The Mindful Diet Week 4: Learn to Manage Obstacles

There’s always going to be something that threatens to throw you off your healthy-eating game. But how you react to—and plan for—those obstacles will be what helps you stay the course.

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There’s always going to be something that threatens to throw you off your healthy-eating game. But how you react to—and plan for—those obstacles will be what helps you stay the course.

Days 22–24: Commit (again) to daily yoga.

If you’ve found yourself too busy to practice asana or meditation each day, try experimenting with the time of day you practice. Then, keep tabs on what felt best and most doable—because that’s what will be sustainable.

Day 25: Channel stress like an animal.

When we have no outlet for stress, we eat as a way to tame those emotions—and typical go-tos are carb- and sugar-rich foods that boost the feel-good hormone serotonin in our bodies. The solution, Kay suggests, is to shake off stress—literally. “When you look at animals, they shake their bodies, flick their heads, and generally move around a lot after a stressful situation,” says Kay. It helps them get rid of pent-up energy and those stress hormones their bodies produced. If we did the same thing, it would help us process our stress in a healthier way than stuffing it down with food. If shaking like your pup doesn’t seem appropriate, get up and go for a walk, recommends Kay. Any kind of movement will help you release the stress—and avoid overeating as a result.

Day 26: Make an ultimatum list, and then burn it.

Put pen to paper and write down all of the diet “rules” that you’re trying to follow: no sugar, no gluten, no dessert, no coffee, no booze—you get the gist. Then, really ask yourself why these rules have been difficult or impossible to follow, says Leslie J. Bonci, RD, director of sports nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine in Pittsburgh. “Once you’ve figured out why those old goals aren’t realistic for you, ditch your ‘should’ list,” she says.

Day 27: Visualize the finish line.

Jules Paláez, a yoga teacher in Boulder, Colorado, and co-founder of Conscious Cleanse, says this is the practice she turns to when she needs a little nudge to stay committed:

  1. Close your eyes,imagine your happy place—the spot where you feel most grounded and centered. Take a moment to notice all the beauty around you.
  2. Once you’re there, look up and notice someone ahead of you, and start slowly walking toward that vision. As you walk closer, that person comes into focus. It’s you at the end of this journey, having achieved all of your goals.
  3. How do you feel now that you’ve succeeded? What do you look like? What’s the message you have for yourself that you can embrace right now, as you’re still on this journey? (Maybe it’s, “You’ve got this,” or, “You’re almost there.”)

Multiple studies have found that mental practices like the above are almost as effective as physical ones, such as exercise, to help us stay the course. A study published in Neuropsychologia found the same brain patterns were activated when people imagined pumping iron as when they actually lifted. The caveat: Don’t get caught up in your thoughts. Too much focus on fantasy can make you less ambitious, suggests a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. So, go ahead and visualize your goals—just be sure you plot and put in the hard work it’ll take to reach them, too.

Day 28: Give someone a hug.

Research shows that any kind of bodily contact—whether it’s a hug or a handshake—can boost oxytocin, a brain chemical that may help control appetite. Oxytocin was found to help curb drug cravings, and experts say it may work the same way to ease food hankerings as well.

Continue on to the next week:

Return to the whole program

See also The Stress-Busting Yoga Sequence to Conquer Tension