I’m not going to argue about the different diets out there, or what really matter: carbs, fats or protein. Instead, I am going to give you five simple tips that will help you stay on your weight loss target, no matter what diet or physical fitness plan you are following. These are very simple tips that don’t require a lot of extra time to implement, and they have been extremely successful in my own diet progress.
1. Keep a list of what you CAN eat
Everyone knows that the worst part about almost any diet is the restrictions that are suddenly placed on what you can and can not eat. Instead of focusing on the negatives and getting depressed over that hamburger you can’t eat, why not create a list of all the wonderful things that you can enjoy on your new diet. Even better, make multiple copies of this list and place it in prominent spots that you see when you are hungry; refrigerator doors, on walls on the way to the kitchen, on exercise equipment, etc. This way, when a hunger pain hits you out the blue, instead of not knowing what to eat and instinctively reaching for the unhealthy, you will have a quick reference guide staring you in the face, reminding you of all the great food you can still enjoy!
2. Tally your days
One of the common problems that hurts diet-goers is that they get too focused on very specific results and get disappointed when they don’t see them immediately; a certain amount of pounds they want to shed; a new percentage of body fat to reach, thicker muscles, etc. The problem with focusing on these specifics is that they take different times to reach for different people, so it may become very discouraging when you see others reach your goals much faster than you can yourself. The super simple solution is instead of focusing on your results, focus on your efforts. Put up a whiteboard, or just a plain piece of paper, and every day that you successfully stick to your diet and/or physical fitness plan, make a tally. Then, when you are feeling unmotivated, just take a look at your marks and see the visualization of your efforts. For me, this has really helped me, as I like to think “OK, if I stick to my plan today, this will be the longest I have ever stuck with a diet” and then repeat that mantra to myself day after day.
3. Focus on steps, rather than goals
Some so-called “experts” will tell you to focus on your goals. They will encourage people to make lists of goals, and even to print out pictures of their goals and post them around their living space. This might be fine and dandy if you are saving up for something and you are printing a picture of the item you want to remind yourself to save for, but for a dieter, seeing a picture of a thin fit person, the person they want to be, tends to just make them depressed and feel as if their goal is unattainable. Especially when someone is just starting out on a diet, the last thing they want to think about is how far away their goals are. The solution? Instead of focusing on what may take a year or more to achieve, focus on the more immediate. Set small stepping stones to your goal, such as “reduce caloric intake by 100 calories per day this week,” or “lose two pounds,” and rewards along the way, such as enjoying a new episode of your favorite TV show. By focusing on something that is actually within reach, you will be able to maintain your internal motivation and not become discouraged.
4. Report now, not later
If you are using a weight tracker app, a record book, or any diet that requires tracking of food intake and physical activity (basically all of them), instead of waiting till the end of the day to enter your log, do it before or immediately after eating the food or working out. Like using a credit card, when something does not have an immediate visual impact, our brains tend to minimize the way we think about it. For example, when using a credit card, it is much easier to forget tiny purchases, or negate them as being “too small to matter”. However, these can quickly add up, and later you might be sitting there wondering how you can’t afford to pay the latest bill. The same basic concept applies to dieting and exercise; the longer we wait to record something, the more likely we are to round down the amount we ate and round up the amount we exercised. By immediately recording the activity before or after, there is no guessing about amounts later, or rounding, and we are stuck being immediately accountable for our actions, an accountability you want when you are trying to stick to a diet plan.
5. Prepare ahead of time
I’m driving home, after a long and exhausting day at work, and I know there is no food ready to eat at home. Anything healthy will take me time to prepare, and after my frustrating day, I just want to snarf something down and get into bed. I would pick something healthy up, from a local restaurant, but I had to work late, and the only places open are 24/7 fast food drive-thrus. So, I momentarily give up on my diet, and pick up a 2,500+ calorie dinner consisting of burgers, fries, and a shake, a huge relapse for myself, one that might make me feel like giving up altogether. Fortunately, this whole incident is avoidable by making just a tiny change; preparing your food and snacks ahead of time. If I had taken the 10-20 minutes extra that morning and prepared myself a nice healthy dinner, in that car ride home I would have remembered that I had a delicious meal waiting for me, and stopping for fast food would have seemed a ridiculous notion. If you are going to have a lunch break at work, bring a lunchbox filled with carefully chosen foods. If you are going to have a movie night, prepare a healthy platter of snacks ahead of time, instead of defaulting to microwave popcorn and high-caloric candies.
What is so nice about these five tips is that each one takes just minutes to implement, but can make the difference between giving up on a diet plan, or sticking through to see your results. Don’t look at this list and add it to a “read later” list, or worse yet, just ignore it with a simple dismissal of “too much work”. It might be a little extra leg work, but isn’t it worth it to become a better, healthier you? The decision is yours to make, but I know which one your body will be thanking you for making.