When I work with clients one-on-one for weight management, many are caught up in diet chaos. They've tried tons of diets but still struggle with weight, feel disconnected from their bodies, tend to be either "on" or "off" (on a diet, or off, eating erratically, based on triggers like boredom, emotions, or sometimes just because a food is free or available), and they're totally overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused about what to do.
Generally my goal is to help my client reconnect with her body in a self-nurturing way, and learn an eating strategy that makes sense, feels good, soon becomes intuitive, then feels like her new normal. In short, I help people develop a whole new, healthy, sustainable relationship with food that results in weight loss, optimal health and an end to yo-yo dieting. But the first step is taking a walk down diet memory lane to examine past weight-loss approaches, with the goal of recognizing the ones that made my client feel physically or emotionally bad, and resolving to take a different healthier approach instead.
If you'd like to explore your own journey to get ready for a healthy and sane 2012, try the following exercise:
1. List everything you've done to lose weight in the past.
2. For each approach, write out what felt good about it, and what you liked.
3. Then, for each list, write what felt like a chore, or struggle, or was just too difficult to do or maintain. If something "worked" in the past (meaning you lost weight) but it felt awful or you just couldn't keep it up, add it to a "do not repeat" list.
4. Of the things you felt good about that you know you can really stick with, add them to a "works for me" list.
For each "works for me" approach, list out the tools or support that can help you stay on track and make a plan for seeking them out.
5. Ask yourself, "If the approaches that feel good and sustainable means slower results, can I make peace with that?"
6. Next, ask yourself, "If I know that something I've tried before didn't feel good or I couldn't keep doing it, can I make peace with not doing it again, even if it allowed me to shed pounds or lose weight faster?"
Your answers will tell you a lot about whether 2012 is your year to end diet chaos.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.