Starting a diet can be like having a New Year’s resolution. We’re excited in the beginning. We’re filled with the best intentions. And we feel ready to face any challenges that come our way.
But, like most New Year’s resolutions, we’re often unable to stick with our diet long enough to make it a lifelong habit. Why? Because of three simple mistakes we make at the start: we’re unrealistic, we start too big, and we don’t surround ourselves with support.
If we correct those three errors, we can be well on our way to a successful diet and long-term health. Here’s how . . .
1. BE REALISTIC
Most people begin a diet with completely unrealistic expectations.
For example, let’s say you love to snack. You rarely eat large meals, but during the day you’re constantly snacking on candy, chips, crackers, chocolate . . . You name it, and you love to snack on it!
The realistic person recognizes that about themselves, doesn’t ignore it, and replaces their stash of snacks with healthy items they like. The unrealistic person tries to break two habits at the same time: they attempt to eliminate unhealthy snacks and the habit of snacking! That is a recipe for failure.
Being realistic also extends to the types of food you eat. If you love sandwiches or really enjoy eating dessert after dinner, don’t try to eliminate sandwiches or dessert cold turkey. Instead, start by inserting healthy substitutes into your routine until you are ready to take on changing your eating patterns, too.
It’s important to note though that by realistic I do not mean pessimistic. If you really need to lose twenty-five pounds, don’t shoot for five just because you have a low opinion of yourself. Instead, take an honest assessment of your current eating habits, and apply a diet that can actually work for you.
2. START SLOW
The people who succeed in their diet and reach their goals are the people who make steady progress over time, as opposed to those who try to take massive action quickly. Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say you get a physical at the doctor’s office, and your doctor shares with you that your weight is becoming an issue for your health. He recommends you lose between twenty-five and thirty pounds. Most people’s immediate reaction is to try to lose all of that weight immediately.
Trying to do too much too quickly, it will more than likely result in setbacks and discouragement.
They tell themselves, “All I need to do is eat really healthy and exercise every day for the next ninety days, and I’ll be fine.”
This type of thinking almost always leads to failure. Why? Two reasons.
First, your body is not ready for massive action. It’s not ready to go from working out once or twice a month to five times a week. It’s not ready to go from drinking eight Cokes a day to none. But it is ready to start working out once a week. And it is ready to drink one less Coke a day every week over the next eight weeks. Trying to do too much too quickly, it will more than likely result in setbacks and discouragement.
Secondly, if you’re being honest with yourself, ninety days from now you don’t just want to be at a healthy weight living a healthy lifestyle. You want to be healthy from this day forward. That means looking at the changes you make, not as temporary, but as the building block toward a newer, healthier you. Taking an approach of incremental progress allows you to make the long-term change you truly want.
3. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUPPORT
One of the hardest things about dieting is dealing with how the people around you react to it. Your friends and loved ones are used to a specific version of you, and they may not like the change you are trying to make.
Surround yourself with people who flood your life with encouragement.
While you and your friend may love spending Friday nights on the couch eating a tub of ice cream while watching a marathon of Gilmore Girls, going on a diet may mean you can only say yes to the hanging out and the marathon—not to the tub of ice cream. Believe it or not, how your friend reacts to this new reality will have a significant impact on your success.
Friends will either make your lifestyle change easier or harder. They will either encourage you or become an obstacle. But know this: if your “friend” does in fact make your diet more difficult, they may no longer deserve the title friend. Anyone or anything that does not help you become the-best-version-of-yourself is too small for you. Surround yourself, especially early on in the diet, with people who flood your life with encouragement.
Being realistic, starting slow, and surrounding yourself with support are three great ways to make sure your diet doesn’t end up like last year’s New Year’s resolution, but instead is the start of a healthier you.
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