8 Tips to Stick to Your Diet
According to the Boston Medical Center 45 million Americans diet each year, yet two-thirds of Americans are considered obese. Meanwhile, ScienceDaily claims that only 20% of people actually lose weight and keep it off. So what is it that makes these people unsuccessful, and what can you do to have a successful weight loss program?
1. Stop Calling it a Diet
(Yes I realize I used diet in the title, but I had to get you in here somehow!)
The word diet implies a temporary plan to lose weight, and upon reaching their weight loss goal many people return to their normal habits and then go on to regain what they lost. This may be followed by another round of dieting which creates a yoyo effect that can take a serious toll on your body. Research shows that people who weight cycle often end up gaining back more weight than they lost to begin with. Additionally, your risk for mental illness, binge eating, and heart problems are increased.
To lose weight and keep it off you must make sustainable lifestyle changes that will be maintainable over the long term.
Sandra Aamodt TEDTalk: Why Dieting Doesn't Usually Work
2. Avoid Fads
Part of losing weight smartly includes avoiding fad diets. These diets can seem appealing because they guarantee quick weight loss with minimal effort. Often these diets do not deliver on their promise, and if they do it can be at great risk to your health. In order for the participant to lose weight quickly, fad diets typically do not provide enough calories or required nutrients, and upon finishing the diet and returning to normal habits the weight will be put back on.
Some of the most popular fad diets include the Cabbage Soup diet, Grapefruit diet, Baby Food diet, the Master Cleanse, etc. Fad diets are easily spotted; they promise a quick fix, limit or eliminate certain food groups, and seem too good to be true (hint: they are!).
Are you seriously trying to lose weight at this time?
3. Set Reasonable Goals
Rather than following a fad diet that promises quick weight loss, opt instead for a healthy lifestyle that you can maintain in the long run. In order to lose weight healthily and permanently it is recommended to lose one to two pounds per week.
Instead of setting one long term goal for yourself, such as losing 20 pounds, try focusing instead on smaller increments of two or three pounds, or better yet, track your progress using measurements rather than weight. Although using weight seems like an obvious metric of progress, it does not accurately represent the ratio of fat lost and muscle gained. For example, you could lose 8 pounds of fat in a month and gain 2 pounds of muscle, creating a net loss of 6 pounds, however the difference in size will be more noticeable because you have replaced the fat with lean muscle.
- Continue to be conscious of what you eat and how much.
- Acknowledge your cravings and satisfy them.
- Plan ahead.
4. Allow Yourself a Cheat Meal
For your own sanity, allow yourself that piece of chocolate once in a while. Like taking a mental health day from work, a cheat meal will satiate your cravings and derail a potential binge. One meal every week or two will not inhibit your weight loss, on the contrary it can boost your energy and allow you to enjoy the social activity of a nice meal out, therefore increasing your overall health and happiness.
Try to plan your cheat meal ahead of time, such as a date night or get together with friends, and while the idea is to indulge yourself don't let one meal get out of hand and become a full on binge.
5. If You Do Slip Up, Move On
You have bad day, a coworker brings in cake for their birthday, whatever it may be, no one is perfect and we all slip up sometimes. The best way to deal with an over indulgence is just to forgive yourself and move on. Don’t allow one out of control meal to turn into an out of control day which becomes an out of control week. Instead, accept the fact that you cannot change what has already happened and try to get back on track immediately.
6. Find a Friend
Weight loss can be much easier and more fun if you have a friend or partner to help encourage you. Adding a support system provides motivation as well as holding you accountable for sticking to your routine. Although a buddy can very helpful it is important to realize that everyone's body works differently and what works for one person may not work for another. Keeping this in mind can prevent a fitness relationship from becoming too competitive.
The best place to start a healthy life is at home. Trying to eat healthy while surrounded by those who do not can be very challenging, so try encouraging your family to join you in your efforts.
7. Reward Yourself
To help you stay motivated to reach the goals you set for yourself, plan to reward yourself when you achieve them. These rewards should be something to treat yourself and not food related.
Some ideas for rewards:
- Cooking Classes
- A Day Trip
- Spa Day
8. Supplement with Exercise
A general rule of thumb in the fitness world is that 75% of weight loss can be attributed to what you eat, and the other 25% to exercise. While it possible to lose weight solely from dietary changes, incorporating cardio and resistance training into your routine will speed up the process while also adding muscle and increasing your overall health. Studies show that even just 30 minutes of exercise a day can be sufficient to lose weight and increase heart health.
As the saying goes, "You can't out-exercise a bad diet".
(Looking for an exercise routine? Check this one out!)
Good Luck & Stay Positive!
Losing weight is almost never easy. Keeping it off can often be even harder. Everyone has setbacks and off days, but the most important thing to remember is to stay positive. Instead of looking at how far you have left to go, instead look at how far you have come! Stay motivated and I promise the payoff will be worth it.