How to Stick to a Diet: 5 Proven Strategies
If you’re looking to improve your diet and stick to it, this is for you. In this article, we’re going to explore some proven strategies to help your new diet become habit and improve your health in the process.
We are all aware of the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, yet many of us remain blissfully unaware of the slow-moving pandemic already in our midst: chronic lifestyle driven disease.
In the UK,
- 15 million people are obese (1),
- 4 million people have type 2 diabetes (2)
- 8 million people live with heart disease (3)
And these numbers are only on the rise.
I’m afraid that’s just the beginning: Today 700,000 people live with dementia and by 2040, this number will rise to 1.5 million (4).
Currently 1 in 4 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. So In a typical family of four that’s one of you.
By 2025 this number is expected to be 1 in 2 (4). Now it’s two of you.
The stakes have never been higher.
So How Do You Stick To A Diet?
1. Accept change is a journey not a destination
I find a lot of clients are raring to make change, but have unrealistic expectations of how easy the change will be.
After all, anybody can ‘diet’ for a few days, but how will you cope in times of stress when you are compelled to fall into old habits?
So the first step is to accept change is a journey that takes time.
You will make mistakes and lose your way, but that’s ok. It’s a fluid process.
This is a hard fact for clients to accept and the media doesn’t help but the reality is, it takes weeks of practice before diet becomes habit.
Even then, it’s important you enjoy the journey as much as you can.
2. Assess your readiness for change
In the 1980’s a group of psychologists devised the transtheoretical model to help understand behaviour change (6).
I would encourage you to have a read and ask yourself:
‘How ready am I to make the change?’
The good news is, if you are reading this you are likely in the ‘contemplation stage’ (getting ready) or ‘preparation stage’ (ready).
If you are in the ‘getting ready’ stage, I’m afraid you still have some work to do as you may still be too attached to the ‘highs’ of your current lifestyle.
I would recommend working with a health coach or nutritionist who can help assess your readiness and motivations and devise an appropriate plan to help you move forward.
3. Understand Your Motivation
Ambition without motivation is like a car without petrol. You ain’t going nowhere.
But you may be surprised to hear that motivation is severely overrated.
“Motivation is a sugar rush that never lasts”Motivation Myth by Jeff Haden
Instead, it’s the ‘small wins’ that ignite your ‘drive’, your ‘grit’ or ‘fire in your belly’ which help you stick to a diet when things get tough.
To help tap into your drive, ask yourself:
- Why do I want to change?
- How do I benefit from the change?
- Why don’t I want to change?
- What’s important to me about this change?
Common reasons for change may include
- ‘Weight loss’
- ‘Improving health’,
- ‘To fit into a dress’,
- ‘To attract a partner’
- ‘To have a baby’
You may also be surprised to learn, these are generally not good enough to ‘ignite’ the ‘fire in your belly’.
You need to find what ignites your drive to make the change. In my experience, the results are not enough for you to action. You’ve got to focus on the journey because it’s the process and the small wins that will help you keep going.
For example, my reason for writing this article is to help you.
But in reality, this reason is not enough when I’m tired, fed up and uninspired to write.
Instead, I love the feeling of expressing myself and the process of editing this article. Helping you becomes the byproduct of my drive.
And like sticking to a diet, ‘weight loss‘, ‘feeling better’, ‘fitting into clothes’ or ‘having a baby’ is the byproduct of identifying and embracing your inner drive.
4. Make an Action Plan
Like ambition is useless without motivation; goals are useless without an action plan.
And an action plan is useless without plans that are not realistic. For that, we must ‘de-chunk’ big goals into smaller goals.
The research has shown we are more likely to achieve a goal if it’s Simple, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time Measured. This comes from the SMART or EXACT model of goal setting (8).
How do you eat an elephant?
Let’s say one of your goals is to ‘eat six portions of vegetables per day’.
That is a mammoth task in itself, so we’ll need to de-chunk this goal. To start, I would suggest eating two portions per day (breakfast and dinner) and to record your actions and report to an accountability partner.
5. Find An Accountability Partner
History has proven the powerful effects of community in achieving safety, productivity and happiness across the world.
Finding a buddy or a group of people sharing the same experience as you can be an essential part of the journey.
The power of weight loss programmes such as Weight Watchers or Slimming World lies in it’s community, not in it’s advice.
Alcoholics Anonymous is another great example, as having an accountability partner or ‘sponsor’ is an essential part of the programme to help you maintain commitment.
An accountability partner can be a health professional, a relative, a friend or a total stranger. It doesn’t matter as long as you connect.
As you can see making change and sticking to a diet is not simple for most. You wouldn’t plumb your house without professional help, so why would you expect to change your life by yourself?
After all, change is about the right mindset, the right strategy and enough practice.
So whatever happens, be patient, stay positive and most importantly, trust you will get there.
Wishing you well on your path to health,