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How to Stick with a Diet

How to Stick with a Diet

“I don’t even care how many sticks I have to fetch to burn off this one.”
Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

The first domino falls. Maybe you swore to quit sugar (nooooo), carbs (say it isn’t so) or coconut ice cream (I can’t even). And now the initial burning motivation and excitement have worn off. 

This attempt at a diet is becoming yet another prematurely ended diet in the mausoleum of failed diets. You might find yourself in despair. Questioning how you could better stick to a diet plan.

It requires a change of perspective

What if you would move away from trying to stick to a strict diet? By committing to a non-diet-diet. By resisting the urge to follow the template that everyone else does: setting on fire all that is delicious before the ultimate willpower stretching, and eventually breaking, attempt at an intense body transformation based on deprivation.

No. You can succeed by embracing the opposite. By being reasonable. Let the others focus on what they can achieve in a month or two. Only to fail yet again. You can play the long game. Focus on what results you can achieve in a year. And to keep them for another twenty years. 

Commit to showing up for foundational changes 

Give your willpower a break and ban nothing. You can eat whatever you want, within reasonable quantities of course. And sometimes less so. Because occasionally there are days when it’s impossible to choose between chocolate and vanilla ice cream. So you’ll end up having both. 

And reasonable isn’t just easier on willpower. It’s also better for your health. A recent study from The University of Helsinki1 suggests that people (even those with normal weight) with a history of failed diet attempts (“I gotta get heaps shredded for Barcelona”) have a higher chance of developing type II diabetes compared to the non-diet folks.

We also know that failed dieting may also lead to repeated weight loss attempts and therefore weight cycling. It’s a vicious cycle once it gets going.

Implementing small changes that eventually topple over

What if you’d commit to making changes that almost feel too easy? Like you’re cheating the gods of diet (Atkins?) by making up your own rules that require only a little willpower.

Changes that are small enough not to even valid a social media update. Because they don’t sound diehard. Because they’re not. In the world of diets, being reasonable and focusing on small changes is lame and boring. Unless of course you like sustainable, long-lasting results.

But a reasonable diet isn’t all pretty butterflies made of sparkling fairy floss

Following simple, reasonable eating habits requires resilience. If you choose to follow “I will duct tape my mouth shut for a month so please text if you want to communicate” – diet you can just muster through hell for a month. It won’t be easy. But most of us can deal with that sort of tribulation for 30 days. 

Reasonable approach in contrast requires persistence, even blind faith. It’s about repeating unsexy habits for a long time. It’s trusting the process that eventually there will be progress. Perhaps without seeing initial results for weeks.

Maybe you’ll end up stacking small habits on top of another for a while with no noticeable physical changes. Until one day that old friend compliments how you now somehow look better in the wind.

Being reasonable requires stubborn resistance to boredom

Trying to eat slowly until 80% full is not as arousing and concrete as damning sugar, eliminating biscuits that look like the 80s sitcom star Alf, or literally working out a donut on a rower. Eventually things get boring.

The challenge of boredom seven folds if you’re still starting out and haven’t seen substantial results from your efforts. Your mind naturally questions if the methods deserve your attention.

But instead of quitting when the boredom kicks in, you’ll double down on what you started. You re-focus on the small daily actions over the fluctuating excitement and motivation rollercoaster.

Because the internet is trying to convince you to stop being reasonable

Your news feed is filled with the excitement of new, more intense, fast diets. The ones that promise excellent results in only a few funny weeks. But you can counteract them by acknowledging what’s happening in your head: 

While being stuck at doing the challenging work of your current diet, you are seeing the possibility of a different diet. Something that perhaps sounds better than what you are currently doing. The comparison in your head is far from fair.

You are comparing the hard parts of the current diet to the upsides and promises of something new. The new thing will always look better. Because you are not in it right now doing the work.

Notice when this is happening, and it makes it easier to refocus on what you are currently doing. And to keep showing up.

Yeah, the grass is heaps greener on this side. What of it?
Photo by Adam King on Unsplash

The thing that makes a reasonable diet so powerful for a sustainable fat loss

It requires frequent self-reflection. You need to keep looking back at what you did, why you did it, and what were the results based on those decisions. 

Then there are the continuous adjustments that go with it. You have guidelines, not strict templates to follow. It’s not plug and play. It’s reflect-plug-adjust-play-reflect-plug-adjust-play repeat, repeat, repeat. You learn as you go.

This need for self-reflection stops some from sticking with a reasonable diet for long enough to see results. Especially in the beginning, when it’s all new and you are still trying to figure things out. But sticking with it really pays off.

Bringing it all together

The beauty of learning reasonable eating habits is that nothing is completely off limits. Being reasonable has it’s challenges, but it doesn’t require an intense amount of willpower. Especially when compared to the more strict duck tape diets.

It’s about learning mindful eating, performing frequent self-reflection, and discovering what foods work the best, for you. Then building your eating habits around them. 

It’s not about being perfect. But about doing it well enough to get the results you want. And then keeping them for life.

Even if it takes longer than the typical 30 days that the internet wants you to believe.


1 Self-report dieting attempts and intentional weight loss in a general adult population : Associations with long-term weight gain and risk of type 2 diabetes

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