There are (not really) literally (again, not really) a million diets out there. And for every diet there is a million (probably actually literally) excuses to not stick with it.
With so many internal and external factors dragging you down, how can you ever hope to stick with your plans? The answers won’t be easy, but they do exist.
Sometimes when nothing works it is because you need to try everything to get a real result. When it comes to how to stick to a diet, the best course of action is to double up on science, motivational planning, and knowing yourself.
We’ll walk you through the best tricks to make sticking with it come second nature. So get to reading now before all your motivation fades away.
How to Stick to a Diet
Before we get into the gritty details, wash your mind of any negativity you have picked up before. No, 95% of people who start a diet don’t fail. What really happens is 95% of diets set you up to fail.
Sticking to a diet is less about the diet and more about picking a realistic path that works for you. Let’s get started.
1. Set Expectations
That eating is necessary to stay alive makes establishing effective eating habits difficult. We don’t want to suggest that eating is an addiction, that is another set of articles, but what works for addiction recovery has some benefit from dieting.
Setting the right expectations prevents the cycle of failure from rising up. Sticking to a diet starts with choosing something that can be stuck with.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by thinking ” I will eat x and nothing else.” These kinds of overstepping ultimatums with yourself are not sustainable and cause damage to your motivation. You start to expect to fail because you have failed before.
Turn that paradigm around and do something you know you can do. Build on your success to become strong enough to succeed.
2. Establish Motivational Signposts
Start out your diet with a clear set of motivations. Write them down. Post them in an area where you can see them.
Lists of this sort may contain language like so,
- I am worth it.
- It’s just one day (today).
- I am doing this for x (your best reason).
- I can build positive patterns.
- List an accomplishment others may find difficult: I completed college, I am successful, etc.
Knowing that you are capable and reminding yourself that you can, have, and do succeed fights the niggling voices that tell you the contrary. Adversity fires off neurotransmitters that make us feel afraid and sad. From an evolutionary standpoint, this kept us in check.
We don’t live on the plains hunting and gathering. We can manage risk. So don’t let your primitive brain dictate your future self.
3. Be Realistic
Avoid the pitfall of failure that comes from being too critical. Finding out that your breakfast was 100 calories more than you thought (the tea, juice, coffee and the like always sneak in a few) doesn’t mean you failed the day.
When you run into a problem get past the problem and continue your day. The day isn’t ruined and you are not a failure. You had a day, and like every other human being on the planet since the dawn of time, it got a little messy.
4. Build a Real Timeline
Establish a timeline of results. This shouldn’t contain a number of pounds shed by a specific date. Progress is about how you feel and how well you stick to your first set of expectations.
Too many people get trapped in a pattern of wishing to see results on a scale and not realizing what health and weight loss really entails. When you remember that you can fluctuate up to 4 pounds in water weight in a day, you remember that the scale doesn’t report reality.
A real timeline should contain milestones of what you are comfortable with eating and how much you enjoy the new regiment. If you have an exercise plan with your diet (which you should) list how much you expect to be able to do.
Endurance is a better reflection of health than weight. so pick criteria that you can measure that affects the way you live.
5. Revise Your Plan
Don’t get ahead of yourself. If you find you are not hitting the timeline goals then review why. It is possible, even with the best of intentions, that your expectations and diet plan were not in line with each other.
Setting expectations is how you start a diet. Revising expectations is how you stay on a diet.
For example, the start of a diet can have you choosing limited eating times. If you find that you are exhausted and out of energy in the day, you adjust. Move the previous meal time up or the next one down.
If your exercise routine cuts into your commute, split it up to avoid stressing yourself. Again, if an element of your plan doesn’t work, fix it. Don’t assume you are the issue when other factors exist.
6. Two is Better Than One
One of the best ways to be aware of the effects of your plan is to go at it with a partner. We are often our own worst critics. The involvement of a second person provides an excellent perspective for establishing expectations.
You can also use some strategies that will help you and your partner. Accountability to a sympathetic, but firm, outside party, keeps you focused.
The best part is that helping others often teaches us the most about ourselves. The excuses/reasons for a behavior that you accept from another are things you should accept for yourself.
7. Mindful Eating
Whatever your healthy eating motivation may be, mindful eating keeps you with it. This is the process of eating as an action in and of itself. Tibetan monks talk about the difference between eating a peach and not simply consuming it.
When you sit and eat with the intention to be present for the food, not simply getting energy, you appreciate the moment. Multitasking eats away at our day and leaves us constantly stressed.
Appreciating aspects of the food makes it more beneficial. Find effective recipes for your diet like those found at Low Carb So Simple. Note how many of them use color and presentation to awaken the senses.
Restaurants use the concepts of plating and presentation to enhance the experience. Doing the same for yourself can make any food seem significant and therefore worthy of you.
8. Understand the Physiology of Cravings
When is a craving a trick of your willpower and when is it physically motivated? Science has some distance yet to go in answering this question. Suffice it, for now, craving and nutritional lack do have some links.
Since a craving can come from one of two sources, you have to be vigilant in learning the distinction between them for yourself. A craving can be your mind looking for something to do or it can be a need to fill a lack of nutrition.
Keep a chart of what you were doing before a craving hits. Consider what you crave and then try giving yourself the healthiest version of that thing. Whenever possible avoid the sugars and fats version.
If the craving goes away that indicates a more physical need. If the craving remains or gets stronger, you need to distract yourself.
A bonus to using this strategy is that even the act of strongly considering which thing is happening can be enough mental focus to dispell many binge and impulse cravings.
9. A Drop Becomes an Ocean
Rome was not built in a day. The Great Wall is comprised of nearly a million bricks. Your health won’t improve overnight.
A day that goes poorly doesn’t mean the end of your journey. A day that goes well adds to your overall progress. By using these mentalities you create something significant over time.
This isn’t just a way to devalue the bad days and focus on the good days. This is also a way of understanding what you are capable of. Most meaningful change takes time and that is what gives it meaning.
The most meaningful things also need to be broken down. A single step is doable. where the very conception of a thousand steps makes you want to not start.
10. Leave the House with a Plan
Travel and being social are enormous hurdles for many dieters. The combination of stress and social pressure makes it difficult to stick to what you are doing. Explaining your diet can leave you feeling pretentious or unhealthy.
These problems happen whenever you leave the house. Work is another problem, but we cover that whole labyrinth of issues over here.
Packing your own food to visit a friend for an evening can feel wrong. However, it shows your dedication and lets your host know that it has everything to do with you and nothing to do with them.
It is easy to feel like you can cheat or give in to the crowd, having your own supply helps with that. It also gives you a great ice breaker for talking about what your diet entails and showing off the kinds of things you are eating.
A new convert to your plan goes right back to tip 6. Every ally you recruit makes the journey easier and more worthwhile.
Motivation and Bliss
Had enough of our clean eating motivation and how to stick to a diet tips? Check out some of the more popular musings we’ve been thinking about lately.