An estimated 45 million Americans start a new diet every year, according to Boston Medical Center.
Unfortunately, not all of these dieters will see success. If you’ve ever dieted before, you know how easy it is to accidentally join the ranks of the so-called “yo-yo dieters,” meaning people who lose and regain their weight in cycles.
Staying on a diet is tough, but don’t get discouraged; no matter how many times you’ve cycled back to your original weight, it’s possible to keep the weight off for good. Here are a few surprisingly simple strategies to help you learn how to stick to a diet:
1. Have Realistic Goals
When you start any new venture, setting goals can help you stay on the right track. Before you start your diet and exercise to get the weight off, come up with an achievable plan to make it happen. Keep in mind that you can expect to lose between 0.5-2 pounds per week with most healthy diets.
Studies have found that people with achievable goals are less likely to become discouraged when they can’t achieve unrealistic outcomes, and more likely to stick to their original plans.
2. Work on Forming Habits and Motivation First
Many people dive into their weight loss expecting to transform their diets overnight. However, long-term habits only form when we set ourselves up for success.
Work on understanding what motivates you to lose weight, and what strategies help you keep that motivation strong throughout the day. Figure out when your cravings are strongest, and plan tactics that divert your attention at these times. Decide what you’ll do when (not if) you occasionally fall off the horse, and how to motivate yourself to overcome the small failure.
Considering your habits and motivation on the front end can help you stay strong during your toughest times, keeping you from becoming vulnerable to your body’s urges.
3. Keep Unhealthy Foods Out of the House
What is the best way to stay on a diet? Make it impossible not to!
When you’re surrounded by junk food, it can be hard to resist the temptation to sneak “just one bite”—which often becomes many. Having unhealthy foods on display has been linked to increased consumption. To avoid this problem, make sure to toss unhealthy foods from your home before you start your diet.
If you live with family members or roommates who want these foods around, ask to keep them out of sight as much as possible.
4. Find the Diet That Works for You
There is no single “perfect” diet. The best diet is the one that works for you in the long run.
That being said, everyone has their preferences when it comes to their food intake, so it may be worth researching and playing around with different diets to find the right options.
For example, beginners on the keto diet may find it easier to get started if they already consume high amounts of protein. Flexitarian or vegan diets may be right for those hoping to decrease their ecological footprint. Intermittent fasting may be right for those looking to spend less time in the kitchen.
Whatever your mindset, a little research can help you find a diet that you can work into your lifestyle—rather than the other way around.
5. Plan Your Day Around Healthy Eating
One of the most common tips for dieting is to have healthy snacks on hand. This simple trick is a great idea, but it works for a reason: having a healthy snack means you’ve planned your day around eating right.
Try to spend a few minutes every morning or evening anticipating what you’ll need to eat well.
Will there be cake in the break room for a coworker’s birthday? Plan to eat your healthy snack at your desk if you need to avoid temptation.
Are you going out to eat? Try to take a peek at the restaurant’s online menu in advance so you aren’t overwhelmed by unhealthy choices when you arrive.
Do you need to head to the supermarket? Make better purchasing choices by eating a healthy snack before you go to avoid cravings.
Simple solutions like these can help you set yourself up for success, day in and day out.
6. Eat Mindfully
One great way to stay on a diet is to be more mindful of how you eat.
This comes with a few approaches. First, try to make a habit of sitting down to eat at a table every day, whether you feel like it or not. This is a good way to keep yourself from mindlessly binge-eating in front of a television, and it gets you out of the habit of snacking all the time.
Second, try to eat slowly and enjoy your food. One four-month study found that women who ate mindfully improved their relationship with food and gained additional control of their eating habits over time.
Last, try to establish a set time for meals and snacks. This depends on your schedule and metabolism, but a regular eating schedule can be a great way to stop eating whenever you feel like it.
7. Monitor Your Progress
Calorie-counting apps are a great way to monitor what you’re eating and ensure you’re sticking to the basic calories in, calories out approach.
There’s also a bonus: measuring your food intake and exercise can help you stick to your diet! Seeing your incremental progress as you shed weight and build muscle, little by little, is a great motivator to follow through with your plan.
Now You Know How to Stick to a Diet for the Long-Term
In the end, every plan you put into place matters.
Even if you have a bad day now and then, establishing healthy habits, finding your motivation, and monitoring your progress can strengthen your willpower and keep you from giving into cravings over time. Every time your planning helps you stick to your guns, you become a little better at resisting your old habits and knowing how to stick to a diet for good. It’s all about creating the strategies that work best for you!
If you enjoyed reading this and want more tips on health and fitness, check out our other lifestyle blogs!