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Health and Nutrition

M&S Health & Nutrition

Think Slim

Think Slim

Getting Started

If you have been overweight for sometime, it requires a big change in the way that you think about food. By starting to address what food means to you, only then can you start to change behaviour.

Here are some tips for helping you to think slim:

1) Think permanent

One of the first things to do to help break the dieting cycle is to stop thinking of yourself as going on a diet. This implies a temporary change in your eating behaviour and may lead to yo-yo dieting.

Instead, try to change the way you think. Try to see the changes that you make as permanent changes. This is much easier if the changes that you make are small and realistic. If you make too many changes at once or follow an extreme diet plan that radically changes the way that you eat, you may find it difficult to stay motivated and are more likely to give up. Try to make changes that fit easily into your lifestyle see the goal setting section for more ideas.

2) Think positive

It is easy to view lapses in your diet as catastrophic and to blame yourself for a lack of willpower. But this way of thinking isn't motivating and will undermine your ability to get back on your diet plan if you do have a lapse. Instead, try to view lapses as a normal part of dieting and start again the following day. Everyone has them!

If you know in advance about an event that might mean being unable to stick to your diet or exercise plan, then cut back a little on what you eat a few days before. That way you will be able to have a little extra on that occasion without feeling guilty. Remember to take each day as it comes.

3) Social support

Have a good support network such as family, friends or from support groups to help keep you on track.

4) Take control over your eating environment

Understand what prompts you to over-eat and take control:


  • Only shop for food on a full stomach
  • Shop from a list
  • Only buy food that you know fits in with your healthy eating plan.
  • Try not to buy too many treats

Meal planning

  • Plan your meals in advance to avoid impulse eating when you are really hungry
  • Only cook what you will eat to avoid being tempted to overeat
  • Plan your meals out and special occasions in advance so that you can enjoy your food without feeling guilty.

Serving food

  • Dish foods out away from the table- serve and eat just one portion at a time
  • Use a smaller plate
  • Save leftovers for another meal don't be tempted to finish everything

Special occasions

  • Try not to drink too much alcohol as this can stimulate your appetite
  • Eat a low calorie snack before parties or drink some water to take the edge off your appetite

5) Change your mind set

Many people feel guilty when they overeat which can then undermine your ability to stick to your healthy eating plan. Challenge your negative thoughts by trying the following:

  • Focus on your positive achievements and your progress
  • Don't be so hard on yourself. Remember that everyone has lapses no matter what they have set out to achieve
  • Don't get discouraged by the occasional setback
  • Think about what you are eating and why you are eating it take conscious control of your eating

6) Change the way you eat

As well as changing the way that you think about food, you can also influence your eating behaviour to help you to achieve your healthy eating goals. There are two key aspects to promoting a change in eating behaviour:

Slow the rate of eating

  • Take one small bite at a time
  • Chew your food thoroughly before swallowing
  • Put your fork down between mouthfuls
  • Pause in the middle of meals and assess how hungry you are

Do nothing else while eating

  • Concentrate on the act of eating, without distractions where possible
  • Concentrate on enjoying your food and savour every mouthful
  • Eat all your food in one place, e.g. sitting at the table
  • Follow your menu planner

7) Learn to cope with lapses and relapses

Few people realise that lapses and relapses are a normal part of behaviour change. Challenge this all or nothing thinking whenever possible. Viewing relapses as normal and learning to plan for them is a powerful cognitive tool.
Try the following:

  • Identify triggers for lapsing using a food and feelings diary. Are you more likely to overeat when you are tired, stressed, hungry, or bored?
  • Plan in advance how to prevent lapses. For example, if you have an urge to eat while watching television, make sure that your meal plan allows you to have a healthy snack at this time
  • Distinguish hunger from cravings - are you feeling true hunger (i.e. stomach hunger) or just a desire to eat (i.e. head hunger)? If you can identify which type of hunger you are experiencing it can help you to take more control of your eating if you try to only respond to true stomach hunger
  • Confront or ignore cravings and urges to eat not easy, but an important strategy for long-term success

By following these hints and tips, you can tackle some of the toughest aspects of losing weight and develop a more flexible and hopefully more successful approach to eating and long term weight management. Some of these you might already do but if not, try them you have nothing to lose but weight!