If you’re frustrated by the difficulty of sticking to your diet, you’re definitely not alone. We often set unrealistic expectations for ourselves when attempting to lose weight or just become generally healthier. Once we decide we want to lose weight or take better care of our health, we want to start seeing instant results, which often leads us to try fad diets and boot camps whose effects wear off the second we resume our normal habits.
First, it’s very important to understand where you’re starting and where you eventually want to end up on your journey to a healthier life. Second, you must be willing to exercise regularly, as dieting alone cannot offer you the benefits of strengthening your body and converting the food you eat into fuel. And lastly, everyone falls off the wagon at some point, so you can’t become too discouraged when it happens to you. To help you get started and stay focused, I’ve put together the following 20 most effective tips and tricks for sticking to your diet.
1. Educate yourself
The most important part of sticking to your diet and achieving your health and fitness goals is knowing what foods are good and what foods are not. There are “good” carbs and “bad” carbs, as well as good and bad proteins, good and bad fats, and good and bad sugars. Vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and lean proteins are all excellent sources of those “good” essential nutrients. One important thing to remember when deciding what foods you’ll be incorporating into your diet is that good carbs act as the energy that fuels your body when exercising, so any fad diet that excludes carbs is not only unsustainable but also illogical. Watch a YouTube crash course on nutrition or ask a personal trainer how much of each nutrient you should be ingesting daily to properly fuel your body.
2. Start now
Don’t start your diet after the weekend. Start now. If you know your diet is approaching, then you’re more likely to overindulge in the days or weeks before you begin, which will only add to the total amount of weight you’re aiming to lose. It’s also much easier to talk yourself out of sticking to your diet if you allow any doubt to fester. There’s no better time to get healthy than right now, so seize the day and get to work!
3. Avoid setting rules
Make decisions rather than rules. Instead of saying “I can’t eat that because I’m dieting,” say “I choose not to eat that because it’s unhealthy.” The same goes for exercising; instead of saying “I have to go to the gym today,” say “I’m choosing to go to the gym today.” By associating these aspects with decisions rather than rules, you’re taking control of your health rather than sticking to your diet due to obligation. Don’t be a slave to your diet—be the master.
4. Set small, reasonable goals
Sticking to your diet is much easier and more rewarding when you’re constantly achieving goals. Instead of aiming to lose 20 pounds by the end of summer, aim to lose two pounds by the end of this week. While it’s important to know your end goal, it’s even more important to remain optimistic on the journey to that end goal. Do this by constantly setting new goals that you can achieve in a few days rather than a few months.
5. Enlist an “accountabilibuddy”
It’s infinitely more exciting to diet and exercise with a friend. Pick someone who has similar goals and who has the capacity to motivate you. Keep each other accountable for sticking to your diet so that you aren’t just letting yourself down if you backslide. If you’re in danger of letting down someone you care about, you’ll be more determined to push through!
6. Make it a lifestyle
Start replacing idle activities─like drinking with friends, playing video games, and going out to eat─with active alternatives. Some alternatives might be hiking, swimming, and gardening. Encourage your friends to follow suit, and you’ll instantly have more accountabilibuddies!
7. Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach
It’s easy to grab unhealthy options when you’re starving and want to snack on your way home from the grocery store. For the best chance of sticking to your diet, avoid bringing home unhealthy foods altogether. Remember that it takes a few weeks to kick bad habits and form good ones, so shopping healthy will soon become second nature.
8. Avoid becoming “hangry”
When we go too long without eating, we tend to get a little cranky and are more likely to eat anything that is presented to us. Always have healthy snacks handy if you’re going to be away from home for a while. And if you feel the “hanger” coming on…act quickly!
9. Drink lots of water
Drinking plenty of water is essential for sticking to your diet. Being properly hydrated will keep your energy up in between meals, and drinking water during meals will make you feel fuller more quickly. If you’re starting to get hungry and you’re nowhere close to healthy food, drink a full 16 ounces of water to hold you over.
10. Don’t keep eating until you’re full
One of the most important tips for sticking to your diet is that you should stop eating when you no longer feel hungry rather than when you feel full. Your brain takes a minute to catch up with your body, so by the time you no longer feel hungry, you’ve eaten just enough. If you eat until you feel full, then you’ve actually overeaten!
11. Don’t give up if you backslide
Like I mentioned earlier, everyone backslides. Whether you overindulge one weekend or just decide to skip the gym for a whole week, you’ve still made valuable progress. Don’t let all your progress go to waste by undoing all the goals you’ve achieved so far. Hop right back up and keep going, which brings me to my next tip.
12. Constantly reevaluate your motivations
If you’re frequently falling off the wagon, then you’re likely not motivated enough. Once you set a new goal, ask yourself why you want to achieve that goal and determine what exactly you’re going to gain from achieving it. If you don’t have an accountabilibuddy to help motivate you, try following some fitness influencers on social media who promote body positivity and health rather than those who obsess over their weight and overall appearance.
13. Reward yourself
Indulging in the occasional “cheat meal” is perfectly fine as long as you don’t get carried away. If you have an “all or nothing” mindset, then you’re more likely to become overwhelmed and eventually backslide. Don’t be afraid to reward yourself for all your hard work─that is, unless the rewards start becoming detrimental to your overall progress. Moderation is essential!
14. Count victories, not calories
There are so many nutritional elements other than calories to consider when sticking to your diet. As long as you’re staying active, eating the right portions, and avoiding junk food, you shouldn’t be too concerned about your calorie intake. Focus on how you feel rather than how many calories you burn. Eating healthy is super important!
15. Track your progress
Whether you’re aiming to lose 50 pounds, 10 inches, or just some excess cellulite, it’s important that you document where you started and frequently compare your starting point to your current progress. Weight is lost gradually, so you likely won’t notice that you’ve lost weight unless you compare a picture of yourself taken today to a picture of yourself taken three weeks ago. All progress is good progress!
16. Try new recipes every week
Pinterest is an absolute gem when it comes to sticking to your diet due to the countless healthy and creative recipes available at your fingertips. Keep trying new types of foods and changing up your routine to avoid getting bored with your diet and exercise habits. Boredom is the gateway to backsliding!
17. Change up your workouts
Just like getting bored with your food intake might pose obstacles to sticking to your diet, becoming stagnant in the gym can have the same effect. Incorporate new exercises and alternative forms of cardio into your routine, and constantly work toward increasing your intervals, personal records (PRs), and total time spent in the gym to really start hitting those goals!
18. Have a travel plan
If you’re going to be away from home for more than a few hours, be aware of where and when you’ll be able to eat next. If you’re going on vacation for several days or weeks, make sure you plan your itinerary around restaurants with healthy options and non-idle activities. It’s always good to be a little lenient with your diet when you’re on vacation, but never lose focus on the greater picture!
19. Browse the menu before trying a new restaurant
Make sure that you know there’s something healthy you can eat before committing to a restaurant. Believe it or not, some restaurants simply don’t offer healthy options, and you’re more likely to indulge once you’re there than go somewhere else—especially if you’re on a date or with a group of colleagues or classmates.
20. Educate others about health and fitness
It’s much easier to recruit workout buddies if they’re educated on the benefits of eating healthy and exercising regularly. Become a functional expert in health and fitness so that you can use your knowledge to motivate others!
Remember, start making the switch to a healthy lifestyle now, not later! Give these tips and tricks a try, and keep us posted on your progress in the comments below!
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Jamie graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She is an aspiring writer, professional editor/proofreader, and piano player. In her free time, Jamie enjoys reading classic literary works, composing music, and playing Xbox with her husband!