How many times have you pledged to go on a diet? “I’ve got to do something!” It might surprise you to know you’re not the only one uttering those words – personal trainers, doctors, and health club personnel hear them multiple times a day. Unfortunately, starting a diet and sticking with a diet are two different things. That’s because there are so many issues that can derail your resolve and kick you off the course to a slimmer physique.
There isn’t a sure-fire, magical way to ensure you’ll stick to your diet long enough to reach your goal. What works for one person might not work for someone else. However, you can take advantage of others’ experiences. You can try any or all of these 11 tricks for sticking with your diet. Keep the ones that work best for you and use them to build a personalized diet regimen that you’ll not only stick with but will deliver the results you want.
1. Change your attitude toward food. When it comes to diets, most of the battle is in your head. Psychology Today advises changing your mindset about eating and dieting before you even start. Don’t stop at accepting that you can either be thinner OR you can eat whatever you want anytime you want to. Also recognize that food is fuel, not a delicious, comforting solution when you’re feeling lonely, bored, or stressed.
2. Don’t go on a “diet.” Instead, develop an “eating plan.” The difference is mostly in the mental perception you have. There’s a reason they say, “DIET is a four-letter word.” Everyone loathes what the word “diet” represents, but an eating plan has a positive connotation and isn’t as overwhelming.
While you’re at it, don’t hop on board with the latest diet fad just because everyone and their unfortunate dogs are doing it. The better option is to start by making healthier choices and allowing yourself to eat from all of the four food groups instead of cutting out all fat, all sugar, all wheat products, or all red meat. Unless you have a health concern that requires you avoid certain foods, you really do need to eat everything, but in moderation.
3. List your reasons for going on a diet. Actually write them down and then read over them every morning, every evening, and every time you are tempted to chuck the whole plan and go back to eating everything you get a craving for. Whether you’re dieting for health reasons or to lose weight—or both—it helps to be reminded of why you’re doing it.
4. Set realistic goals. Healthline points out that setting the bar too high when embarking on a diet—losing 15 pounds in two weeks, for example—will sabotage your plans, guaranteed. It’s another mind trick, of sorts. A study published by Obesity Research showed that subjects who expected to drop a lot of weight fast tended to give up on a diet more easily and earlier than those who set realistic goals.
So, what’s reasonable? LIVESTRONG says that, because everyone’s bodies and metabolisms are different, it can vary from ½ to 2 pounds a week. If you stay conservative and expect the lower end of the scale, then any weight loss more than that is a bonus. Also, divide up your overall goal into short-term, mini goals. You’ll reach them faster, and the satisfaction and excitement of that will bolster your confidence and build momentum to stick with your diet for the long haul.
5. Get rid of temptations. Clearing out all of the junk food and other items that aren’t on your diet is one of the best ways to ensure you won’t cheat. If those three pints of Ben and Jerry’s aren’t calling to you from the freezer, you won’t be likely to go on a midnight binge.
6. Buy a cookbook. Or search the Internet for new, healthier recipes and build your own cookbook. According to MSN, having a variety of healthy meal options on hand not only adds an element of fun to a diet, but it also keeps you from getting bored from eating the same, bland foods. Look for healthier versions of things you love to eat, snacks and meals like Rosie Dailey developed for Oprah, or keep an eye out for recipes that use herbs and spices to make them flavorful and satisfying.
7. Eat more often. No, that’s not a typo. It’s good diet advice. Spread your allotted calories out over the day instead of stuffing yourself full of them in three meals. If you’re eating five or six times a day, you won’t feel deprived. It will seem like you’re always eating instead of never eating, and it won’t even feel like you’re on a diet.
8. Recruit a diet buddy. Going on a diet with your spouse or a friend can help make it easier to stick with it. You can support each other when things get tough, and you’ll both have someone to be accountable to, as well. Weigh in together, plan meals together, and be sure to check in with each other at least once a day to report on your progress.
9. Consult a professional. A dietician, your family doctor, a counselor at your health club—any one of those fits the description and will be able to help you come up with a healthy, doable eating plan. Don’t stop with just one visit, either. Check in every few months to report your progress and get help tweaking the plan to make sure it keeps working for you.
10. Incorporate exercise with changing your eating habits. Supplementing a diet with exercise is an ultra-effective way to kickstart weight loss. Plus, studies have shown that when people start working out in conjunction with a change in eating habits, they’re more likely to stick with both than people who start one or the other.
11. Go easy on yourself. Recognize that it took you a long time to put the weight on and that it will take some time to get it off. Celebrate the little victories and don’t beat yourself up over the small slip-ups and plateaus. Every morning offers a new opportunity to do things differently, so take advantage of that.
P.S. Celebrating the little victories can and probably should take the form of a cheat day, or at least a cheat meal. It gives you something to look forward to and you won’t feel so deprived. Plus, a frozen yogurt or other treat will taste that much sweeter when it’s a reward for sticking to your diet and reaching a goal.