How to Change Your Mindset - Ask a Nutritionist

February 2, 2023

It's important to understand where we are mentally when it comes to improving our health. Listen in as a licensed dietitian talks about ways our thoughts can affect us on our health journeys. 

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MELANIE: Welcome to the “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We are thrilled to have you join us today as we discuss the connection between what you eat and how you feel, and share practical real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition. Now let's get started.

LEAH: Good morning and welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's new midweek segment called “Ask a Nutritionist”. On today's show, we will be answering a nutrition question we received from one of our Dishing up Nutrition listeners. So this particular listener wrote, “I have finally lost the 30 pounds I have struggled with so long to lose. How do I retrain my brain for maintenance and how do I change how I eat daily? This has been a part of my problem for the many times I have lost weight.”

I think this excellent question. I loved this question. This is why we picked it out. And first of all, I wanted to just say congratulations on that weight loss. 30 pounds is amazing, so I hope that you're able to recognize that success for yourself, and I really hope that you're so proud of yourself and the efforts that you've put into losing that weight. Second of all, I want to just bring this back to now all the other listeners or people who may be watching this video, and just pose that question, does that ring true for you or does that question resonate for you?

Have you lost weight in the past once, twice, 10 times, 20 times? Have you lost that weight in the past, only to struggle with maintaining that weight loss or to struggle with that mindset and those thoughts that are required to just continue having that success long term. I am willing to bet that this is hitting home for a lot of listeners and for a lot of you who may be watching this video, which again makes it a really great question to discuss, and I hope if this is resonating for you, that it just shows you that you're not alone and that there's many people in the same boat so that this is a shared experience with so many people out there.

So as thinking through how I wanted to answer this question, I mean, one thing that I wanted to kind of throw out there or pose as one approach that you can use to start to identify what your mindset is like and to start shifting that mindset. Think about as people go off on a weight loss journey or they're changing their habits for some amount of health that they want to achieve. They typically have a goal weight. I won't use air quotes here, but just imagine a goal weight or a goal size that they're working toward. So now for this listener, you're at that desired weight. You've kind of reached that pinnacle. You've reached what you were striving for. Now maybe you could start shifting your thoughts and say, it's not a goal weight that I'm going for, but a goal life. What do I want my goal life to look like? And asking yourself that question.

What habits and routines need to be established?


And when I say that, I mean what kind of habits and routines does a healthy person like me need to do on a day in and day out basis to continue being healthy? What are those actions that are the most important for you as an individual to help you continue on this upward trajectory, or just to even continue feeling good in your own skin? Can you see yourself carrying out these habits for a long time? In identifying those habits, can you see, can you visualize yourself actually doing these for the long term? This is something that we've been addressing in some of our classes, especially our new Ongoing Support and Education classes. Can you visualize your success? Can you visualize yourself actually roasting the vegetables in the oven? Can you see yourself going for that walk every day? Can you see yourself making that protein smoothie or getting out the big blender and making a batch of smoothies every single week?

I'm borrowing this from Melanie, who's one of our other dietitians. “What you think about, you bring about.” So the thoughts in our heads are so important and they're so powerful. So I want this listener and all you listeners out there to think about in the past when you've approached your weight loss journey, have you come at it from the aspect of, okay, “Once I'm at my goal weight, I'm done. There's an end date. I can white knuckle my way through any kind of desperate dietary plan because it's only for X, Y, Z period of time.” And if that's been you, have you found that it's been easy, you know when there is that end date when it's like you're cut off and there's nothing next, is it easy to revert back to those old habits or to forget about those things that helped you improve your health? Or is it as easy to kind of get distracted as things in life come up or as we get busy again with work or kids or other family members or every, you know, that never ending to-do list?

So if that's the case again, then it would kind of beg the question or beg the reframe of, you know, maybe I'm at a good weight for where I want to be, but the health journey never ends. I'd encourage you who are listening and who are watching to take inventory every now and again. Maybe for some people it's every day you need to just sit down for a few minutes and reflect on some of these things, but visualize or take inventory of what are those things that make the biggest impact on your health? And visualize yourself doing those things every day and making the best choice that you possibly can.

So maybe this means, do I get into bed by 9:30 PM 95% of the nights? Or does it mean that I need to make sure that I have two balanced snacks every single day so that by the time 5:00 PM rolls around, I don't have sugar cravings? Or I'm not hangry and I want to rip the fridge door off its hinges by the time I get home. Or it does it mean that I'm going for a walk for 20 minutes every day when I get home, and that's going to be my stress reliever instead of opening the bottle of wine? Or maybe it means I'm going to take my probiotic every single day because I know when my gut is happy that my brain is happy and I have fewer cravings. Which one of those rings true for you?

Or maybe it's something completely different, but take stock on what those important, sometimes I call them your non-negotiables. What are those non-negotiable foundational habits that are the most important for you? Those are always going to be your big things. Those are going to be those nonwavering things that you're always going back to as your foundation, and that again, they help you stay steady and keep you moving in the right direction, whether it's for your weight or for other health issues.

Check your approach or mindset


So then I would also say if you can't see yourself doing some of the habits that got you to that weight loss, if you can't see yourself doing some of these things really long, I’d say two things: maybe you either check the approach that you were using for that weight loss or see if your brain tends to go more in an all or nothing type of mindset. So you're either all in on your eating plan or your diet or like whatever it is that you're committed to, and you're doing everything right. Or you tend to go off the rails. You're eating every bit of sugar that you can get your hands on, and there's no middle ground. There's no gray area. There's no in between. You're either on one side of the spectrum or the other. Maybe that rings true for some of you as well, maybe for this listener, if that all or nothing mindset has been your downfall in the past or that has been, again, maybe it helped you be successful in the short term, but eventually it kind of led to some of that undoing in the long term.

Practice grooving new habits or mindsets


Then another aspect that you can practice, and please note that I say practice. Because practice, that's what we're all doing. We are not perfect by any means, and it just takes time to groove new habits and groove new mindsets. But you can practice allowing for some of that gray area in your nutrition or some of those other lifestyle habits. This allows for some of that imperfection in your life. Even with our best late plans of mice and men sometimes. There will always be that vacation that comes up, or maybe it's a family emergency that no one saw coming. It came out of left field. Maybe it's a birthday. Maybe it's a meeting that went an hour too long and it dug into your lunch break, and now you have to try to reconfigure your day, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. There's always going to be things that come up and make it difficult, or maybe even sometimes impossible to carry out your plan perfectly.

But when we know that the goal is not perfection, it allows you to relax into the process a little bit more. So know that it is okay when some of these things come up. And part of the question is what do you do when things get off kilter? And maybe things get off kilter. Maybe it's just for one meal, but maybe it's for a day. Maybe you're off kilter for a week or two. Maybe a month, maybe even a year. Maybe something so dramatic has happened that you know that you just haven't been your best self for the last year. As I talk with clients about this, I hear this language a lot of, maybe that typical self-talk looks like, “Ugh, I'm so bad. I am way off track. I'm so off the wagon. I always do this to myself. This is my cycle. This is who I am. I always am good for a month, and then I fall off, or I'm good for six months, and then I slip back into those old habits.” So if that is something that resonates for you, I would say, what if you reframed some of that mindset and say, “I adapted to what was going on in my life at that time,” or this is another one that I've been using a lot with clients, is this has been an opportunity to learn about what works and what doesn't work for me.

So this is a much more gentle way to talk to yourself. Again, it allows for that basic amount of imperfection that we all have. It allows you to give yourself some of that grace and then when you're ready you can say, okay, “I adapted. I learned. I am still learning, but now I am ready to refocus and use the tools that I know I have in my back pocket. I'm ready to use those tools to get started again.” One of my students recently in that Ongoing Support and Education class series that I just talked about, one thing that she said that I know it resonated with a lot of the other students in the class said, she said, “Every meal or snack is an opportunity to start again.”

So again, we, a lot of us, we say, I'll start again on Monday, or I'll start again tomorrow, or X, Y, Z. I'll start again at some future date. But this shrinks that amount of time that you're giving yourself. You're saying, okay, great. I ate something that maybe I know wasn't in line with my goals, but the next time I eat, I have a choice and I can choose to eat balanced. I can choose to make a better or the best choice for my body at that time. You're giving yourself grace, but you're also giving yourself that opportunity to get right back on, to get back into that realm of I am doing what I need to do for my body and serving myself the way that I deserve to be served.

So if you can allow for some of life's little curve balls or even the, some of those big curve balls: family emergencies, the death in the family, you know, medical emergencies. These are not little things that so many of us my clients, my students, even my own family. Some of these things are really big challenges that we have to overcome, but if we can allow for some of those curve balls and see your nutrition as a spectrum instead of seeing it in extremes, and you're either, again, on one extreme or the other, it just becomes so much easier to not beat yourself up when you have something that you know just isn't in line with your goals, and then to just gently course correct when you get the next opportunity.

Monica, one of the other dietitians; I know she had posted something about making a U-turn. When you know you are kind of going down a path that doesn't serve you, at the next opportunity, make a U-turn. At that next meal or snack, make a U-turn and make the next best choice that you can. And just remember that just like one salad doesn't make you lose 10 pounds. One ice cream cone doesn't make you gain 10 pounds either. So it may be uncomfortable, especially as you practice some of that mindset, but living in the gray area can help you be less all or nothing and can help you fluctuate and be flexible when you need to, but also hold steady to some of those non-negotiables or some of those foundational habits that I was talking about before.

Include like-minded people in your life


And one last thought as I was thinking through answering this question: I did want to talk about finding the people in your life or finding your community of people who also prioritize their health, prioritize their nutrition, prioritize exercise, prioritize good sleep, whatever the case may be. The more checks and balances that you have in your life, the easier it is to carry out those non-negotiables or to carry out those best practices. The more checks and balances that you have, the more likely you are able to get into bed early every single night or to say no thank you to the cocktail, or to eat breakfast every day, or to make sure that you pack a snack before you go to work.

And that community there, there's so many different ways to find community and social media for all of its pitfalls can be a great way to find community as well. Perhaps it's listening to Dishing up Nutrition. Many of you are coming to either this video or this mini podcast as as already established nutrition Dishing up Nutrition listeners, which is amazing. But Dishing up Nutrition can be that free nutrition class every single week, that free bit of education, but also that free bit of motivation that keeps you going for the next couple of days, or the next couple, the next week or so until the next show rolls out. So Dishing Up Nutrition is great. We have that Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook group where us nutritionists at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we moderate that group.

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So even if your question doesn't get answered on the podcast, just like this, we do answer questions so you do get your answers. We watch that group very closely and encourage engagement and people asking questions and helping each other and lifting each other up and helping them navigate those challenges. So Dishing up Nutrition Facebook page is great. One of my clients has a walking buddy. Their agreement is that they walk every single day. I think they go on a two mile loop or so, but they go on this two mile loop every day, as long as the weather is above 15 degrees outside. So for those of you that live here in Minnesota, you know, that can can be a little hit or miss come December, January, February, things like that. But having that partner in crime, if you will, can be so helpful, especially if you are the person where you are really good about meeting outward expectations. So if you know there's somebody out there waiting for you or you know there's an outside expectation there that yes, you are much more likely to meet that goal for yourself in addition to helping this other person.

Another one of my clients, I just talked with her last week, said that one thing that she and her husband are going to start doing as a way to reconnect after work every evening is to cook a balanced dinner every night. So this is in place of what they would typically do is they would get home at different times, eat separately, and then their reconnect time was opening a bottle of wine and watching Netflix for two or three hours every. So she said they wanted to just change some of those habits, cook dinner together, wait until everybody was home at the same time, just her and her husband. They were going to cook a healthy, balanced meal together, and that was going to be their time to de-stress, unwind, reconnect at the end of some busy work days.

And then we have many couples, siblings, friends who sign up for our classes and take them together as a way to kind of hear the information with two different sets of ears, but also be in that journey together. Some of you out there, if you've already been working with one of our dietitians or nutritionists, or maybe if you've been thinking about it, if you've been kind of on the fence, like, oh, this would be really great to work with one of the professionals out there. Maybe this is your opportunity. We're not here just for weight loss, or when you're actively losing weight or when you're actively pursuing whatever health goal that you're working towards. We are here to be your cheerleaders. We are here to be a sounding board. We're here to help catch you if you notice that things are starting to slip, and we can help you find those creative solutions or help keep you motivated to do the things that you need to do, especially if you are hitting that rough patch.

I have some clients they check in once a year, and that's all. Some clients check in once every three months. And there's some clients who they know themselves that if they have a couple of appointments on the books once a month. That keeps them more on the straight and narrow. It just helps them keep continuing to improve and move in the right direction towards their goals.

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As a recap, I just wanted to say as we're shifting into, again, more of that maintenance type of mindset. You've achieved the weight loss. You're kind of riding that high of having reached your goal. Think about what do you need to do? What does that goal life look like? How do you want life to look going forward? And what are those big foundational, non-negotiable habits that you're working towards? Do you have more of an all or nothing mindset? And if so, can we practice living in the gray area? Can we practice having some flexibility with some of those mindset type of issues, or with our nutrition or whatever the case may be?

And create that community for yourself. Create those outward supports. Create that system of checks and balances for yourself so that you know you don't have to go it alone; that there's a lot of other people who want to see you succeed, who want to support you, who want to help you, and who want to see you just live your best life.

So I hope this information gives you some food for thought, pun intended, and I hope this is helpful as this particular listener and anyone who may be watching this video or listening to this podcast. But hopefully it's helpful for you as you continue on your own personal health journey. So thank you so much for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition’s “Ask a Nutritionist”. And if you have a nutrition question you would like us to answer, we invite you to join our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook community by searching Dishing up Nutrition on Facebook.

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This is a private group and it's moderated by Nutritional Weight and Wellness, and by the nutritionist and dietitians on staff and the nutrition educators. And so we provide our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners, this provides them with a safe and supportive community to ask questions, to share ideas, and just to get inspired. Once you're a member of the community, we invite you to join the conversation and share your questions with us. So please don't be shy. If you have a question, please let us know and we really look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for joining us today. Our goal is to help each and every person experience better health through real food nutrition. If you want to dive deeper into the Dishing Up Nutrition conversation, we invite you to join us in the private Dishing up Nutrition Facebook group by searching Dishing up Nutrition on Facebook, and click join group. We look forward to connecting with you there.

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