fruit and vegOne week into our six week challenge and our brave volunteers are resolutely soldiering on with their diet plans. The first week of changing your nutrition habits is often the most difficult, it takes a lot of energy to resist the status quo and cravings tend to be strongest at this time.

Today I want to focus on the benefits of organisation and planning in advance.

Human brains are fascinating. We are not limited to basic survival (seeking food, shelter, mating and territory), we can remember, forecast and dream. This gives us a richness in our lives and interactions with others but it can also lead to conflicting and seemingly irrational behaviours.

Why did I just eat that second cookie when I know it’s bad for my long-term health?

Why am I browsing the chocolate aisle when I promised yesterday that today would be different?

Sometimes our long-term goals do not match up to our short-term needs and when we become stressed or short for time this can lead to the following chain of events:

  • Decide to make a change to your diet, after all it’s about time you took control of your health
  • Three days in and the diet is going well but today you are tired and stressed. You don’t have dinner prepared for tonight and can’t bring yourself to think about it
  • Hunger gets the better of you and you revert to auotpilot, mindlessly going through the same old motions. The next morning you feel guilty and ashamed of yourself.

When hungry and short on time our rational brain does not function well, therefore, rather than try and (often unsuccessfully) fight our autopilot, we do better by organising and planning in advance. We need to make it easy for ourselves to make a different choice, lowering the barriers to change.

Jo, one of our volunteers is following a paleo diet for the six weeks to see if eliminating certain foods can reduce some of her symptoms. She realised early on that by making a drastic change such as this, especially with a family to cater for, plenty of planning and preparation was required.

  • Don’t let yourself get too hungry – being rational is hard when your blood sugar Is low!
  • Buy foods which are pre-prepared, tinned tuna, cooked chicken etc for easy, quick meals.
  • Set aside a day each week to bulk prepare vegetables and salad. Spend an hour on Sunday peeling and slicing all your veg for the week to reduce time barriers when you are busy.
  • Focus on small changes each week rather than over-hauling everything at once.
  • When shopping, focus on ingredients you are familiar with. Unless you are a foodie, throwing together a new recipe at the end of the day may be a daunting task.
  • Start simple. Lots of great meals such as Fajitas, stir fry, chilli, grilled salmon and veg, can all be prepared in one or two pans maximum.
  • Choose a protein, a couple of veg and a source of healthy fats to make your meal. Use different seasoning to alter the flavour and prevent boredom.

Jo has done great at bulk cooking and making sure she has suitable foods ready to hand. She has also been good at asking for help and advice when needed, don’t go it alone when support is on hand.

In our next up-date I will talk about managing compulsive behaviours such as snacking and guilt.

If you are interested in any of the diets mentioned, or would like an introductory chat with Ian, registered dietitian, call Reception on 01453 548119

Ian is running a workshop on Saturday 28th October called “Advanced Nutrition” for those of you who want the detail.