Struggling to stay sane on a new diet? Losing weight often feels like a constant uphill battle, but it does not have to with the following insight.
If tired of yo-yo dieting, read on to learn how to stick to a diet even when you want to give up. And "I do not want to diet anymore," will quickly become a thought of the past!
How to Thrive On a Diet
Approaching diets as the media or social media suggest can make them feel like a major struggle. Instead, make these ten mind shifts to reenergize, rejuvenate, and ultimately stay on track.
1. Think of a Diet as a Dietary Approach
Instead of considering a diet as short-term starvation, think of it as a lifelong dietary approach. After all, 95 percent of short-term diets fail, often because they require drastic measures and are unsustainable!
Thinking of a dietary approach as a lifelong commitment removes immediate pressure to follow it perfectly and reframes it into a style of eating, per se. Most people subconsciously associate diet with a negative connotation, so removing that association inherently helps one stick to a dietary style for the long haul.
2. Understand the First Days Are the Toughest
As the saying goes, creating a new habit takes 21 days and building habits is harder than quitting them. Thus, adopting any new health habit is going to feel difficult at first.
Not only will mental willpower be tested but adding in healthy foods that crowd out inflammatory ones can cause physical symptoms of cellular detox. These include headaches, bloating, other stomach problems, intense sugar cravings, irritability, and other mood swings.
Persevering through old cravings, tendencies, and even thoughts about food and/or your body will be empowering in the long run. In the wise words of Dory, "just keep swimming!"
3. Embrace the Change
Similar to point number one, dreading the dietary changes only makes it feel more miserable. Instead, it is much better and a good idea to embrace the changes!
Try to think of the positives rather than dwell on the negatives. It can be helpful to consider what foods are being added to the diet rather than focus on what needs to be limited or avoided.
Embrace the change easier with a supportive partner or friend, through support or online groups, and by always remembering the why. Eating patterns are much simpler to follow if they coincide with unique values and philosophies.
4. Make Small Dietary Changes at First
The surest way to completely rebound on a diet is to make too many drastic changes too quickly. Rather, pick a few first aspects of focus - usually, one to three changes work well. Some examples of small but meaningful changes include:
• Obtain 5 to 9 servings of fruit and vegetables every day
• Hit macro goals for the day
• Include a leafy green at one meal every day
• Drink 1/2 body weight in ounces of water each day
• Reduce soda or coffee consumption to 1 per day
• Switch from refined grains to whole grains
• Swap 1 or 2% or whole milk for skim milk
• Use unrefined extra virgin olive oil in place of canola or other vegetable oils
5. Avoid Cheat Days and Thinking of Food as a Reward
From post-race buffets to cheat days, society is all too accustomed to using food as a reward. Of course, sometimes this is okay and totally warranted.
Especially because highly palatable foods typically eaten on "cheat" days trigger addictive pleasure pathways, feeding into this mentality quickly becomes a problem. One cheat day a month turns into one every week and then one cheat meal every day!
A much more sustainable approach to diet is with the 80/20 or even 90/10 guideline. One eats nutrient-dense foods 80 to 90 percent of the time and leaves room for fun, "unhealthy" foods the other 10 to 20 percent of the time. This also helps avoid starve, binge, starve cycle and is a great practice of moderation.
6. Do Not Seek Perfection
Except for medical necessity, following a diet 100 percent of the time is unnecessary and often backfires. Trying to attain perfection can be defeating and usually does not produce much better results than following a plan a majority of the time.
Expect roadblocks and obstacles and plan to move through them with positivity and empowerment. Definitely do not dwell on mistakes or mishaps nor let it derail you for too long.
At the end of the day, there is no sense in completely tossing in the towel after one mistake when taking the next best step is possible.
7. Avoid Drastic Eating Styles
Fad and crash diets are intended to fail. Though they may work short-term, they often cause rebound weight gain, which leads the consumer to try them again, but to no avail.
Although alluring to try a diet that promises a 20-pound weight loss in 20 days, recognize that scientifically, doing so is a metabolic disaster. Instead, choose to engage in dietary practices that are sustainable and maintainable.
When implementing sound practices, the body often starts to catch up with the mind and sheds weight in a healthy way.
8. Focus on Nutrient Density of the Diet
No matter what dietary approach one chooses, always focus on the nutrient-dense foods promoted within.
People tend to focus largely on counting calories and weight when a mindset shift to cellular and metabolic health is smarter. Optimizing the latter two is the single most sustainable way to lose and maintain a healthy weight.
More than macronutrients, nutrient-dense foods offer antioxidants and other phytochemicals that:
• Reduce systemic inflammation
• Promote optimal energy levels
• Influence good gut flora
• (And so much more!)
All-in-all, focusing on the functionality of the food is much healthier than attaining a certain calorie amount.
9. Eat Enough
Similarly, just because a diet plan is low in calories or carbs or fat does not make it healthful. It might cause weight loss at first, but much will be from water and it will eventually overstress the body.
Chronic dieters often exhibit low metabolisms caused by the body sensing too many famines. Of course, it is a self-imposed famine but the body cannot tell the difference.
As a result, it holds on to energy, and one must continually drop their calories to see further weight loss. This is not sustainable at some point, plus the goal of eating healthy should be to eat food as liberally as possible while maintaining a healthy weight.
If attaining a certain weight requires drastic measures and super low-calorie diets, that is not a healthy weight for your unique body.
10. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is quite the buzzword these days, but for good reason. Practicing mindfulness is the single best method to achieving goals, though often considered an overused tactic. But that is likely because mindfulness is rarely practiced with intention.
People think mindfulness requires meditating for two hours a day when in reality, it simply means being present in the moment. How easy is it to walk through the kitchen, see a bag of chips, and grab a handful regardless of hunger? (All too easy…)
Mindful approaches to eating involve appreciating the food, where it came from, how it got to the grocery store, who prepared it, and obviously what it tastes like. Slowing down to consider all these aspects of nutrition leads to better decisions, reduces grazing and impulsive habits, and forms a better relationship with food.
Overall, mindful eating provides time to consider your why, long-term goals, and how each food choice will affect those ideals.
The Bottom Line
Diets are often started with dread and doom. And if trying a fad or crash diet, then that is warranted.
Switching your mindset from starting a diet to beginning a lifelong health journey can mitigate the dismay and even feel empowering. Practice the other tips as well and you will never have to quit a diet again!