Diet success is about you…not the diet
Someone in the U.S. starts a new diet every 12 seconds. Crazy, huh? Actually I have no idea– but if a new case of Diabetes is diagnosed every 30 seconds then how far off can I be? I do know that I am guilty of starting a new commitment to an eating plan roughly every 6 months and I know that I am not unusual. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not, but all that experience has given me some insight into the tools that are common to the diets that end up being successful. I am pretty sure that most of us are unsuccessful at diets because it’s kind of like painting a room– you pick out the paint and you can see how beautiful the room is going to look…we can already see that magic number on the scale…but there is a lot of work before you get your vision. Some small preparations and exercises will go a LONG way to help you on that road. Finding diet success is a lot easier when you draw yourself a map, and read the directions–you don’t have to reinvent the wheel!
How to Start A Diet
…because if you start right, you will be successful
Work with yourself
Are you a planner, or do you like to make decisions more spontaneously? If you are a planner pick a date to start, put it on the calendar and start getting ready! If you are more spontaneous, use your excitement and start right now with the foods you already have in your fridge…I know you have some!
Do you love numbers? Find a food tracker you like…MyFitnessPal can be endlessly customized, or Weight Watchers has an easy point system. Find more: http://www.redbookmag.com/body/healthy-eating/advice/g614/lose-weight-apps-tools/ But remember that your caloric needs and the nutrients in your food can only be averages, so don’t get too hung up on it!
Do you hate tracking your food? Then don’t– just because it works for some people doesn’t mean it will work for you especially if you hate it. A low commitment logging system is to simply snap a pic of your food before you eat it, that will give you the accountability without the hassle. Or use other ways to monitor your food– eat mindfully and monitor your hunger levels. Eat less if you aren’t hungry! Ask yourself if this is the best choice. Have some general guidelines– no dessert, or I won’t eat after 7 pm, or no grains, or no processed food, or vegan breakfast and lunch– and stick to those.
Know why you are on a diet…what is your motivation?
Keep It POSITIVE and Meaningful!
Psychologists know that we stick with commitments when they have meaning and support our sense of purpose. That’s why so many long term smokers are often able to quit when their kids ask them to! While looking amazing in a bathing suit seems like a perfectly good reason to lose weight, it is actually a pretty superficial motivation and it is not going to keep you going through the tough times.(And yes, when you are staring down a plate of fried onion rings at TGIF with friends, it will indeed be the Best of Times, and the Worst of Times.) But looking forward to spending time with friends at the pool/beach/lake and imagining that happy feeling is a meaningful motivator. Losing weight so your Doctor will stop hassling you is pretty negative– those negatives may be part of your reasoning but they shouldn’t be the ones you focus on. Reminding yourself of happy feelings that connect you to the people you love and activities that bring you joy are both positive and meaningful.
Harness your positive energy
Visualize your diet success…
Create a vision board, or a wellness statement, even write a poem, to remind you of all the powerful positive feelings you have about your future. I personally tend to avoid these– they just seem like too much work, and I just want to get started on the dang diet. But the work you invest in this early step really pays off… and that is why every motivational program on the planet use them.
Everyone says to prep meals and vegetables on the weekend…what they really mean is use the time when you feel well and happy to prepare the food you want to eat when you are tired and stressed. When you are excited and happy, feeling like you can accomplish anything– this is when you have the time and energy to create tasty meals that are easy to reach for when the packaged food seems easier.
Match your food plan to your (realistic!) goals
So….Don’t expect to lose 30 lbs in a month
Yeah I get it. We all want an instant gratification. There is very little instant gratification in dieting. Get over it. Make your goals reasonable for your life. Can you give up dessert and/or alcohol for months? Are you fine feeling hungry most of the time? Great, go on a restrictive diet. No? Consider what you are willing to change and what those changes are likely to do for you. Maybe you won’t eat after dinner 5 nights a week– and maybe that means you can lose 5 lbs in 3 months, not that 15 lbs. Be your own Health Coach, be honest with yourself, stop listening to the guy who is selling you the quick fix. Nothing is free, and there are no quick fixes.
Feel good about yourself– RIGHT NOW!
Diet Success comes when you feel confident and worthy
I have never, ever worked with anyone who successfully berated themselves into change. Stop telling yourself that you will be happy and you will like yourself when you are slimmer or more muscular. Would you keep a friend who told you that? Find ways to like yourself now. Look in the mirror and admire you ears, or your eyebrows, or your bum, or your ankles…whatever. When you feel good about yourself it gives you a reason to BE good to yourself by making choices that make you happy in the long run, and not just a short-term endorphin high (aka sugar.)
Make a plan for challenging times
Ever notice fitness freaks hanging out with friends at Happy Hour? No, you don’t. Because it is too much of a challenge to stick to a rigorous diet plan in that situation, so they avoid the situation. But that’s someone who only focuses on physical perfection. Hopefully you are aiming at something a little more balanced. So make a plan for balance. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry. Keep snacks around so you can say “No” to the office donut. Eat a big enough lunch (with some healthy fat) to avoid feeling famished at 4:00. Actually, eating enough fat and fiber is a big part of success here. You are aiming for a plan that works for you, and allows for some flexibility and balance to enjoy family and friends and the pleasure of eating. Planning is about being realistic, and being realistic means you are going to succeed.