5 proven ways to make long-lasting healthy eating changes

Canadians are constantly bombarded with new dieting trends that claim to be the latest and greatest secret to weight loss and looking and feeling like our best selves. According to a recent survey, 40 percent of surveyed Canadians reported adhering to a specific diet.

Yet numbers show that the rate of obesity in Canada is steadily climbing. In fact, in 2017, 64 percent of Canadian adults were overweight or obese, up 5 percent from three years previous.

So why do healthy habits and diets fail?

The problem with diets

When thinking of the term “diet,” most people associate it with a temporary, short-term change in eating patterns necessary to reach the desired goal, such as fitting into that new dress, achieving a beach body or getting ready for a high school reunion.

And that’s one of the prime reasons why diets don’t lead to sustainable, long-lasting changes.

According to well-known obesity management doctor, Yoni Freedhoff, “diets promote us to take on lifestyles that at best are tolerable, and at worst involve ongoing suffering by way of some combination of cultivating hunger or cravings, eliminating enjoyable foods or food groups, and making it difficult to lead normal lives with friends or family. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the outcomes of diets that involve suffering are short-lived.”

Therefore, while most diets do result in initial weight loss, it’s estimated that more than two-thirds of dieters will regain the lost weight – plus some extra!

Discouraging, isn’t it?

5 tips to make long-lasting healthy eating changes

Fortunately, there are some methods that have proven to be effective when it comes to making long-lasting changes for healthy eating. Instead of attempting to follow the latest fad diet, give these five approaches a try.

1. Evaluate the sustainability of your dietary changes

Can your changes last long-term and become a part of your lifestyle? Can you adhere to these changes ten years from now?

Set specific changes that are measurable and achievable. For some people, it may be as simple as having an apple for breakfast once or twice a week.

2. Choose realistic goals for both weight and diet changes

While people have some modifiable factors (e.g., calories consumed, time spent exercising, time spent on sedentary activities), it’s important to remember that some aspects cannot be controlled, such as genetics, metabolic rate or medical conditions that impact weight.

Therefore, rather than focusing on a “goal weight,” consider adopting the idea of “best weight.” This concept introduced by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff and Dr. Arya Sharma, obesity management doctors, states: “A patient’s best weight is… whatever weight they achieve while living the healthiest lifestyle they can truly enjoy.”

3. Make health benefits your primary focus on implementing changes

Research shows that a weight loss of 5-10 percent at a rate of one to two pounds per week has a significant impact on reducing health risks.

In addition to wanting to improve your overall well-being, you should seek internal motivators when making dietary changes. Perhaps you wish to maintain your health so you can enjoy spending time with grandchildren, continue travelling or keep up with your dog on its daily walk?

4. Track your patterns

A journal or digital tracking system allows you to gather data about behaviour and look for trends. Consistent recording can aid in accountability and awareness and assessing progress can help with identifying practical ways for improvement (e.g., having an apple and slice of cheese before heading home may reduce the urge to purchase a muffin from a local drive-through).

5. Practice balance

Making healthy changes is important, but so is having fun!

Allow for indulgences. Going out to restaurants and celebrating birthdays with cake is all part of a healthy and fulfilling life. Rather than avoiding “unhealthy” foods or feeling guilty after having some, exercise portion control and selectivity.