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<span class=”firstcharacter”>T</span>he days are getting longer, the weather is heating up and the sun is shining! Another Aussie summer is upon us and we can finally come out of our winter hibernation (YAS!). Oh hang on…cue the bikini body panic! How many weeks until I’ll be dusting off the swimwear? Sound familiar? Well, not this year ladies!

This time of year is one of the most popular times to start a new diet. Advertising for products to help you get ‘bikini body ready’ have begun to bombard us with unwanted information yet again. And, unfortunately we find ourselves back in the same cycle of starting a new diet, finding it really difficult and unachievable (as diets often are), falling off the band wagon, feeling guilty and bad about ourselves, then forcing ourselves to start it again (even though we know we will hate every minute of it). The pressure to look a certain way and obtain a certain weight by the looming deadline of ‘summer’ causes unwanted stress for many. We restrict ourselves at social occasions, we eat what we think we should – not what we feel like, and we use up a ton of our valuable time thinking about food and weight. That’s no way to enjoy summer if you ask me!

Having goals to improve your health and wellbeing is a positive thing, but is just as important to be mindful of how we go about it and what is ultimately driving those goals. Diets are not the only way to make lasting changes for the better and if we set our goals too high they can often fast track to feeling bad about ourselves.

Fad diets are a flawed system to begin with

One of the most difficult aspects of ‘dieting’, is that often it is an ‘all or nothing’ approach. You are either on or off the diet, there is no in between. This means that overnight, you are expected to adopt a whole new way of eating, a new routine and different foods without faltering.That doesn’t seem fair now does it? Some diets also set up this concept of being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when it comes to eating which can lead to confusion and guilt.

Making lifestyle changes in a positive & enjoyable way

The first step to breaking the dieting cycle is to sit down and think about the habits that you would most like to change. Is it fitting more exercise into your week? upping your daily step count? drinking more water? not skipping breakfast? Now, write down all the habits that bug you – list out all the things that you get cross with yourself for not already doing. Writing them down can help to visualise and prioritise.

The ‘Why?’

The next step is to think about why making these changes is important to you and what your motivation for doing so is. So often our motivation for making change is to be a certain size, a number on the scales or to look a particular way.  When we think about it, these goals are actually quite ‘negative’. They are a reminder of the things about ourselves that we aren’t happy with, or that wish we could change. Who wants to be focused on those each and every day?

Be clear with your intentions

Try to frame your ‘whys’ in a more positive light. For example, if your aim is to fit more exercise into your week, think about the other benefits doing this would bring, weight loss aside. Is it the endorphin rush and energy boost you feel straight after, which lasts throughout the day? Is it beating your push-up personal best and feeling stronger? Is it working towards the achievement of running 5km, and feeling like you can do anything? If your aim is to make sure you have breakfast every morning, your focus could be the 10 minutes of peaceful time it adds to your morning routine, where you can mentally think through your day or write down three things you are grateful for. This type of motivation is instant too! It helps to get you out of bed and to that exercise class when you are thinking about how amazing you will feel in 45 minutes, not how your body will look in couple of months.

You’ve got to start small

The final step is to start implementing small changes – don’t get carried away by trying to do too much, too soon. For example, if you skip breakfast, start with planning to breakfast to take to work 2 days a week, then once that is a part of your routine add in a third day etc. A typical fad diet would have you prepping these extravagant breakfasts every single morning before work. This way you can just ease into it and go at your own pace.

Eventually, all the small changes will begin to add up and you will start seeing serious progress. Those big goals that were always unattainable aren’t so far off now. And remember, the fastest way to get a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body! Ha!

Cheers to a beautiful summer!

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Amy Knight

Amy is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, having studied Nutrition and Dietetics at Monash University in Melbourne. A food lover since an early age, Amy has always loved making a mess in the kitchen and creating recipes that are delicious and make you feel good! Amy is a big believer that food is not simply fuel, it is also a big part of how we show love, spend time with loved ones and enjoy life! She loves helping people find a balanced relationship with food, and hopes to show that healthy food can be simple, easy and affordable, and most importantly enjoyable!