How To Stick To A Diet
Many people have a difficult relationship with food and make it their goal to adopt a healthy diet and lose weight.
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to change your eating habits for maintaining a healthy diet, so many people end up leaving themselves hungry or going back to their unhealthy meals.
Read on if you want to learn how to adapt to a healthier lifestyle with a sustainable relationship with food and learn how to stick to your diet in the long term.
See Related: The Potato Diet
Why Do Dieters Fail?
First and foremost, be careful of straight out banning foods you consider to be unhealthy.
Foods that are higher in fat or sugar are not necessarily ideal for a healthy diet.
You definitely don't want to eat them every single day, but occasionally allowing yourself to indulge in a small helping of potato chips or a chocolate chip cookie can actually be a good idea to help you stick to your diet.
Research shows that completely banning these foods causes an unhealthy mindset around food and often causes dieters to eat more of these foods than people who do not put such restrictions on themselves.
Poor sleep and poor planning of your diet (for example, not taking your everyday schedule into account) can also be a culprit in sabotaging your diet. We'll get into these issues in more detail further on.
See Related: What Is Your BMI?
Pick A Sustainable Plan For YOU
As already mentioned, choosing a difficult diet will actually hurt your chances of losing weight. That's why it's a good idea to pick a diet that you can easily fit into your routine every day.
If you know that you will be out and about at lunchtime and won't eat healthily, pack yourself some healthy food for those times. If you know that you will want to indulge in a dessert, plan your meals to accommodate the extra calories.
If you are the type of person who gets hungry late at night, make sure you have healthy snacks that are lower on calories hand so you won't eat foods filled with fat and sugar in the middle of the night.
Choosing a diet plan that suits your own needs is one of the strongest factors in making sure you can continue eating healthy long term.
Find Your "Why"
Having a mindful reason to want to lose weight could help you to maintain your motivation. Motivation is an easy factor to lose sight of in the middle of the long term of your diet. Nobody should have to feel as if they need complete self-control to eat healthily.
Finding your motivation and staying mindful of this goal can put you in the right mindset to stick to your goals.
For example: attempting to lose weight to impress strangers will likely give you an unhealthy relationship around food, but deciding to lose weight so you can feel more confident or stay more active is much more likely to help you stick to a diet.
Set Small, SMART GOALS
Many people feel an all or nothing attitude when they jump into a new diet plan. There are bound to setbacks when you are trying to lose weight, however. (And that's OK!)
Unfortunately, many people feel a sense of failure when they can't stick to a diet or find themselves losing control of their eating habits.
While it may feel like you are failing to stay motivated and messing up your diet, you're just a normal person who needs some moral support from a friend.
Be mindful of the progress you are making; if you went three days eating healthier for dinner and then allowed yourself to indulge in some unhealthy snacks, you could still be proud of the success you had in eating healthier for those three days.
Don't determine your success by a huge goal that forces you to follow strict rules to fear a massive failure.
Give yourself smaller goals, like eating fruit for snacks twice a week or adding healthier ingredients to your meals a few times a week.
These are much more manageable goals for beginning dieters, so you can keep yourself feeling positive about your dieting journey.
Lose Weight Slowly
Again, there is no reason to feel as if you have to lose weight all the way down to your goal right out the gate. While you might feel like losing weight so quickly is a good sign, it is likely unhealthy for your body.
Research also suggests that weight loss happening too quickly could lead to that weight being gained back, and the body could then have even more difficulty with weight loss in the future, as your metabolism may slow down.
Slow and steady weight loss is more likely to last and should be easier to maintain.
Going back to that all or nothing state of mind, many people feel like they need to wait for New Year's resolutions or the start of a month to begin dieting, but that's not true!
As long as you feel as though you are motivated, you can start a new diet plan and watch your progress at any time. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing now! Don't put off a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Don't "Yo-yo" or "Fast and Feast."
Just like rapid weight loss can be bad for your diet, yo-yo dieting can be unhealthy and might make it more difficult actually to stick to a diet. If you fast for several days or even most of the day and then eat a lot, not only are you creating bad eating habits, but you run the risk of hurting your metabolism.
Stick to several small meals or healthy snacks throughout the day instead of eating larger quantities all at once.
Don't Let 1 Slip-up Ruin The Day.
Again, we're only human. It takes a log of control and focuses on starting a new diet! Staying motivated is not easy! Have compassion for yourself and be proud of every small win you accomplish. Tell a friend about your mistakes and your achievements so they can help you remain mindful of how far you've come.
Focus on Consistency, Not Perfection
If you have trouble sticking with your diet one day, try again the next. If you eat a high fat dinner one time while out with friends, make sure to go back to healthier foods the next day.
As long as you are making sure to maintain a healthy diet from day to day, it won't hurt to mess up these habits occasionally.
If you allow yourself to enjoy some of your favorite unhealthy foods, you'll actually be much more likely to create long-lasting healthy eating habits.
Increase Your Sleep
A tired person is a hungry person, and a hungry person is more likely to break their dieting rules! If you are too tired, you are more likely to want to eat sugary foods to feel as if you have more energy.
Of course, you will suffer a sugar crash and feel even more tired, causing you to eat more unhealthy foods. High protein items are good when you increase your exercise and are more likely to keep your energy up throughout the day than sugary foods would.
Start A Food Journal
Research shows that people who maintain a food journal of the foods they eat are much more likely to stick to a healthy diet and often see more weight loss. In fact, those who track their diet six days a week see more weight loss than people who track their meals just once a week.
A food journal aids your weight loss but keeping you more aware of how much you are eating and what types of foods.
If you notice yourself constantly skipping dinner and then overeating unhealthy snacks later in the night, your food diary can easily reveal this to you. If you enjoy foods that are high in calories, drink sugary beverages, or mindlessly snack after exercise, your diary will help you to recognize these patterns in yourself so you can switch to a healthy lifestyle and find better ways to stick to your healthy diet.
Make Choices, Not Rules
Forcing yourself to stick to strict diet rules will only make you resent your diet and leave you less likely to want to eat healthy food. Instead, make choices that you can feel happy with each day.
Pay special attention to what you are eating; if you are often eating fast food, choose to cook a meal or two at home throughout the week. If you enjoy foods with many calories, try replacing those calories with a high protein meal once a week.
The point is not to refuse all of the foods you like, but rather to swap out some of these habits for healthy eating, just a little at a time. Your body will eventually come to prefer these healthy choices, so sticking to your diet will become much easier.
Diet Does Not Equal Deprivation
Dieting does not mean you have to keep yourself in a constant state of hunger. Hunger means it's time to eat! Rather than fasting all day, eat healthy food when you feel as if you need it.
If you are often sluggish after a large meal and struggle to stay awake or exercise afterward, try to eat a small meal 6-8 times a day instead of the three large ones we have been conditioned to eat.
Remember, if you deprive yourself of food while on a diet, you will only sabotage your weight loss by slowing your own metabolism.
Likewise, a diet does not equal food with zero calories. Calories give us energy and keep us going! Keep it healthy, but don't avoid them altogether.
Find Healthy Replacements
If you love chocolate shakes, try a protein shake! If you love tacos, try making some with black beans and grilled chicken. Vegan meat options and low-fat dairy products are great ways to switch up the food you eat while on a diet plan.
Allow yourself to eat your favorite food but swap it out for a healthier version rather than completely cut your faves out of your life. This will make your diet plan much easier to maintain and prevent you from becoming too frustrated with your eating.
Buy Healthy Snacks
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to sabotaging weight loss is unhealthy snacks. These are fast, easy, often portable. It's what we reach for when life keeps us too busy for an actual meal. It's what we eat when we just want a small amount of food. Unfortunately, all of these facts are also why so many people lose control of their diets.
Keep your pantry, office, or car stocked with low-fat, healthy options. If you are in such a rush that you can't grab healthy food, you will likely eat whatever snacks you have on hand out of pure convenience and lack of time.
Binge on Protein and Veggies
You can never eat too many vegetables! If you are frequently hungry while trying to lose weight, you can always feel free to fill up on as many veggies as you like. Your body will thank you inside and out! Vegetables are the least likely food to make us gain weight, and they offer tons of health benefits. So that's basically a win-win scenario.
Protein is a great option for people looking to increase their exercise routine. Increasing the number of healthy proteins in your diet could help to improve your focus and energy after a workout and help stabilize your weight as your body goes through so many changes through the coming weeks.
Make Small Changes
Rushing into diets is how a lot of people end up failing to lose weight.
One of the most steadfast tips for finding ways to stick to diets is to make small changes rather than force oneself to see immediate progress or over-extend your own limits. Set a small goal to reach or change one or two aspects of your eating habits at a time.
Give yourself time to adjust before overwhelming yourself with more changes.
Eat The Rainbow
One of the best ways to improve your health is to consume various items from all parts of the food spectrum. Most diets that consider your health will ask you to "eat the rainbow."
Most often referring to fruits and vegetables, this phrase asks us to make sure we are eating leafy greens, red tomatoes and peppers, yellow and orange citrus ... the rainbow, as it were.
Don't stick to just one type of produce.
Some people lose track of their diets, not in what they are eating but in how much. Eating some lean meat can be healthy, but if we are eating too much of it, we might gain weight anyway.
Dairy is a great healthy eating option, but consuming too much dairy (especially if it is not fat-free) is bad for our health and weight.
Make sure to measure your portions and keep them to a manageable and healthy size.
Meal Prep, Meal Prep, Meal Prep!
It's not easy to prepare full meals multiple times a day, or even a bunch of mini-meals. Our busy lifestyles definitely get in the way of healthy diets. This is where meal prep comes in.
On a day of the week when you have the most time, prepare your food in advance and freeze or refrigerate.
Keep your items in convenient containers so you can take them with you if you need to. Focus on your upcoming needs for the week and use your prep time to make your mealtime as simple and enjoyable as possible.
If it's not in the house, you can't eat it! Out of sight, out of mind! It's a simple one, but removing temptation is one of the best tips for making sure we are eating healthy.
If you know you will pass your favorite fast-food restaurant on the way to work, try changing up your route.
If you find yourself eating candy every time it's in the house, avoid purchasing it the next time you are grocery shopping. If it's not around, it's easier to avoid the temptation.
Nobody should go it alone. If you find yourself struggling with your new lifestyle, find a friend who can help you through it. Find someone who will congratulate and support you or someone willing to try your new lifestyle with you.
Reach out to a doctor, nutritionist, therapist, or physical trainer if you have questions or find yourself running into issues you can't solve independently.
Maybe you haven't reached your goal weight yet, but you lost five pounds ... it's time to party! Make sure to show yourself how proud you are of your own accomplishments.
If you avoided unhealthy eating for a week, celebrate it! If you worked out five days in a row, celebrate it! Just make sure not to overdo it when you do a party.
Why is it so hard for me to stick to a diet?
Dieters can seek out all the tips in the world and still find themselves cheating on their meal plan. We live in a society that is filled with convenient junk foods and busy work schedules.
Keep those useful tips in mind, but also make sure to engineer your eating habits in a way that makes sense for your own lifestyle. Practice makes habits.
How do I get willpower when dieting?
If you have gone most of your life diet free and consuming whatever you want, it's going to be difficult to make that switch. Not to mention, our bodies adjust to the situations they are in. So, if you mostly ate unhealthily, your body will want to keep doing that and might even crave junk foods.
By keeping up with those small changes over time and consistently making good choices, your body will eventually adapt to healthy eating and will want to stay that way. You'll stop craving sugary drinks and will start craving water instead, etc.
Fix Your Relationship With Food
Many people have a negative relationship with food. Diet culture, scary documentaries, photoshopped models, size-zero jeans ... it seems everything is designed to make us hate our bodies and the nourishment they need.
Try to frame your viewpoint more positively and look at the foods you eat as necessary fuel to keep you happy and healthy. Seek out help from a therapist or professional if necessary.