New behaviours as we emerge from the pandemic

Sylvie Boulay is the author of Take Charge of Your Diet, available now. Here she shares her thoughts on how best to approach dieting as we emerge from the pandemic.

It will soon be summer and we are starting to ditch layers and bring out summer outfits.  For many it is also a time of worry ‘Will this still fit?’ ‘Does it suit me?’  For the first time in a couple of years we can plan for a summer holiday away from home. As we emerge from the restricted life we led during the pandemic, we start to wonder how best to look after ourselves.  

Starting and keeping to an eating or an exercise regime has always been challenging but it is hardest when tempting food is readily available and time is in short supply.  My workbook called ‘Take Charge of Your Diet’ will give you the tools to draw up a plan to become a healthier you and most importantly, to stick to your plan for good.  

This workbook is based on the Cognitive Behavioural Theory (CBT) model.  The idea of CBT is that bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all linked: when something happens, what we do depends on what we think at the time and on our feelings.  For instance, if I can’t fit into my favourite summer skirt, I might think I will never get my shape back, feel depressed and give up trying altogether.  If instead I can stop and reflect on what has happened over the winter and make a plan to eat better and move more, I can empower myself to succeed.   

We can’t dictate what happens in our lives or how we feel but we can challenge any thoughts that sabotage our plans and choose behaviours which fit our goals.  This workbook will help you focus on what is within your control so you can take charge of your eating and lose weight for good.  It will give you a chance to become your own weight loss coach. It is broken down into 10 main sections using the main CBT techniques.  By working through each one, you will learn to understand your eating patterns, make sense of previous attempts at losing weight, choose a sensible plan, set yourself goals, create new habits, spot risk situations, manage cravings and learn from setbacks.

I like the analogy of designing a lighthouse: there is no point in hoping there will never be any storms.  Instead, the shape can be designed so that water travels upwards over the curved surface rather than hitting the structure full on.  When we try to eat more healthily and move more, we can’t just promise ourselves we will never give in to temptation.  For long term change we need to understand ourselves, to foresee difficult times and have strategies to deal with them and to celebrate successes.  

The end goal is not to fit into a favourite summer dress or to achieve a particular look, it is about creating a new set of behaviours which suits the person we want to be in the long term.

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