Diet & Nutrition

A dietitian’s advice on how to get into the right food mindset for 2021

Many of us see the start of a new year as the chance to start over, to refresh a commitment to healthier eating, exercising more, meditating, whatever. Dietitian Susie Burrell explains how to start 2021 on the right food.

When it comes to weight loss, chances are you know that your mindset plays a pretty important role. Not only does our own self-talk play a powerful role in directing motivation, but a strong mindset helps us to find focus and direct the actions that facilitate behavioural changes we need to get results.

So if you are keen to start the New Year on the right foot, and build sustainable food and lifestyle strategies rather than resorting to fad diets and quick-fix programs, here are some key psychological tools and techniques to help build the right mindset for a happy and healthy 2021.

1. Identify your goal

One of the reasons psychologists bang on about goals so much is that it is proven that identifying a clear goal, and writing it down is a key predictor of whether you will achieve your goal or not.

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This means that it is not enough to claim that you ‘want to be healthier’, or ‘want to lose weight’, rather you need to be specific: how much weight do you want to lose and by when, how will you commit to being healthier, and what will be different in your life each week if you are to be successful in achieving these goals?

This kind of mental work does take time, with the need to contemplate and reflect, but starting the year with a very clear plan of where you are headed is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards achieving your goals.

2. Start at the right time

The summer holidays may not be the best time to embark on a new diet and lifestyle routine.

Rather, waiting until your life has returned to normal, and choosing a time when you can give your lifestyle goals complete focus for at least a couple of weeks will help to put you on a path to success.

It will also eliminate the risk of feeling guilty by the second week in January for not achieving your New Year’s resolutions.

3. Focus on sustainability

There are literally hundreds of quick weight loss regimes; detoxes, juice cleanses and elimination diets, etc, that you can buy, subscribe to and throw some serious money at but do they ever really work?

They may give you an initial 3-5kg weight loss, but you can achieve that yourself by far less expensive methods including fasting, lower carb eating and replacing a meal each day with a low-calorie shake, soup or salad. It’s just not sustainable.

Rather, opting for a more moderate approach to your diet, health and weight control will mean that you are still likely to be on track several months later.

4. Get really honest with yourself

Deep down, we all know the truth. We know if we snack on high-calorie foods at night, we know if we drink too much, we know when we eat too much fast food and we know when we are not as active as we should be.

Taking some time to consider what really needs to change in your life, or if you can handle it, asking someone close to you what they think the barrier to success is will help you to target the lifestyle area that needs the most work rather than distracting yourself with other areas that will only serve to waste more valuable time.

5. Be accountable

One of the reasons visiting a dietitian helps to achieve results greater than those you achieve on your own, is that the simple act of being accountable to someone else facilitates mindfulness.

You think a lot more about the food choices you make, how many training sessions you have managed and whether or not you should have that extra cocktail.

Whether you make yourself accountable to your partner, best friend, health professional, trainer or dietitian, making this commitment will instantly make your chances of success much more likely.

6. Cut off the noise

In a world in which social media reigns supreme, it can be easy to become bogged down and distracted by the sheer volume of diet and lifestyle information we are bombarded with. While following some inspirational people and diet experts may be helpful at times, it can also make you more confused about what is right for you.

For this reason, once you have your program and diet goals, avoid stimulating yourself with too much extra diet information that may make you doubt your own choices.

Ultimately you know what is best for you, not the person you have never met online who is sprucing their own program, diet or supplement.

Susie Burrell holds two honours degrees in nutrition and dietetics, and psychology. She is especially known for her practical, easy to understand approach to diet, nutrition and wellbeing.