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How to Stick to Your Diet

Updated on July 24, 2013
Abby Campbell profile image

Dr. Abby Campbell is a Naturopathic Doctor & President of 911 Body ResQ, an online store providing organic and non-GMO supplements.

About the Author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan, one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)

Meal planning doesn't have to be difficult. It actually makes shopping and eating healthy much easier.
Meal planning doesn't have to be difficult. It actually makes shopping and eating healthy much easier. | Source

Meal Planning is the Key

Would you go on a vacation before gathering brochures on various destinations, determining costs, and booking airfare and hotel? Would you miss a business appointment after planning a project with your boss for several months? What about your son's graduation? You would never haphazardly do any of these things before careful planning. Looking back at these events, you'll find that they were even short lived. However, your health is a lifelong event. Therefore, you should plan how to take care of it. Diet is a great part of your lifelong plan. Incorporating one that will support you and get you to your destination is important. It's probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself. After all, your destination is to live a long healthy life with the least amount of assistance so that you may enjoy the things you desire. Right?

Meal planning may sound like a difficult project, but it doesn't have to be. In fact, you may spend five to 10 minutes each morning planning your daily menu. Though you wouldn't have to work on a daily menu for every day of your life. Most of us are creatures of habit. You can probably count how many different breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you have on both hands. The 3-6-9 Plan is what most people use; it is a plan that provides choices for three breakfasts, six lunches, and 9 dinners. There are only so many food possibilities to put together, and a 3-6-9 Plan is simple enough to rotate yet exciting enough to keep you from boredom. Once you have a few weeks of your own menu plans put together, you can then start to rotate them. Simple!

Though meal planning may be simple, the key is sticking to your diet. You've probably already pondered this. As most of us have done, you've also probably had a little yo-yo in the diet process. Maybe you found that it was just too difficult to cut calories. Cravings for some of the naughty foods may have even overtaken you. Too many family birthday parties and traveling can hinder anyone with their goals. Whatever the case, a few simple steps can be taken to help you stick to your diet.

Sticking to a diet can be difficult. Planning is the key.
Sticking to a diet can be difficult. Planning is the key. | Source

What's Been Holding You Back From Sticking to a Diet?

Most of us have certain behaviors that prevent us from reaching goals. It could be bad habits, laziness, or even a bad attitude. You need to come to grips with whatever is holding you back. Self evaluation is the most important initial step you can take as it will open your eyes and heart to what needs to be done. Once you realize what is holding you back from sticking to a diet, you can begin making changes. Spend some time evaluating your current eating habits. List five current behaviors that are preventing you from achieving your goals. Next to each current behavior, write a new behavior that will allow you to achieve your goals.

Self Evaluation

Current Behavior
New Behavior
I have a 24 oz. soda with my morning and afternoon snack.
I drink water with a balanced food snack.

Goal Planning

Why do you want to stick to your diet? You must have some goals. If you don't know what you want to achieve, then it's much more difficult to stick to your new behaviors. Could it be that you want to lose weight or get healthy? List your top five fat loss, fitness, and/or health goals? With each goal, list two actions you can take immediately to move towards achieving those goals.

Goal Description
Action #1
Action #2
Lose 50 Pounds
Stop binging
Exercise 3 times per week

Setting Goal Deadlines

Setting realistic goal deadlines for the five you just planned in Step 2 is important so that you can measure whether you are on track at regular intervals. An overall deadline date to complete all goals should be set as well. This will keep you on your toes and help you stick to your diet. If your progress doesn't look like it's advancing, then check your behaviors and see how well you are sticking to them. Be honest with yourself! If you are sticking to them, then you may have to adjust your behaviors so that you can reach your deadlines.

Goal Description
Deadline Date
Overall Deadline Date
Lose 50 Pounds
9 months from today [actual date]
12 months from today [actual date]

Goal Tracking

Placing a value on your goals will help you see what you will gain or lose by achieving or not achieving your goals. This gives real perspective to what you really want. Evaluate your goals by answering the following four questions:

  1. What is the cost of achieving your goals?
  2. What is the cost of NOT achieving your goals?
  3. What will you experience if you succeed in your goals?
  4. What will you NOT experience if you do NOT succeed in your goals?

Meditate on these questions and your answers every morning and night so that you don't forget what is important. By knowing what is really important to you will also help you stick to your diet.

Get Abby's Book Today!

One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan
One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan | Source

Meal Planning

To stay on track, you will begin meal planning. Below is a template to help keep you get organized. Plan out each meal with the following guidelines in mind:

  1. Eat at regular intervals every 2 to 4 hours. Never starve yourself.
  2. Eat enough to where you are 80 percent full.
  3. Include natural foods and stay away from pre-packaged, processed foods.
  4. Make sure you have protein at every meal and snack. The appropriate amount for women is 20 to 40 grams. For men, it is 40 to 60 grams. This is for each meal and snack, especially if you are working on weight loss goals.
  5. Incorporate vegetables in every meal, and limit fruits to two per day. (Potatoes and corn are not vegetables!)
  6. Limit starchy carbs (i.e., oats, brown and wild rice, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bread, pasta, etc.) around workout times. If you are trying to lose weight, limit starches for "after" your two most strenuous workouts of the week.
  7. Include healthy dietary fat with each meal (except for after a workout). This may include foods such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter, natural peanut or almond butter, walnuts, almonds, pecans, flax seeds, chia seeds, avocados, olives, and egg yolks.
  8. Stick to only water, teas, and coffees for your beverages. Alcohol, sodas, and juices contain high calories and tons of sugar.

Sample Meal Plan

1 - Breakfast
Egg whites
Chopped green bell pepper and onions
Egg yolk
2 - AM Snack
Greek yogurt
Strawberry slices
Slivered almonds
3 - Lunch
Large salad with Romain lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions
Italian dressing
4 - PM Snack
Low-carb protein shake
Natural peanut butter
5 - Post Workout Dinner
Grilled chicken
Baked sweet potato
6 - Bedtime Snack
Low-fat cottage cheese

Reward Yourself 10 Percent of the Time. Have a treat!

If you eat three meals per day with two snacks in between, that is a total of five meals per day. Five meals multiplied by seven days per week equals 35 meals per week. Ten percent of 35 is 3.5, which means that you can have 3.5 meals as treats. Be sensible though! That doesn't mean go hog wild on those 3.5 meals. You don't want to upset all the hard work you've done already. If you want a pizza treat, then have a slice or two. Just don't eat the whole pizza! If you want ice cream, have a measured serving size and not a bowlful.

5 meals per day x 7 days per week = 35 meals

35 meals x 10% = 3.5 treats

Be Positive

There will be times you don't stick to your diet, but it will be okay. Just be positive! Studies show that when dieters feel deprived, they are more likely to binge on forbidden foods and end up quitting. In fact, this is one of the top reasons why most diets fail. Binging on foods that you know you're not supposed to makes you feel like a cheater. Eliminate the word "cheat" from your vocabulary, especially when it comes to dieting. Cheaters are scammers, deceivers, and defrauders. Cheating only conjures up feelings of guilt and remorse which is unnecessary when you are working your tail off trying to get healthier. Instead, allow yourself some "treats." A treat is a goody, a pleasure, and a celebration. You deserve a treat when you're working so hard! Instead of being so stringent while dieting, stick to the 90/10 Rule. Allowing yourself 10 percent of your meals or snacks as treats will help curb cravings. Besides, rewarding yourself for sticking to your diet 90 percent of the time deserves a treat!

Tell Us What You Think

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Helping those who desire it!
Helping those who desire it! | Source

About the author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author. For the past 10 years, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Her clients have lost thousands of pounds, reclaimed health, and call her “Coach No Gimmick.” She is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby has been married for 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 19 year cancer survivor.


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