Making a big diet change comes with its challenges. Every year, I participate in AST’s Ultimate Challenge fat loss competition as a way to re-focus after the holiday season. Here are some of the things you want to be ready for.
- Prepare your food: This one is pretty obvious—make sure you always have goal-friendly foods that you know the macros for in your fridge. Plan at least a couple of your next-day meals the night before and log the macros that evening so you can grab them and go in the morning. Always have veggies chopped up or on hand for when you are hungry but can’t eat anything else.
- Plan for “Emergencies”: Not real emergencies like your arm falling off, I’m talking about food emergencies, like when you’re caught working late or out running errands that are taking longer than expected (or, when you think you should eat that arm). In a bind, you should always know what your nearest convenient snack options are. My faves include a prosciutto-wrapped cheese stick from 7-Eleven, a bag of raw nuts from a gas station/convenience store, and a piece of fruit from the grocery store.
- Eating out: This is an inevitable reality for most of us. Knowing where you can go and where you can’t is important. Yes, it’s easy to order a chicken breast, piece of fish or steak with a side of veggies or a salad anywhere, but will you? Be honest with yourself, because it can be hard to say no to “cheats” at your usual haunts. If it’s not the Whole Foods salad bar (and yes, I’m only talking about the part with leafy greens), Chipotle, or a steak house, you will not find me there during periods of more aggressive fat loss.
- The numbers don’t lie . . . except when they do: You are going to have to get used to this idea: your weight and body fat measurements will not always be in direct correlation with how closely you’ve stuck to the plan. I’ve been weighing myself at the same time every day on the challenge. Here are my results:
- Your mental capacity might suffer: What was I doing? What did you say? Did you see that? You are not losing it. These are all questions I’ve asked myself during the first week of my diet. Often referred to as “brain fog,” it’s just your brain adjusting to running on fat, rather than carbs (its preferred energy source). It doesn’t last forever.
- Your workouts might suffer . . . temporarily: Mine usually do.
Chalk it up to having less energy. For most of us, we are consuming less energy, a.k.a. less food. This will be temporary.
- Plan your social life around activities, not food and drink: By now my friends and family know that I do this every year. I am not willing to go through a social dry spell for two months, so I see them for goal-friendly activities like having coffee, taking a yoga class, or visiting the spa. I usually go on at least one vacation during my diet and, yes, it’s possible. It just requires a little more research than the average trip.
- Catch up on your to-do list: In some ways I look forward to doing this every year because it gives me time to complete outstanding projects. It gives me a chance to binge-watch a show, complete a craft, or learn something new on YouTube. One year I made a rug, this year I’m working on learning a new language.
- When all else fails, trick yourself: Although my diet-breaking cravings vary from year to year, nothing beats desserts. I’ve learned to trick myself into enjoying the following in place of desserts:
Coconut Latte: Combine 2 shots of espresso with 2 tbsp – ¼ c coconut milk, stir in 1 packet stevia and top off with a dash of cinnamon.
- Forgive yourself: I’ve never had a perfect diet, but I’ve always looked better at the end than in the beginning. If you slip up, just reset the next day and start over. Don’t sweat it. It’s all about making lifestyle changes that make you look and feel better permanently.