Sticking to a diet plan can be a challenge for even the most self-disciplined people. Oftentimes it's assumed that you just have to “force” yourself to change your behaviors through sheer willpower. But willpower alone is rarely successful when it comes to making lasting changes.
So what can you do instead? Using these 5 simple tips, you'll be able to finally start working with your psychology rather than against it.
1. Focus on Habits
The problem when someone says they're “going on a diet” is that it implies at some point they're “coming off a diet.” But what good does it do to eat better, lose excess weight, get healthy, and then turn around and toss all of that away by going back to poor eating habits?
A better approach is to realize that you're already “on” a diet. This means seeing healthy eating as a lifestyle rather than a means to an end. Remember, if you want continuous results, you need continuous behaviors that produce those results. And those behaviors are your habits.
But isn't changing habits hard? Doesn't it require a lot of willpower?
While it certainly can be a challenge, using the following tips will allow just about anyone to make permanent shifts in their eating habits.
2. Know Your Motivations
Knowing how to make a change is important, but more importantly is understanding why you want to change in the first place. Imagine the difference in motivation between a person who says “I want to eat a better diet to lose some weight and look a little better” vs. “I need to eat a better diet if I want to see my kids grow up.” Do you think there's going to be a difference there in terms of motivation?
You don't have to reach a breaking point in your health or life in order to get more motivated though. All you need to do is get clearer on your reasons why you want to change your diet.
Make a list of all the benefits you'll get from eating better, and make another list of all the downfalls and problems that will arise from eating poorly. Don't hold anything back, and consider how other areas of your life like work, family, and passions are affected by your dietary choices. Then review this list each week to keep your focus on your “whys.”
3. Use The Words “I Choose” and “Because”
There's a phenomena in psychology called reactance. It basically says that we don't like anyone telling us we can't do something, and we'll naturally want to rebel against restrictions in freedom.
Healthy diets by their very nature can seem like an assault on our free will to enjoy all the foods and treats we want to eat. That is, unless you circumvent this with a little “mental jujutsu.”
Whenever you're faced with a decision about what to eat, instead of telling yourself “I can't have that dessert,” use the words “I choose to not have that dessert because…” and then follow up with whatever reasons you have for wanting to eat better and avoid junk food. This helps you keep that feeling that you're in control of your life, and it also keeps you focused on your motivations every time you eat.
4. Choose Your Environment
There's a saying by Yogananda that “environment is stronger than willpower.”
Rather than constantly fighting against all the dietary temptations that surround you, why not simply make the effort to change your environment? This can mean throwing out all the junk food in your home and replacing it with healthier foods.
This can also mean introducing positive influences like hanging out with people whom share similar goals such as living a healthy lifestyle. Even better is to find people whom are more successful and physically fit. Their positive behaviors will start to rub off on you, and you'll start to eat better just by hanging out with other people whom eat better.
5. Get An Accountability Partner
Why do people work harder when they have a boss to answer to? The answer – accountability.
Utilize this aspect of human psychology to your advantage and get yourself an accountability partner. This is someone whom you will share your goals, plans, successes, and failures with. Check in each week with them. When talking about your failures, rather than beat yourself up, work out a game plan for how you can prevent mistakes from happening again. But still feel free to set up a system of rewards and punishments with them if you feel it would help.
(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net). Derek Doepker is the author of the book “How To Stick To A Diet” and blogger at the health and fitness blog Excuse Proof Fitness. He offers tips and strategies for those wishing to get in shape on a busy schedule through quick recipes, motivation tips, and easy healthy living strategies.