.4 times more likely to achieve them (3). Whilst this is true, setting unrealistic goals can have the opposite effect. One study that investigated the influence of weight loss expectations on attrition in obese patients seeking treatment, distinguished that the individuals whose goal was to lose a lot of weight, were more likely to drop out within 6-12 months (2). Setting unrealistic goals leads to long-term vision, though short-term motivation. Thus, if the goal is not achieved in the desired amount of time, motivation can be completely lost.
For your goal to be realistic, the goal must represent an objective to which you are willing and able to work towards. One way to ensure that your goal is attainable is by following SMART goal setting. SMART goals refer to goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Setting SMART goals may enhance your chances of sustaining the newly adopted behaviours (4).
Find out what really motivates you
Motivation is the driving force which helps us achieve our goals. Understanding what truly drives you and why not only enables you to reach your expectations, but also increase your understanding of yourself as person (5). Making a list of what's important to you can help you stay motivated and focused. This list will be different for everyone. Some examples can include, increasing your energy levels so you can play football with your kids, decreasing feelings of anxiety or depression, or clearing up your skin after a stressful period at college.
Track and monitor your progress
Studies suggest that those who record what they eat and what they drink are more likely to reach their nutrition goals as a result of being more aware of what, when and how much they are consuming (8). One way to record what you consume is through the use of food logging apps like MyFitnessPal or Life Sum. Even just writing down your daily meals in a notebook can be of great benefit.
Other methods of tracking and monitoring your progress include taking progress photos and bodily measurements (e.g. chest, arms, waist, hips, bum, thighs, calves). Using the scales is also another method of tracking, however it is not a reliable method. Weight fluctuates from day-to-day as a result of many factors such as, what you ate, what you drank, water retention, whether or not you have used the bathroom recently, changes in hormones levels, etc. Moreover, it does not indicate the distribution of fat and lean mass on the body. For example, someone who started lifting weights consistently will most likely be putting on lean muscle, as well as losing body fat. While their physique may be completely different after some period of time, their weight may be have remained stable. This can lead them to feel discouraged if they have not taken any progress photos or bodily measurements.
Turn your kitchen into a healthy cafe
Fill your kitchen with plenty of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, beans, nuts and seeds, and lean protein, as well as a variety of spices and herbs - so you’re never stuck for a nutritious meal!
If you struggle to find the time to cook every day, I recommend setting aside some time to plan and prepare your meals each week. A good time to do this is on the weekend prior to the following week. For example, you could prepare a couple of days’ worth of overnight oats for the mornings, or prepare a batch of lunch and dinners, leaving some in the fridge and some in the freezer to which you can take out the night before to defrost.
If you are easily tempted by treats, I recommend keeping them out of the house. Though it is important to not restrict yourself too much, and still consume the foods you love. One strategy around this includes buying one ice cream or one packet of crisps, only when your truly desire it, instead of purchasing a multipack of crisps or a tub of ice cream every time you visit the supermarket.
Limit your alcohol consumption
While alcohol is a sedative, it is a powerful suppressant of REM sleep (6). REM sleep occurs in the last stage of the sleep cycle, the stage in which we dream. REM sleep is important because it stimulates the areas of your brain that are essential in learning and making or retaining memories (7). A lack of REM sleep can leave you feeling drowsy and low in energy, which can result in that need for those quick sugar hits the following day. Aim to limit your alcohol consumption to less than one day a week, or for social or occasional use.
While there are numerous ways to stay on track of your nutritional plan, discovering a strategy that works best for you and fits well with your lifestyle is the best way to sustain your goals. Don’t be discouraged if you fall off track every now and then, remember - you are only human!
- hse.ie. 2021. Why diet and nutrition helps your health. [online] Available at: <https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/why-diet-and-nutrition-helps-your-health.html> [Accessed 10 February 2021].
- Dalle Grave R, Calugi S, Molinari E, Petroni ML, Bondi M, Compare A, Marchesini G; QUOVADIS Study Group. Weight loss expectations in obese patients and treatment attrition: an observational multicenter study. Obes Res. 2005 Nov;13(11):1961-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2005.241. PMID: 16339128.
- Murphy, M., 2021. Neuroscience Explains Why You Need To Write Down Your Goals If You Actually Want To Achieve Them. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2018/04/15/neuroscience-explains-why-you-need-to-write-down-your-goals-if-you-actually-want-to-achieve-them/?sh=3c629bf79059> [Accessed 10 February 2021].
- Ogbeiwi, O., 2017. Why written objectives need to be really SMART. British Journal of Healthcare Management, 23(7), pp.324-336.
- Marion E. Bunch(1958) The Concept of Motivation, The Journal of General Psychology, 58:2, 189-205, DOI: 1080/00221309.1958.9920394
- Sleep Foundation. 2021. Alcohol and Sleep | Sleep Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/alcohol-and-sleep> [Accessed 10 February 2021].
- Rasch, B. and Born, J., 2013. About Sleep's Role in Memory. Physiological Reviews, 93(2), pp.681-766.
- Burke, L., Wang, J. and Sevick, M., 2011. Self-Monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(1), pp.92-102.