10/30/2013 AT 11:55 AM ET
For many people, it just takes one or two missteps or deviations from your diet to get frustrated and give up on it altogether. So what can you do to make it work this time around?
Here’s four things to remember.
1. Don’t Base Your Diet on One Food or Food Group
From the grapefruit diet to the juice cleanse, and the cookie plan to the cabbage soup solution, basing a meal plan around one food, or a single form of food prep will inevitably set you up for failure.
There is no magic food, drink, or recipe. More often than not, these diet plans cause you to miss out on essential nutrients and important food groups.
Opt instead for a balanced diet rich in vegetables, proteins and whole grains.
2. Crash Dieting Doesn’t Work
The cycle of “going on a diet” (by drastically reducing the amount of calories you consume) and then returning to your old eating habits doesn’t work. In fact, this pattern can hurt you more than it can help you.
In the short term, drastically decreasing your caloric and nutrient intake can cause mental and physical fatigue, irritability and gastric upset. On a more long-term scale, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, losing and regaining weight over and over again has been linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, heart disease and cancer. It can even impact your general immune system. What’s more, studies show that the more one yo-yos, the more the body’s physiology can change, making it increasingly difficult to lose weight and keep it off.
For you to be successful in losing weight and keeping it off, you need to make changes to your normal, everyday decisions and behaviors. Eating well isn’t something we should be sentenced to doing for two weeks at a time – we should be creating realistic, sustainable changes that we don’t turn on and off. If the changes we make are unpleasant or too difficult to implement, they’re surely not going to last long, and before you know it you’re back in the yo-yo cycle.
3. Be Patient with Yourself
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to lose all your excess weight in a day, either. The most effective weight loss is built on smaller lifestyle changes that allow you to stick with it. All-or-nothing thinking will have you waving the white flag in no time. Give yourself credit for the changes that you do make, and allow yourself to be empowered by your own success. While “lose 40 lbs. gradually over several months!” doesn’t make DVDs and books fly off the shelves in the same way as “lose 10 lbs. in a week!” can, there is no quick fix for lasting diet success.
4. A Little Planning Can Make a Huge Difference
Three simple plan-ahead activities can help you make changes and stick to them.
1. Make a shopping list – and stick to it!
You’ve probably heard this one before, but making a shopping list helps you resist making impulse purchases (which are especially hard to resist when those items are on sale!). When you plan out your meals and make a shopping list, you don’t end up staring at an empty pantry and getting takeout or fast food.
2. Pack your lunch
Yes, packing a lunch saves you money and prevents you from being tempted by less healthy menu items at restaurants, but for many it can have an added bonus: When you’re not figuring out what to do and where to go for lunch, you have more time on your lunch break to use as you wish. You could use that time to go for a walk or do some stretching outside or at your desk.
3. Stash some healthy snacks in your car or purse for hunger emergencies
Avoid the temptation to stop at a fast-food joint by being prepared with some healthy snacks. I like Good Bean bars and snacks, Shaklee Snack Bars and air-popped popcorn. They don’t melt or spoil easily, so they’re the perfect things to keep on hand.
What’s the secret to your eating plan? Tweet me @harleypasternak