Get Your Diet Back on Track

Cheryl Forberg RD
A graduate of California Culinary Academy (CCA) in San Francisco, Cheryl has worked in top restaurants in France and San Francisco. She now has an urban farm in Napa, California.

The holidays are long gone, and the time of reckoning has come.

A month ago, we switched from party-goer to gym-goer, from festive cheer to mid-winter resolve. But by now, you may be having a post-holiday showdown with the bathroom scale, and the results are disappointing. Or you’re feeling sluggish and lackluster after weeks of snowed-in cabin fever without exercise.

Still, don’t let a slow starting pace discourage you. The key to getting back on track is to adopt the right frame of mind. Instead of berating yourself for slacking off, use a strategy called “framing” to isolate and contain the unhealthy indulgences that might have occurred. Just as a physical frame surrounds a picture, behavioral framing surrounds a splurge with a solid boundary of good habits. By reinforcing your exercise program and healthy eating plan before and after an indulgence, you give yourself permission to savor special treats, secure in the knowledge that the next day you’ll be right back on track. After all, a single day—or even several—won’t ruin your healthy lifestyle; it’s the long-term pattern that counts.

Now that we have a small dent in the New Year, don’t let a day or week of splurging turn into a month; the longer you go, the more slippery the slope and the tougher it is to get back on track.

Top Tips for Getting Back on Track:

Keep drinking.

Swap out festive libations for water! Try to drink 8 to 12 glasses each day—more if you’re working out. A recent study published in the journal Obesity found that drinking two cups of water prior to meals helps drop more pounds than without hydration. Water makes you feel full, and provides your body with the hydration it needs for optimum function. If you dislike the lack of flavor, add herbs like mint or basil or slices of citrus fruits or cucumber to a pitcher of water.

Swap cans and boxes for fresh food.

Stay away from processed foods in cans and boxes and start buying more fresh foods. You don’t have to be a fancy cook—buy a simple cookbook, and you may surprise yourself at the chef you find within and, in the long run, you’ll save money too.

Swap food rewards for non-food rewards.

It’s so easy to reach for a donut or candy at work when we’re having a stressful day. And after a rough day so many of us drown our worries in a cocktail (or two) or a rich comforting dinner to soothe ourselves into feeling better (temporarily!). Pay attention to emotional eating which causes us to make poor choices and even to eat when we’re not hungry. If an emotional trigger of stress or loneliness sabotages your best intentions, increase your awareness and substitute a hot bath, a book, or a walk for a bag of chips or bowl of ice cream.

Get moving. Exercise will give you more energy.

Get moving.

There’s nothing like an intense workout to combat winter blues. Although it may seem counterintuitive, exercise actually gives you more energy —and if you add weight training to your routine, you’ll build muscle mass and boost your metabolism, helping drop pounds even faster. If you haven’t added a workout into your weight loss plan, you may find that your stamina and strength have diminished a bit, but don’t let that hamper your restart effort. Keep moving on a regular basis, and you’ll soon find your fit self.

Swap fear for confidence.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Do something each day that scares you.” Take a swim class. Dust off your bicycle. Join a hiking club. Experiment til you find an activity you really enjoy. If you actually look forward to your workouts, you’ve made huge progress!

Eat often.

Include a good source of lean protein with your breakfast to feel full longer, and then eat five to six small meals a day. In a meal-skipping study at the National Institute on Aging, people who skipped meals during the day and had all of their calories at one nightly meal exhibited unhealthy changes in their metabolism, similar to unhealthy blood sugar levels observed in diabetics. And, of course, skipping meals or snacks increases your chances of coming to the table famished at the next meal and over-eating or making less healthy food choices.

Get plenty of sleep.

It’s easier to overeat when you’re tired, and fatigue can make it hard to stick to your work out plans. Caffeine, sugar and simple carbs are the worst choices for a pick-me-up, but they’re what we frequently turn to when sleep-deprived. Aim to get eight hours of sleep per night, and/or try taking short naps during the day. As extra insurance, pitch the junk food and have healthy snacks in the house at all times. That way, if a fatigue-induced craving does hit, the only choice you can make will be a good one.

Former Biggest Loser Nutritionist Cheryl Forberg
Cheryl Forberg RD is a New York Times bestselling author and a James Beard award-winning chef. Cheryl co-wrote the eating plan for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and was the show’s nutritionist for twelve seasons. Her latest book is Flavor First, and she writes a blog of cooking and nutrition tips. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook for more tips and recipes. And continue to read the Saturday Evening Post website for more regular nutrition tips and features from Cheryl.