When it comes to following a healthy diet, getting started is the easy part, but sticking to those changes for the long term is tough. Whether it’s a party, a vacation, or a late-night snack on the couch that derails your game plan, keeping those healthy habits going is often the hardest part for people. The good news is, it doesn’t need to be so complicated and you don’t need to be perfect, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. So let’s discuss some simple strategies for how to stick to a healthy diet so you can make those healthy habits last for the long term.
How to Stick to a Healthy Diet
Struggling to stick to your diet plan? Here are 9 simple tips to help keep you on track.
1. Start with Realistic Expectations
First things first, if you want to change your diet habits, and really change them, you need to have realistic expectations. If you think you are going to lose 20 pounds in one month, you are likely setting yourself up for frustration and failure. Although that’s the way things work on The Biggest Loser, that’s not the way things work in the real world. No matter what your goals are, just chill out, relax and take things one day at a time.
2. Pick the Diet Style that Works for You
The thing about eating well is that you need to enjoy what you are doing if you want to keep doing it. If Jane at the office started following a certain diet and lost some weight, that’s great for Jane, but that may not be great for you. If you chose to follow the latest fad diet but don’t actually enjoy that style of eating, it’s not going to last. You need to think about what you like and what you don’t like, and what you are willing to change and what you are not willing to change. There are about a hundred different ways to eat well, and in order to make it last, you need to pick the style that works best for you.
3. Don’t Change Too Much Too Fast
It is said that it takes anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months to create a habit, and in order to stick to a healthy diet you need to create healthy habits, not just make changes. Anyone can make a change for one week or two weeks, but in order to make those changes last, you need to turn them into habits. As opposed to changing what you eat, when you eat, how you eat, and how much you eat all at once, break it up into small manageable chunks. Change one meal at a time, one ingredient at a time, or one drink at a time. Although it may seem like a slow process at first, the slower you make the changes the more manageable it will be to keep them and the easier it will be to troubleshoot them if something goes wrong.
4. Let Go of the ‘All-or-Nothing’ Approach
One of the biggest mental blocks for people is going into their diet changes with an “all or nothing” approach; you are either doing everything perfectly all of the time or you are doing nothing at all. I can tell you from first-hand experience that does not work! You will eat cake again, you will eat chips again, and you will drink wine again. Instead of kidding yourself and trying to do it all perfectly forever, you need to focus on creating new habits that help to minimize your problematic habits, but still allow you to live your life. You aren’t going to “ruin” all of your progress just because you ate one piece of cake, you may slow it down a little, but you won’t ruin it. It is important to keep in mind that having a treat here and there is actually an important part of the process, you just can’t have it here, there and everywhere. Of course, keeping it to a minimum is key, but you don’t need to keep it to nothing at all.
5. Set Your Environment Up for Success
The people, the places and the things around you are paramount to your success. The food you bring into your kitchen, the people at your office, and the places you eat are going to impact how well you will you do. So, if you want to stick to a healthy diet, it is vital that you pay attention to the things you are in control of and take control of them. You are in control of the food that goes into your grocery cart. You are in control of the food that comes into your house. You are in control of what you pack for lunch. You are in control of what you order at a restaurant. And you are in control of what you put in your mouth. Consider the people, the places, and the things that may make it more difficult for you to stick to a healthy diet at times and create a plan of attack. Don’t play the blame game, take charge, take control, and make your health a priority.
Change is hard, learning is awkward, and trying new things is uncomfortable, but if you can accept that and work through it, things are going to be a whole lot more comfortable on the other end.
6. Don’t Forget to Mix Things Up
Oatmeal for breakfast, salad for lunch, and chicken for dinner is a great choice but that can only last for so long before it gets boring. Yes, keeping things simple at the beginning is helpful for consistency, and there is nothing wrong with eating the same thing over and over if that works for you, however, the moment you start to get bored it is important that you mix things up. Food is supposed to be fun, and there are a million different recipes and ways of cooking that will keep things fun and help you stick to a healthy diet. Get creative, experiment and don’t be afraid to try new things. You may not like all of them, and that’s totally ok, but the more tools you can add to your toolkit the easier it will be to keep things going for the long term.
7. Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
Sticking to a healthy diet can get ugly at times. You may get angry at times, you may get frustrated at times, and guess what, that’s great. Change is uncomfortable, but you need to go through that uncomfortable change to get comfortable on the other end. You are going to say no to things you love, but you are going to find new things you love. You are going to eat things you may not thoroughly enjoy, but you are going to find new foods you enjoy. You are going to miss out on activities you like, but you are going to find new activities you like. If you are comfortable never cooking, snacking on cookies, and watching your favourite TV shows after work, it is going to be uncomfortable for you to start cooking your meals, snacking on carrots, and going to the gym after work, but it is going to be worth it. You need to get out of your own way and be willing to work. Change is hard, learning is awkward, and trying new things is uncomfortable, but if you can accept that and work through it, things are going to be a whole lot more comfortable on the other end.
8. Create a Support System
Sticking to a healthy diet when you are the only one in your environment trying to do so is hard. Can it be done? Of course, but it is a heck of a lot easier when you’ve got people around you supporting you. Maybe it’s a co-worker, maybe it’s a friend, or maybe it’s a family member, but if you can find someone to join your team it’s going to make the journey a whole lot more fun. Having someone to talk to will help you troubleshoot the hard times and celebrate the good times. You don’t need to shout it from the rooftops, but having a handful of people who are on the same page as you will make things a whole lot easier.
9. Thinks About What Motivates You
In my opinion, eating well is not a choice, it is a necessity. Taking care of yourself and your body is the most basic and fundamental form of self-care, unfortunately, not everyone sees it this way. We are all different, have different values and different priorities, and are motivated by different things. They are not right or wrong, they are simply different. However, in order to do anything, not only stick to a healthy diet, you need a reason to do so. Some people are motivated by weight, some people are motivated by energy, some people are motivated by digestive issues, some people are motivated by the environment, and some people are motivated by family. Regardless, it is important that you consider why you are doing this in the first place. You may have one reason or you may have 10 reasons, but you need to find a reason. It may not be the same reason forever, in fact, it is good if it changes, but in order to stick to a healthy diet and continue to eat well for the long term you need to understand the reasons that are important to you.