Don’t Deprive Yourself, Give to Yourself: 5 Ways to Give your Weight Loss Program a Boost

It’s the time of year when articles with diet deprivation tips abound, telling you to ‘ban all sugar from your diet’ or ‘eat all foods between noon and 8 PM’.

And because losing weight and getting healthier are really important to you, you challenge yourself to follow these rules in hopes that this year will be the one for achieving your goals.

But as the weeks go by, you may find that these restrictive rules become harder to follow – especially as life gets in the way. Whether it’s a stressful job, lack of sleep, sick child or parent, an injury, a work trip or even just boredom, you may feel unprepared to deal with life and your new eating rules simultaneously.

That’s when most people lose hope and end up abandoning the limited eating plan that makes them feel like they’re depriving themselves.

Instead, adopting a new mindset can set you on a better path forward.

Healthy eating and living are all about finding foods and activities you enjoy and without feeling deprived.

Here are 5 ways to start giving to yourself, instead of depriving yourself:

1 – Make time to nourish yourself with more good-for-you foods on a regular basis

  • Eat more plant-based foods (e.g. vegetables, salads, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds)
  • Choose higher fiber and better quality whole grains (e.g. oatmeal, whole wheat cereal, bread or tortillas; brown or wild rice) instead of refined, white grains (e.g. white rice, pasta, breads, crackers, buns, rolls)
  • Select leaner protein sources (e.g. eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, pork loin, lean beef, tofu) and lower-fat dairy products (fat free or lower fat milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese)
  • Incorporate a moderate amount of healthy fats into your diet (e.g. fatty fish such as salmon or albacore tuna; avocados, walnuts, olive oil, peanut butter, nut butters)

The goal is as you incorporate more of these foods into your daily diet, you displace your intake of less healthful foods like fried foods, foods with saturated fats like fatty meats, butter and cream sauces and high-sugar, highly processed foods like cakes, cookies, brownies, candies.

In Six Factors to Fit, we use ‘progressive meal planning’ to help you make small changes to what you are already doing. Following diet-related nudges and tweaks that help you ease into a new way of eating are easier to implement and sustain.

2 – Find calorie and portion controlled treat type foods that you only need 100-200 calories worth to feel satisfied

Life is too short to not be able to treat yourself now and then. Treats can be a part of a healthy eating program when you plan for them.

Rather than ban all treat type foods from your eating plan, find some calorie controlled options that you enjoy. Options may include:

3 – Try new activities or find new ways to do old activities that keep your body in motion and that you enjoy

Studies show that when you find an activity that elicits positive emotions, you’ll be more likely to adhere to it. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Pair working out with a new music playlist, podcast or audiobook
  • Put exercise equipment in a room with a TV and pair your workouts with your top, exercise-only shows
  • Buddy up with a family member, friend, colleague or your dog to engage in a regular walking program
  • Try a new activity that sounds fun like ballroom or zumba dancing, pickleball, paddleball, tennis, biking or swimming

4 – Add de-stressing activities to your daily lifestyle

Stress is a part of life. But if it’s not controlled it can lead you to seek unhealthy behaviors like drinking too much alcohol, choosing unhealthy foods or overeating.

The following de-stressing activities can help:

  • Use a meditation app regularly on your smart phone
  • Talk it out with the supportive people in your life
  • Get moving by taking brisk walks
  • Get enough hours of restful sleep

5 – Add self-compassion to your life

New research on self-compassion shows that self-compassionate individuals experience less anxiety, less depression, more happiness and greater satisfaction in life.

Treating yourself better and not judging yourself will help you better reach your weight loss goals.

This is easier to do when you don’t deprive yourself and give to yourself.

Enjoy your health!


Robert Kushner, MD

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