At this point, the honeymoon is over. The newness of the plan has worn off. You’re more familiar with the structure of the food regimen. You have a better idea of what to expect. You’re starting to feel a bit more deprived by what seem like measly portions. You look at your pizza and think “I’m still going to want more when I’m finished. There’s no way this will satisfy me.” I know, because I’ve been there. Part of dealing with these issues is to try to approach it with the attitude that some deprivation now will pay off, but this rational approach isn’t necessarily going to work when your stomach is screaming for more or your brain is sending out signals of cravings.
The reality of your body getting what it wants, when it wants it has set in and you’re miserable. This will happen. Know it will happen. This is one of the most vulnerable times in a lifestyle change. But you’ve already put in a few weeks, so why waste what you’ve already accomplished? It was a huge commitment to get started. Do you really want to have to go through that yet one more time? Instead, try to remind yourself of the reasons why you wanted to make a lifestyle change in the first place. You feel bloaty. You feel like you’re always digesting food. You hate the way you look. You are uncomfortable in your own skin. People make fun of you. Then remind yourself that you’ve already lived on less food for a few weeks and that it didn’t kill you.
This is a difficult time to resist the temptation to eat just a bit more, have a little cheat before bed, etc. But the ultimate mantra that got me through the rough times was, ‘do I feel better today than I did before I started my lifestyle change?’ The answer was always yes. I also gave myself the option to continue or not. ‘Do I want to continue with my lifestyle change or go back to eating whatever I wanted?’ was another question I’d ask. Knowing that I had the choice to eat less and move more was really important, so I didn’t feel trapped.
Keep it New
Avoid falling into the habit of just eating the same things again and again. This is especially important if they’re your favorites. Make sure to space those out a bit so you regularly have something to look forward to a few times a week and don’t get tired of those. If you love to cook and feel stifled by pre-packaged meals, be creative. Try to experiment with what you’re allotted. I got very creative with chili: Using fat-free sour cream, fat-free cheese, and fresh cilantro, and sautéing my vegetable allowance as a topper.
Try your best to avoid “just having a bite” of something that’s not planned in for the day. You’re trying to retrain your brain and stomach to expect less. That will take some adjustment time. You’ll likely end up eating more than you wanted to, which leads to guilt, and will possibly undo your whole effort thus far at making a lifestyle change. Make up your mind that anything not planned out for the day is off limits, no matter how small of a bit or sip it is.
Good Food is Mood Boosting
There’s actually scientific evidence that shows that when people eat more healthful foods, it actually boosts their moods. In fact, junk food not only makes us feel worse because of the guilt, but physically affects us by giving us a shot of sugar, only to bottom us out after the initial hit wears off. Plus, junk food is formulated to make us want more, which promotes overeating.
Exercise is also a mood booster and an appetite suppressant. Activity decreases secretion of ghrelin from our brains, a hormone that makes us want to eat. Maybe you’ve had this experience of being hungry, but saying, “No, I’ll have a snack after I exercise”. I’ve personally experienced this where I intend to have something to eat after exercising, only to find that I’m not so hungry anymore. So not only are you getting the chemical high from moving around, but you also avoid taking in excess calories.
Battle the Hunger Demon
Along with drinking more water, which helps to make a stomach feel fuller, I offered other tips in a 6-part series on battling hunger issues. These range from accepting you’ll be hungry to eating loads of ‘cheap’ foods. Keep trying different strategies until you figure out what you can reliably go to in order to stick to your plan. It is possible: I’m living proof.