I never thought that something simple like dieting would have such an impact on all phases of my life! Below are a few lessons learned so far.
1. We are more addicted to sugary foods than we know. If you love to have a little sweet after dinner or a cookie break in the afternoon, cutting those foods out is going to cause withdrawal for the first few days. Just like a smoker quitting cigarettes or an alcoholic avoiding drinking, not eating sugar is pretty hard. You have to be completely committed.
2. You need a distraction. We eat all the time without realizing it. Only when you commit to eating on a diet do you realize how many times you eating simply out of habit. You eat when you are bored. You eat when you are tired to get a boost of energy. You eat to be social. You eat to make yourself feel better. There are all kinds of reasons we eat that have nothing to do with hunger. So, when you stop eating all these unnecessary meals and snacks, you need something to keep your brain occupied. For me, working on house cleaning and knitting projects has been a lifesaver.
3. You might become a bit angrier or less patient. In the early days of dieting, you will feel intense hunger. You are going to be a bit edgy. You may want to warn those around you to tread lightly and to not take you seriously for a few days. In general, I have a nearly endless patience and calm demeanor but in those early dieting days, I found my patience severely tested. Don’t worry, though, this phase will pass after just a few days once your body adjusts to new eating patterns.
4. Your body is going to go a bit berserk sometimes. There is a reason why anyone dispensing dieting advice always recommends that you keep in touch with a medical doctor during the dieting process. In the early days of dieting in particular, you can experience shakes. For me, it was not necessarily a physical shaking like a seizure but an internal feeling of shaking. It was like the body saying, “I’m severely hungry.” Normally, this is when I rush to the kitchen and down some cookies or other high calorie foods. When I experienced this on my diet, I made sure to eat my next calorie-appropriate meal right then, like a salad. I found that if you eat and then wait about 45 minutes to an hour, the body absorbs the food and your body starts to stabilize and the shaky feeling goes away. If you have a condition like diabetes, you probably want to step down your calories very gradually rather than an all-at-once shock.
5. A multivitamin is a good idea. This, again, is something to check with your doctor about but I found that with restricted food intake, particularly eliminating most grains and carbohydrates, my body felt depleted of B vitamins. I am a big believer in vitamin regimens so if my body felt depleted, I made sure to take my daily vitamin supplements right then.
6. Weigh yourself only once a week. It’s tempting to weigh yourself more often as motivation to keep you going on your diet but just weighing in once a week has some added psychological benefits. If you are working all week long, following your diet and exercise plan, you just start listening to your body, wondering if any changes are occurring. You listen to all the hunger pangs, the sensations of muscle fatigue or fat burning. It helps you to learn new patterns to recognize when you are really hungry and when you are eating for other reasons. It also helps you to realize that some things, like eating healthy salads or exercising, are good for you regardless of whether they pay off on the scale.
7. Exercise while dieting is harder. You may be the most fit athlete in the world but once you reduce your caloric intake, even simple things like climbing stairs or going for a walk seem like they take huge amounts of energy you just don’t have. Your regular exercise routine is going to be tougher. You might want to scale down your exercise at first and build it back up as your diet progresses so that you aren’t shocking your body too hard all at once.
8. It gets better. The first few days of a diet are the worst. Not only is your body going crazy but your mind is too. You can’t stop thinking about all the delicious things you could be eating but aren’t. If you just stick with it, though, you will find that over time, your body will adjust. Some days you will not feel hungry to even eat your allotted calories or health foods (but you still should eat them to avoid a faint feeling later on). It gets easier to resist your favorite treats (but the yearning will never go away completely.)
So far, I am doing much better with my diet and exercise program this month. Tomorrow, I will reveal the results of one week on my diet and exercise regime.