Successful Weight Management: Five Self-Care Strategies To Help You Succeed

Keeping your weight under control is not simply about eating less and moving more. It also involves having the right attitude towards yourself.  For many people, losing weight isn’t just about looking better- we also do it for health reasons, whether it’s to ease aching joints, tackle diabetes or reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other illness such as cancer. Taking care of ourselves indicates that we respect ourselves and our bodies, that we’re motivated to achieve successful weight management, optimising our health in the process; self-care also means we’re able to get our needs met and achieve a good quality of life. When we take care of ourselves, this is then reflected outwardly- people notice that we look happy, energetic and healthy.

Before we embark on losing weight, we need to feel good overall and be in the right place- losing weight should be a lifelong commitment, where you don’t simply aim to lose weight but you also set the intention of adopting a lifestyle that enables you to achieve long-term successful weight management. Self-care is a crucial part of this process. Taking care of ourselves involves communicating our needs to others, making the effort to plan and eat healthy meals, taking time to rest as well as do the activities we enjoy, listening to our body, balancing our own needs with others’ needs and not feeling guilty about the fact we’re taking care of ourselves. However, with our busy lives, many people tend to lose sight of their own needs as they’re too focused on making sure everyone else’s needs are being met.

1 Communicate Your Needs

It’s easy to get into the habit of going with the flow and fitting in with everyone else’s dietary preferences, when deep down you’d prefer to be eating in a way that suits you better. If you eat regularly with certain people such as your partner or family, it’s really important to communicate to them what your intentions are so that they’re clear about your own dietary preferences and goals- provide them with information and reasons as to why you wish to limit or avoid certain foods, or why you want to eat more of other foods. For example, if you find that you experience digestive issues if you eat too many flour-based foods such as bread, pasta, pastry, puddings, cakes and biscuits, tell them that (you will probably have to tell them more than once!)- in time, they will hopefully stop expecting you to eat those foods with the rest of the family, or they will come to accept and eat any alternatives you provide. You might want to simply start eating more vegetables with your evening meal as you feel generally better for eating more vegetables- communicate that fact to those you eat meals with- they can either eat more vegetables with you or they can choose to opt out. Perhaps you’re trying to reduce your overall calorie intake and you tend to eat desserts; a simple explanation to others that you plan to either cut out desserts or limit desserts to weekends only can provide clarity for all.  In order to communicate your own needs, you first have to be clear in your own mind what it is you want to do. If you’re clear, you’re more likely to be motivated to take the steps, as well as to communicate what you’re doing to others.

2 Make More Effort When It Comes To Yourself

We tend to take the easy option, especially if we’re tired or short of time. In the long-term, however, we might find that taking the easy route significantly reduces our chances of losing weight and keeping it off long-term, especially if we’re grabbing quick and easy unhealthy foods most of the time, as well as being inactive (like taking the lift instead of the stairs). Have a think about what you tend to prioritise in life outside of your working hours and what is usually at the bottom of the priority list. To what Successful Weight Managementextent do you prioritise cooking healthy homemade meals for yourself, planning your meals in advance and giving yourself time to be physically active? Such activities don’t have to be exclusively involving yourself, they can involve friends, family or partner too. To what extent are eating ready meals or takeaways, poor meal planning and spontaneous unhealthy food choices, sitting in front of the TV and lack of physical activity regular features of a typical week for you? The problem is that the more we do something, the more we get used to doing it, and the less we do something, the less inclined we are to do it. This is why bad habits can keep us in a rut, whereas good habits can help us to live well and achieve successful weight management long-term. Have a think about what new habits you could set up and which old habits you could ditch as a first step to helping you start living in a way that suits you better and embark on a path to long-term successful weight management. What are your true priorities? Is it time to re-assess your priority list? Just remember that new habits must be realistic, enjoyable and ones that you can adopt long-term, not just for a few weeks.

3 Balance Your Needs With Others’ Needs

Many people find themselves constantly making sure everyone else’s needs are being met whilst putting their own needs last. How often do you take time out for yourself to relax? How often do you do the cooking and washing up, whilst others sit watching TV or surfing the Internet? Do you find you’re up late finishing off household chores that nobody else will do rather than getting to bed at a decent time? How often do you do activities that you want to do, rather than doing things that everyone else prefers to do? How often do you get a say in what to eat? Do you find you give in to other people’s food choices? If we’re frequently putting our own needs and preferences last, we’re actually neglecting ourselves.  If we lose sight of our own needs, we can start feeling unfulfilled, frustrated, resentful and exhausted. If we get used to putting our own needs last, we can find we have no energy left for ourselves- taking steps to look after ourselves on a physical and psychological level such as eating properly and getting enough exercise feels like too much effort. We might want to lose weight but we may not have the energy to start taking steps, and run the risk of adopting a ‘what’s the point?’ attitude- this can keep us trapped in a vicious cycle and can make any attempts at long-term successful weight management impossible. If you want to be there for others, the first person to take care of is yourself. Part of this involves asking others to do their fair share too.

4 Listen To Your Body

A vital part of balancing your own needs with others’ needs is listening to your body. Are you hungry? Are you eating in a way that suits your body, in terms of what you’re eating and the timing of your meals and snacks? Are you resting enough or are you constantly on the go? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you feeling irritable and grumpy? Your body has a good way of signalling to you when enough is enough. When we’re tired, we often reach for pick-me-up carb foods such as biscuits, crisps, bread, alcohol and chocolate- poor food choices can lead to further poor food choices, particularly if we’re feeling stressed and exhausted, making successful weight management impossible. If you find it hard to balance your own needs with others’, just remember that you’ll be no good to nobody if you’re not good to yourself, so listen to your body!

5 Stop Feeling Guilty

In order to be successful at all of the above, you need to stop feeling guilty- guilt is often what stops us from fulfilling our own needs. Many people feel that somehow others’ needs are more important than our own, and that if we’re putting our own needs first we’re being selfish. Or it might be that other people make us feel guilty, for example, if we don’t give them the food they want, if we don’t spend enough time with them or we don’t do what they want us to do. It’s all about balance, compromise, give and take.  Some people will keep taking if you let them, so be mindful that you’re not the one who’s always giving and rarely receiving.

Ultimately, we have to take responsibility for our own health, so it’s really important that we tune into our own needs and don’t lose sight of them. Self-care strategies don’t come easily if you’ve always put yourself last, but with a bit of self-reflection, assertiveness, a bit more kindness to yourself and requests for a bit more encouragement and support from others you can lay the right foundations to help you achieve successful weight management and reach all of your other personal goals too.

If you feel you could benefit from my Mindful Eating service, give me a call (Emma Randall) on 07961 423120, or email me: info@mindfuleating.org.uk. I’m based in Lightwater, Surrey. Skype sessions are also available.

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