Last week I introduced you to What We Eat’s Density Diet, a research-based, sane alternative to the unhealthy and counterproductive cleanses many embark on this time of year. While 5 Density Diet Rules serve as its framework, in order for you to be successful, you need to make them work for you. What does that mean? You need to make following the Density Diet a SMART goal.

Making the Density Diet SMART

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Read more about them here. The adjectives to zero in on in the case of the Density Diet are “attainable” and “time-bound.”

How long do you plan on following this way of eating? A few days? A week? For the month of January? Of course, you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you follow the DD Rules to the letter. But is that attainable (i.e. realistic) for you? If not, make a list of exceptions before you start. If you plan for these, you aren’t “cheating.” You are making the diet work for you and increasing your odds of being successful.

Below is my list of exceptions so you can see how this works for someone else.

Laura’s Exceptions (example only, make a list of your own!)

  • When dining out, I’m allowed to enjoy a bit of cheese, red meat and/or refined grains (likely in the form of pizza or pastaJ). I don’t eat out more than once or twice a week and being able to enjoy what I want is important to me.
  • I’m allowed to enjoy a sweet once weekly but only if it’s truly special and I am savoring it with others (e.g. no mindless desserts consumption in front of the TV).
  • I’m allowed to enjoy my morning coffee and one alcoholic beverage a day (maybe two on weekend nights:)).

Once you make your own list of exceptions, following the Density Diet should be an effective SMART goal for you. It’s…

  • Specific and Measurable: You’ll know at the end of every day whether you’ve been successful or not. You could keep a journal of everything you consume and compare it to your DD rules if that makes it easier. Little deviations are not the end of the world. Perfection is the enemy of progress.
  • Attainable: Your list of exceptions should allow the DD to be doable for you!
  • Relevant: This way of eating is a return to eating for health. If health is your goal, this is as solid of a first step as you can take. Don’t be surprised if you notice you have more energy, normalized digestion, improved skin and maybe even weight loss.
  • Time-bound: You set your own agenda here. Whether you follow this for a few days or the entire year, you’ll benefit.

I’d love to hear from you. Any questions or concerns about this? What are your planned exceptions? If you think it would be helpful, we could start a Density Diet hashtag (#densitydiet2018) and I can tag my meals on Instagram. Let me know. I’d love to see yours as well.

HERE’S TO 2018!

xo Laura, MS, RD

Think Forward: The “Key Three” questions to consider before changing habits

What We Eat: 3-keys-success

Whenever there is an end you’d like to achieve, whether it’s a 5 lbs weight loss or finishing your first 5k, spending time upfront thinking about how you’ll get there is critical. By answering the following questions – the “Key Three” – you’ll ensure you’re not wasting your time down the road.

  1. What actions are necessary to achieve my outcome?
  2. Which actions will give me the biggest bang for my ‘effort buck’?
  3. Which one of these actions am I willing to tackle first?

Let me give you an example.

You’d like to fit back into your insert adjective here (e.g. pre-baby, pre-menopause, pre-60-hour-work-week-glued-to-your-office-chair) jeans. You think you’d have to lose 7 lbs to get there. First you consider what has changed since you last fit into those pants, essentially answering question #1.

  • You stopped making time for exercise. Okay, to be honest you never went to the gym more than once or twice a week before, but you did make an effort to go on a 30-minute walk most days even if it was just commuting by foot to work.
  • Your one glass of wine daily over time became a two glass of wine minimum routine.
  • When the clock hits 3 pm, it’s now straight to Starbucks for a Skinny Grande Vanilla Latte and maybe a cookie. Okay, who are you kidding, you always get the cookie. Afternoon slump be gone!

Next, you tally the calories that your new habits have added or subtracted to answer question #2.

  • 30 minutes less walking = 150 calories less burned.
  • One 6-oz glass of wine extra = 150 calories more consumed.
  • Skinny Grande Vanilla Latte + chocolate chip cookie = 440 calories more consumed.

An extra 740 calories a day definitely explains the 7 lbs weight gain, and it’s pretty easy to see what change would give you the biggest bang for your ‘effort buck.’ (We’re looking at you Starbucks.)

Finally, it’s on to honestly thinking about which of these habits will be easiest to zero in on first to answer question #3 and start to set some SMART goals.

  • Now that the summer is here, commuting to work by foot is probably doable again. If you did it in both the AM and PM, that’s 30 minutes total. 150 calories slashed!
  • Nope, it’s summertime and that extra glass of crisp chard is much appreciated.
  • You like your coffee, but at 320 calories a pop you don’t think the cookie is worth it. You’ll downsize to a Tall, and enjoy it with a piece of fruit instead. Another 240 calories cut!

With the time you’ve dedicated to think about it upfront, you have created a plan to eliminate 390 calories from your daily routine, enough to lose a little under a pound a week. Now it’s time to be persistent and patient. At the end of the month, when you’re down over 3 lbs and feel like it was nearly effortless, you’ll be glad you were.

Set Yourself Up for Success the SMART Way

What We Eat - Finish LineWhile no two clients are alike, I typically notice a recurring theme the first time I meet with people: frustration and disappointment resulting from one or more failed attempts towards their health goal.

“My new year’s resolution was to eat better, but I fell off the wagon in mid-January. I always do that.”

“I’ve been trying to lose the same 25 pounds for at least ten years.”

“I’d like to cut out sweets, but I haven’t been sticking with it. I have no willpower.”

Phrases like these allow me to pinpoint one major issue right away; it’s not a shortcoming in my clients causing them to struggle, it’s their goals! Enter the concept of SMART goals.

Many are familiar with using SMART goals in the corporate setting, but they shouldn’t be limited to the boardroom. They provide detailed directions about how a goal is going to be achieved.  For those who haven’t heard of the concept, SMART is a pneumonic standing for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Let’s break each of these attributes down.

Specific. A goal is specific if it answers at least a few of the W questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is it taking place?
  • When will it happen?
  • Why is it important?

Measurable. A goal is measurable if you know definitively whether you’ve achieved it.

Attainable (aka realistic). A goal is attainable if it is something you realistically feel you can accomplish. This is where you need to be honest with yourself. If my client who’d like to eliminate sweets currently finishes most meals with dessert, and snacks on candy in between, is going cold turkey the best first step? My favorite mantra here is perfection is the enemy of progress. Create a series of SMART goals that move you in the right direction and you’ll get there eventually.

Relevant. A goal is relevant if it fits you and your lifestyle. Forget about what people tell you should do, what is it that you can do now? Also make sure your goal will help you achieve the outcome you want. For instance, if you’d like to lose weight and maintain your weight loss, a SMART goal to do a three day juice cleanse is probably not the answer.

Time-bound. When a goal is grounded in a timeframe, there is a definitive point at which you know whether or not you’ve achieved it. This creates a sense of urgency.

It’s also important to note here the difference between goals and outcomes. Goals are action-oriented. Outcomes are simply endpoints. For instance, my client who has not been able to lose 25 pounds might be struggling because weight loss is an outcome. Multiple SMART goals for exercise and diet change will get him there.

Example 1: ” I will swap the free chips that come with my sandwich at lunch with the free apple or carrot sticks Monday through Friday.”

Example 2: “I will take the stairs rather than the elevator every time my destination is less than three stories up.”

So if you’re wellness goal has been setting you up for failure, say it now, and say it with confidence: “It’s not me, it’s definitely YOU!” Then get ready to move on the SMART way.