There are many reasons that you might have decided to diet right now.  You may be preparing for a big event.  You may have made a big New Year’s resolution.  Or it may be that you’re just ready to lose some weight to improve your health.

Whatever your reasons, starting a diet can be an exciting and invigorating idea.  But after a few weeks, or even days, dieting isn’t quite so appealing.  You may be missing some of your old food choices, you may feel hungrier, or you may just feel deprived and angry.

fitness-buddyBut there are success strategies that will help you stick to your diet and reach your goals without stalling out.   When you understand diet basics and tips for maintaining your progress, you’ll reach your goal in no time.

Sticking to your diet actually starts with choosing your diet in the first place.  There are thousands of diets you could try and it’s important that you do your homework before you start one.

A diet needs to fit in with your lifestyle and be something that you can do realistically.  For example, eating a diet of raw foods may be extremely healthy and help you lose weight.  But it’s not for everyone.

If you work 2 jobs it’s probably not the best because of all the time-consuming food prep.  If you don’t have time to prepare the appropriate foods, it’s not likely that you’ll stick to this diet for very long.

And there are hundreds more diets that have components that may not work for you while some diets will be perfect for you.  So you must choose a diet that will not defeat you in the very beginning.

Here are a few things you should ask about a diet before beginning it

  • How much food preparation will be involved?
  • Will you have to buy special products?
  • Do you need specific tools that you don’t already own?
  • Is the food something you already like?
  • Does this diet work with your current work schedule and lifestyle?
  • Will you have to diet alone, or can your family also practice this way of eating?
  • Will you be able to eat out?  Or will all food have to come from home?
  • How much money will you need spend each month for this diet?
  • Will you have to attend meetings for it?
  • Will the diet interfere with any health conditions or medications?
  • Have you tried this diet before?

You want to choose a diet that fits within your budget and fits within your schedule.  If you have a lot of free time, a diet that requires a lot of food preparation may be appropriate.

However, if you’re very busy, you’ll want to find a diet that you can fit into your erratic schedule.  If you don’t have time for a lot of food prep or you eat out a lot, you need to make sure your diet is compatible with these requirements.

This is the first step in sticking to your diet.  If you choose a diet that fits well into your existing lifestyle, you’ll have a better chance of continuing.  If you choose something that is difficult to fit into your lifestyle, you’ll have more of a struggle ahead of you.

1. Be Mindful of Your Budget

food budgetIn today’s economy, many people are working to make sure they don’t overspend.  Dieting is one of the places where people spend the most money.  But it is possible to diet without overspending.

There are two routes you can take to dieting success when it comes to your budget.  You can join a program that has costs attached to it or you can do it on your own and use a program from a book or other source.

Diet programs that offer fee-based services have benefits and drawbacks

  • Often program fees are high and don’t cover the cost of food
  • Even a diet that comes with prepackaged food must be supplemented with more food
  • You may get personal one-on-one service
  • You may get support group meetings
  • You have accountability and regular weigh-ins
  • You have someone to coach you when you’re struggling and celebrate your successes
  • You must make time in your schedule for any regular appointments or classes
  • You may have to pay for meetings or appointments even if you don’t attend them

Alternatively, if you choose the option of going on your own, you’ll find that there are also benefits and drawbacks

  • You can use information from books, magazines, or online resources to tailor a plan for you – many of these sources are inexpensive or free
  • You won’t have as much accountability
  • You won’t have to buy expensive prepackaged food, but you will have to spend more time preparing food
  • Support can be encouraged by working with friends, but you won’t have a built-in coach
  • You won’t have to schedule regular appointments or meetings

Ultimately, you need to choose a diet you can stick with in the first place.  If you’re choosing something that’s way out of your budget, you won’t be able to afford it long-term.  It’s important that you make wise financial decisions early on in the process.

2. Understand Your Motivation

be miserable or motivateWhen it comes to dieting, it also helps to understand what’s driving your decision to lose weight.  Sometimes it’s not enough to be motivated to fit into a new dress. Likewise the general desire to get healthy isn’t always enough to keep you going.

You need to spell out exactly what it is you want to accomplish and why.  Here are a few sample items that may motivate you

  • Reduce risk for heart disease
  • Get off of medication for diabetes
  • Live longer for your children
  • Have fun shopping for clothes
  • Less pain in your joints
  • Be able to move more easily
  • Enjoy more activities such as gardening and walking

Once you understand what’s motivating you to diet, you can write it down and place reminders around you.  This will help you to focus on what you want to achieve whenever you’re tempted to stray from your plan.

You can be very simple about it, or you can get very creative.  Some people create vision boards to help remember goals and motivation.  You can create this by simply putting magazine cutouts, photos, and even just words on a small poster.

This poster can very simple or more elaborate. Then you’ll place the vision board somewhere that you will come across it every day.  Take a few moments each day to look at your vision board and reconnect to your purpose.

Other people create self-affirmations to place in prominent areas.  For example, you may want to put small notes on your bathroom mirror, inside your car, and even on your desk at work.

These notes will serve as regular reminders that you have a greater purpose for sticking to your diet.  Whenever you’re feeling a little like you want to stop following the plan or you want to give up, you can go to these messages of motivation for inspiration.

3. Get Prepared

When it’s time to begin your diet, it helps to make sure you have all the things you need to be successful.  For example, you’ll need to make sure you have the correct food items available.

Some diet plans have staple items that you’ll need over and over again.  You may find that it’s best to buy these items in bulk so that you get a better bargain. When you buy in bulk, you’ll also have more on hand.

You also want to be sure and stock supplies such as storage containers, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil that you’ll need if you’re cooking for yourself a lot.  Some diets also require supplements and you’ll need to have a large supply of them.

If you’re using prepackaged food, it’s important to have a good stock on hand so that you don’t have an emergency.  When you run out of your pre-packaged food you’ll have to make something different.

It’s a good idea to have at least a week’s worth of extra food so that you won’t run out.  There may be times that your regularly scheduled day to pick up your food supply will fall through.  Make sure you’re prepared.

There are some diets that require special equipment such as a blender or a microwave.  Make sure you have these items before you begin a diet that requires them.  Having supplies ahead of time will help you stick to your diet.

If you’re going to make exercise a part of your program, you’ll also want to make sure you’ve go the appropriate clothing and footwear.  You don’t want to find that you don’t have comfortable shoes when you’re a few days into the program.

Before you start your diet you need to make a checklist of the things you’ll need.  Keep this checklist handy so that you’ll always know what you need to buy – even if you have to make a quick run to the store after work.

Once you’ve got all the supplies you need, you’ll be prepared to stay with your diet for the long term.  When you’re not prepared, it makes it that much easier to slip up and miss your routine.

4. Get Support

weight loss support from friendsWhen it comes to dieting, it’s often better not to go it alone.  It often helps to have someone to whom you can be accountable.  It’s also nice to have someone who shares your common goals and vision.

You may want to consider starting a diet group or even just having a diet buddy.  This person will help you to stay on track and you will do the same for him or her.

When you work together, you have several benefits

  • You can share success stories
  • You can share obstacles and brainstorm ideas to overcome them
  • You’ll be able to swap recipes
  • You’ll have accountability
  • You can motivate one another
  • Together you can focus when other areas of your life distract you from taking care of yourself

When it comes to finding the right type of support, there are a few things to keep in mind.  First, you’ll want to find someone who is positive about the process and who is committed.

If you work with someone who’s not really committed, you may find that you spend all of your energy trying to stay focused while they distract you.  You’ll want to talk before you partner up and find out how committed they are to the process.

You’ll also need to look for someone who has a similar schedule and will be available at about the same time you’re available.  This way you know that you’ll be able to meet consistently.

In addition, you probably want to find someone who is following the same diet that you’re following.  This way you can truly share stories and you can brainstorm ways to get through stumbling blocks.

Having that support you need can be critical to your success.  It’s possible to do it on your own, but it’s so much easier when you have someone to share the burden of this major lifestyle change.

Once you’ve found someone to work with you, make sure that you are also committed to the process.  Be his or her cheerleader and follow through will all of your promises when it comes to meeting and working together.

5. Avoid Saboteurs

It’s a well known fact that when you’re trying to lose weight and improve your health, someone will come along to sabotage your efforts.  Whether it’s jealousy, misunderstanding, or just plain being mean this is something you should expect.

There are several ways you can handle a saboteur in your life:

  • If possible, avoid them altogether – this is difficult if it’s a close friend or family member
  • Steer clear of the subject of dieting and weight loss – don’t let them in on your diet plan
  • Confront the saboteur and let them know you won’t be discussing your diet with them and you would like them to please stop any behaviors that are getting in your way
  • Ignore their efforts – don’t engage them when they try to stop your progress

Efforts of other people to get in the way of your success are a sad truth when it comes to dieting.  There will always be people who – consciously or unconsciously – will try to keep you from having it all.

Sometimes it’s enough to just recognize that this is happening so you can avoid them or confront them on the issue.  While having positive support can lead to your success, allowing negative people to get in your way will be detrimental.

It’s best to nip the problem in the bud.  The first time someone does or says something that makes your diet more difficult, make sure to let them know what you want from them.

Change is a hard pill to swallow.  Some people – even people who care about you – will have a hard time if your new lifestyle interferes with theirs.  Remember that we don’t live in a bubble.  Our actions always affect others.

For example, if they’re used to going out to dinner or dessert, it may be difficult when you either turn them down or don’t eat that brownie a la mode anymore.  This is especially true if he or she needs to lose weight as well.

But most people will get over their problems and turn into supporters if you make it clear that you’re committed to your new plan.  And eventually as you succeed, they’ll cheer you on.

6. Keep a Journal

Food Journal

Food Journal

Study after study has found that the most successful dieters are those who keep a journal.  This journal can work in a number of ways and you can tailor the process to the particular diet you’ve chosen.

For some people, keeping a journal will mean writing down calories and fat grams.  For other people it will mean writing down the specific foods and portions you enjoy at each meal.

Still for others, it will mean keeping track of when you ate and how you felt at the time.  Some journals are for keeping track of emotions and hunger.  But no matter what you do, it helps to keep a journal to record the process.

In addition to keeping track of your diet in your journal, you can also use it to track the amount of exercise you complete.  You can also track your weight and inches in the journal to have all the important information in one place.

Your journal can be something you purchase directly from your diet program.  It may also be something that you simply purchase at the office supply store.  A spiral notebook often works very well and is an inexpensive choice.

If you need to keep your journal with you on the go, then you’ll want to purchase a very small book that can fit in your pocket, briefcase, glove box, or purse.  In that case you may also want something that has a sturdy cover to handle wear and tear.

Journals can be very versatile and fit your personal style.  But the main thing you need to remember is that once you’ve bought the perfect book, you need to actually write in it.  A journal that you don’t use is worthless.

Here are a few tips for using your journal consistently

  • Keep your journal on the kitchen counter where you normally prepare and eat food
  • If you eat out or travel a lot, keep a small journal that you can take with you
  • Journal your food in the morning when you plan your meals.  At night you can back and change anything that you did differently
  • Keep a pen or pencil attached to your journal
  • Write down what you ate – whether it was on your diet or not
  • Look back at your journal to find what weeks you were most successful, then simply repeat them
  • Use your journal to make a grocery list

A journal will make a huge impact on how well you stick to your diet.  It offers built-in motivation for your journey.  You’ll have it to write in when you’re not so happy about dieting and also when you have successes.

7. Set Realistic Goals

tracking fitness goalsAnother stumbling block that many people face when dieting is setting unrealistic goals.  This creates a cycle that makes it difficult to stay on your diet.  What often happens is that people become discouraged when they don’t reach their goals.

This discouragement eventually leads to giving up on the diet.  But instead of giving up, most people would benefit more from actually being more realistic about their expectations.

From the beginning you need to make sure you set goals you can actually achieve.  This helps to build success and motivate you to continue further.  Slow and steady wins the race.

Here are a few things to consider when setting goals:

  • Weight goals should be reasonable – 1-2 pounds per week
  • Goals having to do with behavior are also successful.  For example, set a goal to drink 8 glasses of water each day for a week.
  • You shouldn’t try to change more than one or two behaviors at a time.
  • Don’t compete with others when setting goals.

As you go about setting goals, you’ll find that the more small successes you have, the more likely you’ll be to keep going.  Many people who try to lose five pounds a week find that they can’t do it and it only makes it harder to keep going.

Your goals need to be very specific and very measurable.  To have the goal to “lose weight” isn’t enough.  You must set smaller goals such as losing 1 pound per week for 52 weeks.  This is very specific and each week you can check in to see if you met your goal.

When you make goals that are too large or too vague, you set yourself up for failure.  You’ll have a problem before you even begin your work.  Don’t set yourself up for failure by being to broad with your goal setting.

8. Chart Your Progress

Keeping a journal and making goals are great first steps for getting your diet in gear.  But you also want to make sure you chart your progress as you diet so that you can see both your successes and your failures.

Charts and graphs offer visual representations of your progress.  You can make a line graph of your weight loss in pounds and in inches.  You can also make graphs that show your goals and your achievements.

When you see your success visually, it can be a huge motivator to keep going.  And when you see the line on your graph start to dip, you can head off further declines by kicking things back into gear.

Many people who have achieved dieting success have found charts and graphs to be critical to that achievement.  You’ll likely find that you have the same results when you begin to make graphic representations.
You can make charts by hand.  And if you’re comfortable with spreadsheets, you can plug the numbers in and let the computer do all the designing.  Then you’ll have it stored and you can manipulate the data to make the kind of graph you want.

9. Reevaluate Your Overall Diet

You’ve been plugging along and your diet started out okay, but now you’re finding that it doesn’t fit your lifestyle or your budget well.  Don’t let this be a reason to give up or quit.  This is just a time to reevaluate.

Sometimes you need to make changes in order to continue with your success.  You may find that one diet may not work very well, but you can try a new program to keep going with your progress.

Every month or so, you’ll want to ask a few questions about your diet

  • Am I having success?
  • Can I afford this program?
  • Do I have enough time to follow this diet?
  • Do I enjoy the food I am eating?
  • Do I have more energy than I had before?
  • Am I happy on this diet?
  • Can this diet work for me long-term?
  • Is there another diet that would work better for me?

If you’re finding that you don’t have energy, you’re always hungry, and/or you hate what you’re eating, it may be time for a change.  Even if you’re losing weight, you don’t want to be miserable all the time.

Likewise, you may be feeling okay with the diet, but not losing any weight.  If this is happening, you may need to find something that’s more appropriate for you.  However, if you’re losing 1-2 pounds per week you’re on target.

Sometimes people get discouraged because they want to lose 5 pounds every time they step on the scale.  But you need to go back and remember to set realistic goals.  A diet that causes more rapid weight loss may not be healthy.

If you find it’s time for a change, don’t hesitate to do what will make you more successful.  Look for another program that works for you.  Maybe one that fits your budget, schedule, or food preferences better.

There are hundreds of diets on the market and there’s no reason to stick with something that isn’t working for you.  It may take five or six tries to discover what really works for you.  The key here is to not give up.

10. Add Exercise to your Lifestyle

arm exerciseExercise.  The dreaded activity that every doctor and health professional asks you to consider.  If you’re looking for a way to boost the effects of your diet, you can’t find anything better than exercise.

Yes, this does take work and it isn’t always easy.  But if you add even a little exercise to your diet program you’ll find that you exponentially increase your success.

Here are a few tips for adding exercise into your day.

  • Start slow – don’t begin exercising and expect to win a marathon
  • Add 10 minutes of exercise into your day at first, then work up from there
  • Find a workout buddy who will go with you to exercise
  • Choose exercises you like
  • Change your routine – do different types of exercise regularly
  • Incorporate strength training, aerobic activity, and stretching into your routine
  • Add exercise into every day activities such as taking the stairs and parking further away from stores entrances

Many people start incorporating exercise and try to go way too fast at first.  They may add an hour of activity a day – but after a few days that turns out to be too much.  Instead, you’ll want to start out slow.

Just adding 10 minutes a day will allow you to have improvement.  And if you do 10 minutes for a week or two, you can add five more at a time.  You want to be in this for the long run.

Also, think about the kinds of exercises you like to do.  For some people there’s no such thing as good exercise.  But you may find that there are activities that will get your body moving without making you miserable.

Here are a few examples of Fun exercise!

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