When is perfect day to start a new diet or healthy eating plan?

Hands up! Who has vowed to start a new diet on Monday only to overindulge all over the weekend, but then Monday doesn’t quite happen so you start the whole cycle again the following Monday? If you’re guilty of this you certainly aren’t alone!

Clinical Psychologist, Wellbeing Author and Mum of 4, Dr. Bec Jackson, explores this all too familiar pattern and offers some amazing tips and pointers of how to break the cycle.

When tomorrow never comes

When you want to start a new diet, exercise regime, healthy eating plan, detox or just wellness reset is there a perfect day to start?

Well let’s begin with the worse day to start – Tomorrow! It’s even got a label “The Last Supper Syndrome” this is essentially when you load up on all the ‘naughty’ foods and vow to start healthy tomorrow – but tomorrow never comes. You see tomorrow is today again.

This is particularly problematic around celebration periods such as Christmas and Easter because there are so many excuses. Does this sound familiar – “I’ll start after Christmas, but then it’s new years, so I’ll start the second week of Jan, but then its Australia Day, so I’ll start for real on 1 Feb, wait Valentines day….my birthday….Easter…kids birthday…our wedding anniversary….another kids birthday….hell now it’s winter….I’ll wait until spring…” you get the idea!

The main psychological problem with ‘The last supper approach’, is that when you have a big binge or splurge today – saying you’ll start tomorrow – you reinforce the cravings today and make the task even harder for tomorrow. You are trying to trick yourself that today magically doesn’t count. But we know it does.

You also risk getting caught in the feast-famine cycle, if you do actually start restricting your intake to counteract the overeating on that binge day, you soon get caught on a rollercoaster of binging and then restricting, thinking you are maintaining some kind of balance. But like the point above – it’s a game you are trying to play against yourself. Again you are reinforcing yourself for an unhealthy pattern.

Our primitive brain responsible for food cravings and hunger, only really attends to what we choose to eat or not eat today, right now in the present moment. So, this gives us some clues as to when the best time to start is – today!

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When is the best day for a ‘first day’?

I’m sure we have all had many ‘first days’ – just like our kids going back to school, or us starting a new job – first days are hard. So, once you get through half a one, why endure it again, by not sticking to it. When you do commit to a ‘first day’ get it done. The only way out of that pain is through. Once out the other side your brain will reward you with a little hit of the neurochemical dopamine, especially if you mindfully stop and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Just don’t reward yourself with a food treat! Take the fuzzy dopamine hit and keep going.

What day of the week is best – can I start midweek or is it better on a Monday?

A close cousin to the ‘the last supper mentality’ is the ‘I’ll start fresh Monday’ mentality. On the upside, unlike ‘tomorrow,’, Monday does roll around. The problem is there are up to 6 days in between your lapse and starting fresh -and if you combine that with the last supper mindset – that’s up to 6 last suppers until Monday! See how this builds momentum in the wrong direction.

Both these habits are fuelled by what we call ‘all or nothing’ thinking or ‘black and white thinking’. There is no grey, no in between. It’s either ‘diet’ or ‘binge’, ‘exercise’ or ‘stay stationary’. ‘Wrong’ or ‘Right’. It means you have very ridged rules around food and exercise.

If you find a more reflexive, balanced and realistic pattern of eating and exercise, you will be less likely to have repeated first days, Monday after Monday starts, and unhelpful feast- famine cycles.

When does Monday work?

If you are committing to a fresh start, then Monday can work well, provided you avoid ‘last suppers’ you can begin making healthy steps toward ‘Monday’, right now – midweek. Start building your momentum in the right direction. What can you do right now, today, that will start to get you in the most successful place for a good ‘first day’.

Here are some of my favourite steps towards a Monday start
  • Start to reduce your coffee intake,
  • Have one less glass of wine,
  • Cut your sugar intake down little by little each day,
  • Start increasing your water intake by an extra glass each meal,
  • Start going to bed 10 mins earlier,
  • Clean out the fridge Do a meal plan starting Monday
  • Shop for the meal plan,
  • Clean out the pantry,
  • Prepare some snacks for the week ahead,
  • Start a mood & food journal,
  • Take some before photos,
  • Start a mood board or online Pinterst motivation board.

There are so many positive steps you can take, on any day of the week, you will find that your healthy momentum builds towards Monday and instead of dreading your ‘first day’ you will ease into it rather than a sudden shock, and you’ll want to keep going. You’ll want to reinforce your success. Most people who use this approach actually find they have dropped weight before they even officially ‘start’. They certainly have less cravings, less headaches, better will power and a healthier mindset to support them.

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