I’ve tried enough diets to know that sometimes it’s easy to stick to a diet, and sometimes you want to throw in the towel early. So, what is the difference? What makes a diet easy to stick to, and what makes them feel like you want to bury your head in a pint of ice cream?
With experience, research, and social reporting, I’ve nailed down the top 11 things that make diet adherence easier, and how you can use this to your advantage to actually lose weight, no matter what diet you choose to try.
FACT: You need to stick to a diet to see weight loss.
Studies show, you can see weight loss results on almost any diet. Vegan, keto, low carb, high fat, low calorie. These can all lead to weight loss. The catch is, most diets are impossible to live with without going crazy, or returning to old habits. But, I have learned there are things that you can do, for at least the duration of a short term diet. Whether you are doing it for quick weight loss, or a temporary plan, these strategies can also help get past the initial tough parts of a diet until behaviors start to stick like a habit.
11 Strategies to Stick To Any Diet
- Accountability: Include a level of accountability and your adherence to the diet goes up dramatically. Accountability partners could include someone who is dieting with you. It could be a health coach that you check in with daily or weekly. It could be a community support group that you attend once a week. It could be an online Facebook group. It could just be a workout partner you meet at the gym. Whatever piece of your new plan you have a hard time sticking with, acquiring someone to be accountable to can help you long enough till your new health behavior becomes a habit.
- Focus on the process, not the results: When you have a goal to lose a specific amount of weight, the day to day check-ins can derail you. How many times have you been “perfect” for a whole day, and the scale doesn’t reflect your efforts the next day. Sometimes that alone will convince me to give up the diet! It’s so important to separate yourself from the results if you want to stick to the plan. Instead focus on self talk such as “I love to eat veggies all day. I am so excited about tracking my food for this week, because it will really help me to develop a pattern I could use even beyond this diet.” Whatever part of the process you can learn to enjoy, the longer you’ll be able to stay with it.
- Eating style: Choose your diet carefully. If the diet you are starting is close to the style of eating you are already used to, it’s much easier to stick with the diet. If you tend to eat a lot of fruit and grains, attempting keto might be the wrong diet choice. If you despise fish, and the diet has you eating fish 3X a week, don’t start that diet. Dig deep and know what your food preferences are and use it to your advantage. We all enjoy healthy food. Healthy food doesn’t have to taste like cardboard. So find the healthy food that fits your tastes.
- Find your “WHY“: Studies have confirmed over and over that having a good reason to lose weight trumps all other factors. I’ve tried to lose weight to look better, but since I didn’t look that bad, it was easy to give up. I’ve tried to lose weight to get approval from other people, but it turned out, no one really cared what I looked like and I would give up. I tried to lose 5 lbs to run a faster race and guess what, I was dedicated to the plan and lost 5lbs. That was a great reason. One of the toughest processes is to discover what your purpose is. For some people it may be an impending chronic illness, for others it may be a fitness competition. Find your purpose and you’ll find the strength to stick to any diet.
- Minimizing stress: Making changes in your life is tough on it’s own, but make changes while you have significant stress is almost impossible. There is a reason the experts don’t recommend starting a diet, or quitting smoking while you are going through a divorce, bankruptcy, or loss of a job. The less amount of stress you have, the more you are available to use your willpower and energy to your health or weight loss goals.
- Getting feedback!! While one of my tricks is to focus on the process, there is nothing more exciting than seeing results to keep you going! Personally, my day-to-day measurements have moved to a tape measure rather than the scale. The tape measure has more subtle differences than the scale that I can count on to keep me motivated. The feedback from fitness trackers are also good motivators. Are you running faster or walking more each day? Feedback from people noticing that you are happier, less moody, or of course our favorite, that you look good is very motivating to stay the course and stick to your diet.
- Cleaning up your environment: Nothing will derail your plans faster than having a fresh, warm batch of cookies sitting on your counter. No matter how strong you are, putting yourself in a position that will stretch your willpower to the max is going to lead to will power fatigue. Take the temptation out of the house and keep it out of the house. Also, don’t lie to yourself and say you are “keeping the Oreo’s in the pantry for the kids”. Because the kids don’t need Oreo’s either.
- Having family or friends that are supportive: If you want to stick with a new habit, make sure family and friends not only support you, but that they are also not trying to sabotage your goals. Let them know your goals and how you are going to achieve them. Sometimes the worry of them judging you or sabotaging you might feel like it’s easier to keep quiet about your new diet program, but opening up can be more helpful than you think. Assume any efforts by your family or friends to sabotage or judge is really just you interpreting their actions to fit your narrative. 99% of the time, they just don’t know how to support you.
- Building in rewards: This is one of my favorite features of temporary or quick diets. Building in that perfect reward. I can actually spend as much time trying to choose the perfect reward for complying with the diet, as I do researching how to execute the diet. Some possible non-food rewards include: a massage, getting your nails done, hiring a house cleaner for a day, getting a new workout outfit, signing up for an expensive race, planning a weekend getaway, indulging in flowers for your kitchen, buying a cheesy movie, or having a spa day.
- Planning ahead: If your diet has specific foods you are going to eat, or recipes to follow, you have to be prepared! Whether you are meal prepping on the weekend, or you need to go grocery shopping, list out the meals ahead of time so you have the food you are going to need to eat. Nothing will stop you from sticking to your diet like not having the food necessary for the diet!
- Sleeping adequately: And finally, one usually overlooked behavior that gets people off track is fatigue! When you are tired, you make poor choices. Bottom line. Getting enough sleep each night has been shown to support better decision making and healthier behaviors over all. So, get to bed on time, and get your rest!
So, those are my 11 ideas, that I know can help me stick to a diet rather than quit before it’s over. While diets are meant to be a lifestyle, often a short term attempt, like a 2 week diet, is helpful to know if you are going to enjoy it for the long term. And let’s face it, sometimes you really do just want to look good in that party dress for the weekend!
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WHAT HAS WORKED FOR YOU TO STICK WITH A DIET?