What an ophthalmologist does for your eyes, a dietitian does to keep your digestive system and body running smoothly, all the while making sure you’re getting the proper nutrients and helping you tailor an eating plan that works best for you—whether your goal is weight loss, learning how to eat a healthy vegan diet, or boosting your iron take. While everybody should try and get an appointment in their calendar, here are the telltale signs you should see a Nutritionist.
YOU THINK YOU HAVE AN ALLERGY OR INTOLERANCE
But there’s a catch. Before you begin cutting foods out of your diet, it is a good idea to consult a dietitian. A Dietitian can help you to determine if your symptoms are due to an allergy or intolerance or something else. Following the correct steps is crucial for getting a correct diagnosis. A dietitian can help guide you through the right diet, and make sure you don’t develop any nutrient deficiencies in the process.”
YOU ARE IRREGULAR
According to most doctors, your bowel movements should happen one to two times per day. If you are skipping days without going to the bathroom, talk to a Dietician about some changes to make.
YOUR STOMACH GETS TWISTY WHEN YOU HAVE DAIRY
Gas, bloating, diarrhea…it sounds like a commercial for a solution that comes in a plastic bottle, but this is actually about dairy consumption. Lactose intolerance is very dose dependent, meaning that if you have a couple tablespoons of ice cream you may be fine—but a cup can send you over the edge. A Dietician can help to make sure you’re properly diagnosed & will help you to figure out if you can have any dairy. If you can’t, they’ll make sure you can get all the nutrients from dairy products another way.
YOU HAVE TRIED EVERY DIET OUT THERE...
…and you never see results. Or you gain it all back shortly after dropping weight. Whatever the roadblock, a nutritionist can thoughtfully and effectively help. A Nutritionist can help guide you through changing your lifestyle, rather than following a specific diet plan. They can help you understand the science behind how food fuels your body, how to achieve balance in your food choices, and provide accountability to keep you on track.
YOU'VE GOT HEARTBURN OR ACID REFLUX
A registered dietitian can help you to minimize symptoms by putting you on an appropriate diet. You do want to check with a doctor to make sure it’s not stemming from something more serious, but a registered dietitian can help tremendously.
YOU'RE NOTICING SERIOUS CHANGES IN YOUR HUNGER LEVELS
Severely decreased appetite or increased appetite could be warning signs that something is up. A dietitian will probably have to collaborate with a doctor to see what’s going on, but meeting with a dietitian is a good place to start.
YOU'RE DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT AND STILL CAN'T SHAKE THE WEIGHT
It’s not just that time of the month. And it’s not just one week of going on a cleanse and wondering why a month later you’ve gained back the weight. We’re talking about a consistent lack of ability to lose weight despite doing all the right things like working out, eating right, and getting enough sleep. There is a lot more to good nutrition than meets the eye. Meeting with a dietitian can help evaluate some of your pitfalls you may not be aware of.
YOU'VE JUST BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH HIGH CHOLESTEROL
With guidance from a registered dietitian, you’ll know which foods to choose and which to steer clear of in order to lower your cholesterol and instantly reduce your chance of heart disease and heart attack.
YOU'RE CONSTANTLY THINKING ABOUT FOOD
Wait, not everyone thinks about their next meal all the time? In all seriousness, though, if you are frequently preoccupied with—and obsessing over—your next meal, it’s time to consult with a nutritionist. If you are constantly thinking about your next meal, and may even go to bed thinking about breakfast, it’s time to schedule an appointment. When these thoughts are not fueled by hunger, but rather an ‘obsession’ with food, it could be early signs of disordered eating. Sometimes, learning a bit more about nutrition science from a dietitian can lead you down a healthier road.”
YOU'RE PRONE TO STRESS FRACTURES
This is more common than you may think. A professional can get to the bottom of it to see if it’s stemming from something like lack of calcium, over-exercising ,or something else. They can ensure that you’re getting the proper nutrients for calcium absorption and strong bones—like vitamin D and vitamin K.
YOU OVEREAT OR BINGE WHEN YOU FEEL EMOTIONAL
Whether you go overboard when you’re anxious, sad, or even happy, this is a red flag if you can’t divorce the feeling with the habit. Otherwise, it can lead to unhealthy patterns that can result in weight gain and all the associated diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. A dietitian (and, sometimes, in combination with a therapist) can help you to deal with the emotions so you can conquer the overeating.
YOU'RE STRETCHED TOO THIN
You work a full-time job, a sideline gig, three pets, kids, and a husband. Simply put, you’re exhausted. There’s a likely chance that you’re not fueling adequately to maintain that busy schedule. A registered dietitian can help you to make sure you’re consistently providing your body with fuel throughout the day—and that you’re choosing the right foods to fuel your brain and your muscles and to prevent energy dips and crashes.
YOU WANT BABIES!
Trying to get pregnant? “A Nutritionist can help prepare your body to have the healthiest pregnancy possible, and ensure your baby is getting all that it needs.
ESSENTIALITY OF HEALTHY DIET
A healthy diet is one that helps to maintain or improve overall well being and make a person healthy, happy and energetic with increased immunity to fight diseases.
Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and stabilizing your mood.
We all know that eating right can help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid certain health problems, but your diet can also have a profound effect on your mood and sense of wellbeing.
Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, cooking meals at home, and reducing your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, may help to improve mood and lower your risk for mental health issues.
A healthy diet provides the body with essential nutrition: fluid, adequate essential amino acids from protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and adequate calories. The requirements for a healthy diet can be met from a variety of plant-based and animal-based foods. A healthy diet supports energy needs and provides for human nutrition without exposure to toxicity or excessive weight gain from consuming excessive amounts. Where lack of calories is not an issue, a properly balanced diet (in addition to exercise) is also thought to be important for lowering health risks, such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cancer.
The idea of dietary therapy (using dietary choices to maintain health and improve poor health) is quite old and thus has both modern scientific forms (medical nutrition therapy) and age old traditional methods mentioned in Vedas.
The basic principles of good diets are so simple that one can summarize them in just ten words:
For additional clarification, a five-word modifier helps: “go easy on junk foods.”
By following these precepts one can go a long way toward preventing the major diseases of our overfed society—coronary heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, and many more.
WHAT IS A BALANCED DIET ?
A balanced diet is a diet that gives your body the nutrients to function correctly. It is not a crash diet but it consists of macro nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and fat along with micro nutrients which include vitamins and minerals. In order to get a proper balanced nutrition, you should obtain the majority of your daily energy from fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
It is a way of ensuring you eat all of the required nutrients for your body to function properly. A balanced diet will not be the same for everyone. Everyone is different and often, individuals will require a different amount and type of nutrients. What you need will vary and will depend on age, gender, lifestyle, illness and the rate at which your body works.
Eating a balanced diet is key in maintaining good health and keeping your body in optimum condition. A balanced diet does not cut out food groups, it consists of a wide variety of foods, served in the correct proportions, to support your body and keep you energized, motivated and healthy. The quantities of foods needed to meet the nutrient requirements vary with age, gender, physiological status and physical activity. A balanced diet should provide around 50-60% of total calories from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates, about 10-15% from proteins and 20-30% from both visible and invisible fat. In addition, a balanced diet should provide other non-nutrients such as dietary fibre, antioxidants.
IMPORTANCE OF BALANCED DIET
A balanced diet provides your body with the vital nutrients it needs to build & maintain healthy cells, tissues and organs, which are crucial for proper growth & development. It includes a variety of foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, lean meats, fish, unsaturated oils and low-fat dairy foods. It doesn’t include processed and refined foods that can undermine health.
Reduces Disease Risk
Eating a balanced diet can help protect you from certain diseases. It can help regulate your blood cholesterol levels, and provides antioxidants, Combining a healthy diet with an active lifestyle has huge health benefits and helps reduce the risk of health conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
Processed and refined foods are typically loaded with saturated fats, sugar and calories, which can undermine weight control. When you consume more calories than your body can use for energy, it stores the surplus in fat cells. Adults and children who eat fast food are at increased risk for weight gain, especially if fast food is eaten more than once a week.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods such as fish and nuts, are important for transmitting signals from your eyes to brain. They also affect people’s moods & can improve depression. It is suggested that consuming a diet rich in saturated fat decreases learning and memory, while diets supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E or the curry spice curcumin help brain function.
Immune system is a group of interconnected cells, tissues and organs that help protect your body from invasion from microorganisms such as bacteria, parasites and fungi. People who are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. A balanced diet is full of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that strengthen your immune system.
COMPONENTS OF A HEALTHY BALANCED DIET
A balanced diet is a combination of five major food groups consisting of vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
1. Vitamins and Minerals
These micro nutrients support metabolism, nerve and muscle function, bone maintenance and cell production. Fruits and vegetables are the primary sources of vitamins and minerals including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C. Vegetables such as dark green leafy veggies should be included in the meal. Adding a variety of veggies like broccoli, spinach, beans, lettuce, etc to your meal will help you
in getting the bountiful nutrients required for the body. Choose a variety of coloured fruits and vegetables like the colours of the rainbow. Remember fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat while providing fiber and key nutrients that keep us healthy.
Protein is required to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Protein is important for growth and development during the early stages of childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy. Your daily diet should consist of protein found in pulses like whole grams, dals, chickpeas, peas, lentils, beans, peanuts, milk, eggs, fish, and meat.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the voluntary as well as involuntary functions of the body. Consume carbohydrates which include whole grains such as brown rice, wheat, ragi, jowar, bajra, oatmeal, quinoa, and potatoes among others. Hence, carbs should not be avoided and it should be a part of your daily diet.
Fats provide energy, store and provide vitamins, and synthesize hormones. There are three kinds of fats namely, polyunsaturated such as walnuts, flax seeds, etc; monounsaturated fat such as olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil, walnuts, etc. Oil is one of the main ingredients used in cooking. Vegetable oil is the main culprit used in cooking as it contains fat that is harmful for the body. Instead, go for unrefined or cold pressed oil which has a higher nutritional value than the unrefined oil.
WAYS TO MAINTAIN A BALANCED DIET
1. Know your correct mealtime
A diet chart comprises of 5 small meals in a day with a gap of 3 hours between each meal. A gap of more than 3 hours will increase the stress hormones cortisol that will let the body store fat in the belly. If these meals are taken in a proper time it will keep the cortisol levels in check and thus reducing belly fat. Food eaten at the right time will also help in better digestion.
2. Activities during the day will reduce weight
If you are physically active during the day it will help you in reducing weight and you will feel less lethargic. If you are inactive and lacking in physical activity than your body requires some weight loss exercises to pump you up.
3. Write down the list of healthy foods
Gather knowledge about the foods that contain protein or carbs, and so on. This will give you an idea of the foods that are nutritious and healthy.
4. Replace processed foods with fruits and veggies
Fruits and vegetables are the natural foods that will help to maintain the body. These foods have been replaced by processed foods for example, tinned vegetables or breakfast cereals being the main culprit for weight gain. Processed foods are unhealthy and contain added sugar, salt, and fat. So, include fruits and vegetables that are low in fat content aiding in weight loss.
If you want to lose weight, add more proteins to your diet as protein takes more time and energy to break down in the body For example, shake-a-day, a whey protein drink that you can make into a fruit pudding can be eaten instead of rice.
6. Going the milky way
Dairy products are the best source of calcium that is essential for healthy bones and regulating muscle contraction. If calcium intake is inadequate, you might suffer from osteoporosis & various bone diseases. Dairy products rich in calcium are low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese & milk.
7. Carbs for energy
It is wise to choose the required amount of carbs needed for the body. The diet should mainly consist of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice, oats, lentils, fruits, and veggies. They are also rich in fiber which keeps you feeling fuller for a longer period of time.
8. Too much fat is bad fat
Decrease the intake of fats in your diet as too much of it can lead to weight gain and other related health problems. The required amount of fats needed for the body totally depends on the foods that you are consuming.
9. Cut down that sugar in your tea/ coffee
Sugar is the lead culprit to increase your waistline in the body. Sugar is addictive like a drug to most of the people, who like to add the sweet sugar to their favorite foods. Too much consumption of sugar may cause diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, obesity among many lifestyle disorders.
10. Remove the ‘Salt’ from your table
Eating too much salt, causes water retention in your body that raises the blood pressure. So, the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure & the greater the strain on your heart, arteries, kidneys and brain. This can lead to heart attacks, strokes, dementia, and kidney disease.
BALANCED DIET FOR WOMEN
A woman’s nutritional requirements differ from men. For example, a woman requires more iron than man due to her monthly menstrual cycles. Here, is a chart with 5 meals provided for women.
Breakfast – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Fill up your breakfast meal with protein like 2-3 scrambled egg whites with a whole grain toast and a fruit of your choice or a bowl of fruit oats porridge with sprouts salad. Protein starts your metabolism and keeps you feeling fuller for longer during the day.
Mid-morning Snack – A fistful of dried fruit combined with nuts or seeds, provides protein and healthy fats to keep you satisfied till lunch. Combining the dried fruits with nuts helps in controlling the release of sugars in the body.
Lunch – Choose carb-rich foods that will supply energy and protein like a bowl of dal/chicken/fish curry with brown rice or roti and a veg salad. You could also include beans or chicken sandwich with plenty of veggies.
Snack– Having a snack will keep your energy levels up and you can choose from a variety of nourishing options.
Dinner– The supper of the day should be a combination of protein and carbs. You can include oily fish which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids like mackerel, salmon which is beneficial for healthy hair and skin. Fill up your dinner bowl with a variety of colourful veggies. Chicken/fish/paneer with roti /chila/ quinoa preparations and soup or salad with veggies.
A glass of low-fat milk with a pinch of elaichi.
BALANCED DIET FOR MEN
Men should have a proper healthy diet that will help build up their stamina and keep them active throughout the day.
Breakfast –Start your metabolism by starting the day with breakfast filled with protein. If you are a gym person, you should definitely have a protein rich breakfast for muscle repair and recovery. You can include veg poha with eggs or chila with chutney or khichdi /upma with veggies and sprouts salad. Eggs are the best choice as it gives you energy for the whole day.
Snack –Opt for nuts and seeds or you can have a fruit bowl with nuts.
Lunch – You can make a mix of foods with carbs and protein. Opt for rice with dal, chicken or paneer , a sandwich topped with chicken or fish with plenty of salads and boiled veggies.
Snack – You can choose snacks that are vital for satisfying your energy levels.
Dinner – Combine carbohydrates with essential fats which your body can use for overnight growth and repair. You can have roti with veggies and a dal soup or chicken soup.
DISADVANTAGES OF UNHEALTHY DIET
Eating a nutrient-poor diet is a lifestyle choice than can have dire health consequences. On the other hand, a balanced diet furnishes your body with a variety of foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meat, poultry, nuts, legumes and unsaturated fats. Consume the right proportions of healthy food to help avoid the disadvantages of a nutrient-poor diet.
Weight Gain and Obesity
Obesity and poor diet often go hand in hand. Consuming a surplus of calories from unhealthy foods can result in excess weight that puts a burden on your body, reduces your energy level and may result in serious health conditions.
Increased Coronary Artery Disease Risk
A poor diet is a contributing factor to the buildup of plaque in coronary arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. In addition, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and excess body weight — all related to poor diet — contribute to plaque buildup.
Increased Cancer Risk
Processed foods are typically high in calories and saturated fat, as are most meats and whole milk products. A diet high in saturated fats can increase your risk for cancer. These foods can contribute to your being overweight or obese, which also ups the odds of developing cancer.
Increased Osteoporosis Risk
A poor diet contributes to the risk of osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones – making them more likely to break. Sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D are needed to maintain strong bones.
Many people are overfed but undernourished. This means that they eat plenty of food, but the food is often convenience and packaged foods that have been stripped of their nutrients. While this may help keep you full in the short term, it doesn’t provide the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Most vitamins and minerals are found in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and lean meats. Neglecting to include these foods in your diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
HOW NUTRITIONAL COUNSELLING CAN HELP
When one think about nutritional counselling is not only something you do when you’re finally serious about healthy eating and maintain perfect body weight, nutritional counselling can help you achieve even more — whether it’s improving your race time while participating in marathons or managing a chronic health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure and in addition it is required for healthy and happy living .
And guess what! Many sports person, media person, bollywood personalities usually go for minimum of six annual visits with a registered dietitian!
Q: Who is a professional dietitian?
Professional dieticians holds a professional qualification for nutritional counselling, such as meal planning services, in order to help their patients achieve their individual dietary goals.
Q: Why should someone get nutritional counselling from a professional dietitian?
We can all benefit from a healthier diet, and a registered dietitian can give you the answers, resources, and motivation you need to make a healthy change. Here are some of the reasons You should consider nutritional counselling:
- You want to lose or gain weight
- You want to eat healthier, help your family eat smarter, or have more energy
- You have a medical condition that requires a strict diet, such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, or high blood pressure
- You are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding You want to improve your performance in sports
Q: What can someone expect out of the first visit with a professional dietitian?
Typically the first visit lasts little longer and allows the professional dietitian to get to know the patient. The sessions start with basic questions like height and weight, eating routines and preferences, health concerns, and medications. It’s helpful if the patient can bring in a list of what they ate within the last 24 hours and also if the patient has blood work done to check cholesterol, blood sugar, iron, and vitamin/mineral levels.
As the sessions continue, the patient can expect the professional dietitian to create a custom meal plan that is tailored to the individual needs of the patient and to discuss what types of barriers could be in their way. For example, a professional dietitian can take into consideration where the patient shops for food, where affordable produce is available, and whether the patient is cooking for just themselves or for their whole family. (Oftentimes family members are invited to the nutritional counselling sessions to help build support for the patient, and also to ensure that everyone understands how they can help.)
Q: Are there any common myths you want to dispel about nutritional counselling?
Professional dietitians are not the food police! Patients should not be afraid to come in because they think we’re just going to tell them what they can or can’t eat, and that people should only eat fruits and vegetables. That’s not our goal.
We want to help our patients achieve health and wellness goals and come up with a plan that’s realistic to maintain. We want to help our patients make lifestyle changes, and to reach them as gradually as needed so that they stick.
WAYS TO BOOST YOUR METABOLISM
1. Sleep Is Essential:- Not getting enough sleep may slow metabolism. Sleep deprivation revs up your appetite-stimulating hormones and leads to a sluggish metabolism. It also zaps your energy, which means you’re less likely to move. Sleep deprivation tends to promote insulin resistance.
2. Drink Green Tea:- Green tea speeds up metabolism rate. It is the only indulgence that can boost immunity, reduce cardiovascular risk, and bump up your metabolism for zero calories. It is naturally calorie-free, so there’s no reason not to enjoy a mug (or two).
3. Amp Up Your Workout Intensity:- High-intensity interval training (HIIT), quick bouts of intense exercise that can jumpstart metabolism and keep you help burning calories long after the workout is over.
4. Don’t Skip Breakfast:- Eating breakfast can boost your energy level, which helps increase calories burned throughout the day. Providing your body with healthful fuel after nighttime “fasting” keeps your body from using calorie-burning muscle for energy during physical activity.
5. Pump Some Iron:- Lifting weights can also help speed up resting metabolism rate. So take time out of your busy schedule and work out by lifting weights to speed your metabolism.
6. Gulp Some Water:- Drinking enough water is a simple way to speed up digestion and burn calories. Drinking water and eating water-based foods also can make you feel full, preventing you from overeating at mealtime. Drinking water can increase the rate at which people burn calories.
7. Spicy Things Up:- Spicy foods such as hot mustards, hot sauce, chili peppers & salsa have been shown to increase metabolism for hours after you’ve finished a meal.
8. De Stress:- Stress can elevate your cardiovascular risk & decrease your metabolism. Under stress the body stores calories and conserves weight. Even without eating more stress can cause you to gain weight.
WAYS TO BOOST YOUR METABOLISM
9. Eat Wisely :- Who knew eating could actually help speed calorie burn? Protein has also shown to boost metabolism, so pick some eggs over pancakes at the breakfast table for a morning metabolism boost.
10. Laugh A Lot:- A little laughter may go a long way. As little as 10 minutes of laughter per day can burn energy. Enjoy Yourself , Stay Happy, Laugh Aloud and Boost Your Metabolism.
11. Eat Foods With Omega 3:-Add omega-3 fatty acids, to your diet for heart health and a boost in metabolism. Omega-3 fats play a crucial role in fat-burning.
12. Pick Good-For-You Carbs:- Keep your blood sugar steady and your metabolism up by limiting the sugar and white flour products you consume. Replace “bad” carbs with fruits, veggies, whole grains, & legumes.
13. Choose Healthy Cooking Oils And Fats:– Choose olive oil, avocados, nuts, and canola oil to keep your system running smoothly. Avoid saturated fats or trans fats – they tend to slow down your system.
14. Grab a cup of Joe :- This caffeinated morning beverage is not only a savior when it comes to pushing through a midterm paper or work meeting. A cup of coffee is absorbed into the blood stream very quickly, speeding up heart rate and provide a metabolic boost .
15. Eat beans with meals:- Beans are a cheap and convenient way to give a metabolism boost to your daily menu. Beans have a lot of protein and fill you up. Beans are loaded with soluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol.
16. Squeeze in some cardio:- One study found that 45 minutes on the bike speed up metabolic rate for over 12 hours .
BODY MASS INDEX (BMI)
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height, and applies to most adult men and women aged 20 and over. For children aged 2 and over, BMI percentile is the best assessment of body fat.
It is used as a screening tool to indicate whether a person is underweight, overweight, obese or a healthy weight for their height. If a person’s BMI is out of the healthy BMI range, their health risks may increase significantly. BMI values are age-independent and the same for both sexes.
Weight (kg) / Height (m)2
With the metric system, the formula for BMI is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (kg/m2). Since height is commonly measured in centimeters, divide height in centimeters by 100 to obtain height in meters. The standard weight status categories associated with BMI ranges for adults are shown in the following table:
|30.0 and above||Obese|
BMI of less than 18.5
A BMI of less than 18.5 indicates that you are underweight, so you may need to put on some weight. You are recommended to ask your doctor or a dietitian for advice.
BMI of 18.5-24.9
A BMI of 18.5-24.9 indicates that you are at a healthy weight for your height. By maintaining a healthy weight, you lower your risk of developing serious health problems.
BMI of 25-29.9
A BMI of 25-29.9 indicates that you are slightly overweight. You may be advised to lose some weight for health reasons. You are recommended to talk to your doctor or a dietitian for advice.
BMI of over 30
A BMI of over 30 indicates that you are heavily overweight. Your health may be at risk if you do not lose weight. You are recommended to talk to your doctor or a dietitian for advice.
How is BMI used with children and teens?
Girls and boys develop differently and have different amounts of body fat at different ages, so a child’s age is taken into consideration when looking at their BMI. Carrying extra weight as a child or teenager can pose significant health risks, both during childhood and into adulthood. Maintaining a healthy weight during childhood is especially important for heart health.
SIX SECRETS OF SELF-CONTROL
What is it about self-control that makes it so difficult to rely on? Self-control is a skill we all possess; yet we tend to give ourselves little credit for it. Self-control is a key component of emotional intelligence.
When it comes to self-control, it is so easy to focus on our failures that our successes tend to pale in comparison. And why shouldn’t they? Self-control is an effort that’s intended to help achieve a goal. Failing to control yourself is just that—a failure. If you’re trying to avoid digging into that bag of chips after dinner because you want to lose a few pounds and you succeed Monday & Tuesday nights only to succumb to temptation on Wednesday by eating four servings’ worth of the empty calories, your failure outweighs your success. You’ve taken two steps forward and four steps back.
With this success/failure dichotomy in mind
These strategies are obvious, others counter intuitive, but all will help you eliminate those pesky failures and ensure your efforts to boost your willpower are successful enough to keep you headed in the right direction for achieving your goals.
Self-Control Secret #1 – Meditate
Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine (and it improves your emotional intelligence). Even simple techniques like mindfulness, which involves taking as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves your self-awareness and your brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason.
Self-Control Secret #2 – Eat
Your brain burns heavily into your stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Sugary foods spike your sugar levels quickly and leave you drained and vulnerable shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control. So, if you’re having trouble keeping yourself out of the company candy bin when you’re hungry, make sure you eat something else if you want to have a fighting chance.
Self-Control Secret #3 – Exercise
Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to walk over to the office next door to let somebody have it, just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.
Self-Control Secret #4 – Sleep
When you are tired, your brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose is highly diminished. As explained in Secret #1, your brain’s ability to control impulses is nil without glucose. What’s worse, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. So, if you’re trying to exert self-control over your eating, getting a good night’s sleep—every night—is one of the best moves you can make.
Self-Control Secret #5 – Ride the Wave
Desire has a strong tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. The rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.
Self-Control Secret #6 – Forgive Yourself
A vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common in attempts at self-control. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behavior. When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
Putting These Strategies to Work
The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at the Six Secrets and giving them a go before you give in. It takes time to increase your emotional intelligence, but the new habits you form with effort can last a lifetime.
- Sweet potatoes over starchy white potatoes
- A small piece of dark chocolate instead of a cookie
- Brown rice instead of white rice