Prior planning prevents poor performance. That idiom that holds true whether you are preparing for battle, getting ready to go on an expedition, training for a sports event, or thinking about going for a diet.
Yet, many people undermine their diets by failing to prepare properly before they start. It’s no wonder that 90% of dieters either a) do not manage to stick with their chosen diet long enough to reach their weight loss goal or b) regain any weight loss soon after, known as rebound.
If you want to multiply your chances of dietary success, make sure you consider this list of dos and don’ts before you start…
Pick a convenient time for your diet – if you know you have unavoidable social occasions coming up that will make sticking to your diet hard, delay starting your diet until that event has passed. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries etc. are all commonly associated with eating and drinking. Don’t be that person who turns down invitations to events because of a diet. Instead, put your diet off until you know your schedule is clear.
Allow for treat meals along the way – all diets are restrictive; that’s how they work. However, a diet that is so strict that it never lets up is a ticking timebomb! Make sure you allow yourself the occasional treat meal to give you something to look forward to and help you maintain diet sanity. One or two sensibly planned treat meals per week will not derail your progress but could make the difference between sticking to your plan and giving up entirely.
Pick a diet you can live with – the best diet in the world will not work if you can’t stick to it. Hate meat? Paleo is not for you. Don’t want to count calories? Forget flexible dieting. Not keen on fish and vegetables? The Mediterranean diet is not your best choice. Shop around and choose a diet you can live with otherwise the chances of sticking to it are very small indeed.
Clear your kitchen cupboards of food you know you shouldn’t eat – willpower is a fickle mistress and will let you down when you need it the most. That stale bag of cookies you have tucked away at the back of your kitchen cupboard is going to be tough to resist if you start craving a sugar fix! Take some pressure off your willpower by cleansing your house of any and all foods that will sabotage your diet.
Monitor your progress – make sure you monitor your progress during your diet so you can use your success as a motivator. Weigh yourself, measure your body fat, track your hip and waist measurements, use before/after photos; any and all of these methods can help reveal the progress you are making.
Have a dry run through – during the week before diet day, try some of the meals you’ll be eating during your diet, practice using any nutrition-tracking software (e.g. My Fitness Pal) you’re going to rely on, and generally make sure you have everything you need for the start of your diet. Avoiding the unexpected will help make the first few days of your diet easier.
Have a binge week before your diet – “It’s okay if I ate this family of four pizza; I’m going on a diet tomorrow!”. This all-too common attitude is not a great way to start a diet. Firstly, all those extra calories simply mean you’ll have to diet longer and harder. Also, it makes the transition from unhealthy eating to healthy eating more dramatic and much harder. Binge eating is probably why you need a diet in the first place so don’t start your diet with more of the same.
Be afraid to make adjustments – even the best laid plans sometimes go awry so don’t be afraid to adjust your diet if it’s not working for you. You might need to dial down your calories, increase your protein intake or change some of the meals. If you aren’t making the progress you want, don’t quit but, instead, make some adjustments. Weight loss is not a linear process – as you lose weight you need less food. For this reason, you may need to adjust your diet after a few weeks to avoid a weight loss plateau.
Be in a rush – it’s probably taken you years or even decades to gain weight so it’s unreasonable to expect to lose it all in just a few short weeks. Crash diets that promise rapid weight loss are seldom sustainable – no you can’t lose 20 kilos in 8 weeks and expect to enjoy the process! When it comes to weight loss, slow and steady wins the race. Slow and steady weight loss that allows you to reach and maintain your target weight is always better than fast weight loss that results in quitting your diet and regaining any weight lost.
Dieting for weight loss is hard enough without making unnecessary mistakes. Make the process as easy as possible by planning and preparing in advance and stacking the odds of success in your favour.