If you are changing your diet, here are 3 initial steps from my experience to set you up for success.
1. Know what you can /can’t eat.
- Make clear decisions. Whether this is a diet your doctor has prescribed or one you are starting on your own, make clear decisions of what you will/won’t eat so it’s not muddy in your mind.
When my husband was told he needed to eat a gluten-free diet, we knew he could not have wheat, barley or rye.
When I started this new sugar-free lifestyle, I decided I can eat natural sugar, such as fruit, but no artifical or processed sugars.
- Research. It’s important to know all the funny names for the foods you are avoiding so you’ll be able to catch it when it’s listed as an ingredient on a product. If you are going to be counting calories, you’ll need to either research caloric counts or find an app to do it for you. Also, research restaurants which cater to your new diet so you can suggest it to your friends!
In the beginning of gluten free, I had to look up what products contained wheat, barley and rye. I was surprised how much did! To find out if our favorite condiments or snacks had gluten, I often googled the name of the snack and “gluten-free.” Also, there are many restaurants in the US which offer gluten free menus upon request. I called or searched out our favorite restaurants on the web before we left the house so my husband wouldn’t be stuck not knowing what he could eat.
For my sugar-free diet, I am still researching new natural sugars and how to substitute them in recipes which contain processed sugars.
- Put it in writing. Whether in a digital file or a printed binder, consolidate your info that you’ve decided on and researched into a list of what you can and can not eat specifically so you have a good reference.
My binder for gluten free is extensive! My list for sugar free is simple.
2. Recognize your weaknesses.
- Admit that you have a problem with certain foods. No, seriously. Do! What are the foods you are addicted to that are on your “can’t eat” list? Admit to yourself that you are weak around those things. Then admit it to others you trust.
I love peanut M&Ms. When someone sent a bag to me in a box from the states, I would eat it that day, no matter what size the bag was. Ugh! I had a problem. I also have a weakness for cream cheese icing. Notice the present tense on that one. I’d been sugar-free for over 6 months and no longer strongly tempted by anything (so I thought.) But two weeks ago, someone asked me to make a cake for a wedding shower. I did and accidentally tasted the icing (old habits die hard) and struggled the following week every time I opened the fridge and saw the icing leftovers. I should have thrown it away! Instead, I fell off the wagon and it prompted me to write this post.
- Be aware of hard calendar days. If you’re a woman, know you might have more cravings a certain week out of the month. If you have a day that signifies a great loss and tend to rely on food for grieving, be aware. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays that celebrate with food will need extra attention. When your cravings are stronger during these times, mentally acknowledge the reason why and it will immediately have less power. Also, stock up on “safe” snacks beforehand (as mentioned below.) And pray!
Bryan really misses cinnamon rolls on holidays, so I make sure to either make gluten free cinnamon rolls or at least gluten free cinnamon bread for him!
I must have chocolate one week out of the month. So I make my sugar-free brownies or (my microwave gluten-free, sugar-free chocolate cake in a pinch).
3. Be proactive.
- Purge your cabinets (and your bedside drawers and any other place you hide your weaknesses!) Now, when you rummage through the kitchen looking for something off-limits, you won’t find it!
- ALWAYS have “safe” snacks available. When you crave something on the “can’t eat” list, turn to something on the “can eat” or “safe” list instead. If you have something safe readily available, you are much more likely to make the right choice and be happy about it.
My husband has no choice. If he eats gluten, he gets life-threatening sick. (If you missed his story, read here.) But for me, if I cheat, my consequences are less dramatic. So this is the single most important step for my success. When I first started the sugar-free lifestyle, I always had fruit on hand. When my husband or friends grabbed ice cream, I pulled a piece of fruit out of my bag and ate it while they ate their snack.
- Remind yourself of why you’re doing the diet. This will be a motivator when all else fails. And get to the root of the problem. If you’re trying to lose weight, ask yourself why! For self-esteem? For health? Then write your motivation on mirrors or post it on the fridge if you need to!
I’d been struggling with my health again last spring and feeling guilty about what I couldn’t accomplish for my family. A friend said, “Do all you can possibly do to get healthy, then know you’ve done all you can do.” I was taking vitamins and doing a lot of good things. But I hadn’t dropped the gluten and sugar and I knew that had helped me in the past. So I did it. And when I needed motivation, I looked at my daughter and husband. I didn’t need to post them on the fridge. I just needed to be proactive about keeping the “why” in the forefront of my mind.
If you are still contemplating a diet change, know that I would not stick to my gluten-free, sugar free diet if it didn’t make me feel significantly better. Plus, I lost 25 lbs in 5 months as an added bonus!