When most people think New Year’s resolutions, it’s usually safe to assume they gravitate toward health and weight loss. A new year means another opportunity to be the healthiest version of yourself possible, so lots of folks will be starting new diets in 2020.
And it takes a lot of effort—and planning—to start a diet. But if that’s where you are, congratulations for your motivation! Sometimes the hardest part of a diet is just getting started. And once you’ve started, there’s the sticking to it part. Sticking to it takes another skill set altogether. Life happens and situations arise that make sustaining a diet feel way harder than it should be. So when you get to that point, we’ve compiled some expert tips on how to maintain your motivation and gusto to reach your goals.
Choose a diet that fits your eating style.
If you love carbs, choosing a low carb diet will be much harder to stick to than, say, intermittent fasting. If you travel for work, following a specific meal plan may be more challenging than a plan like WW. When you choose a diet that is matched with your personal preferences and lifestyle, you are much more likely to stick with it long term.
– Kara Mohr, PhD, cofounder and wellbeing expert at MohrResults.com
Connect to a purpose beyond appearance.
One of the most powerful strategies I’ve seen and/or experienced to stick to a change in your eating style is to connect it to a meaningful purpose beyond appearance. A lot of people rely on willpower to help them overcome challenges you’re trying to change in their eating. But at some point willpower will fail you. I see success when people know why this change deeply matters to their life. Of course, looking a certain way or wearing a certain size clothing can be nice, but it’s not a powerful enough “why” to propel you through the challenges that you will face in trying to make a long term change. Instead, develop a purpose that resonates deeply with you. Then, play this purpose over and over in your mind to remind you of why you’re doing something different.
– Jenna Braddock, MSH, RDN, CSSD, LD/N, ACSM-CPT, registered dietitian and healthy lifestyle blogger at JennaBraddock.com
Keep it simple.
I have the best success when I don’t necessarily focus on following a specific diet, but try to adhere to a few healthy changes. A few years ago, I focused on just getting in at least 6 or more servings of produce in a day—and at least 4 had to be veggies. I was so surprised to find how much this improved not only my produce intake, but also my overall eating. I quickly dropped that holiday weight…and also felt great physically and mentally because I wasn’t hung up on “staying on my diet.”
– Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, author of Meals That Heal
It’s easier to be successful when you plan ahead, which may mean packing a lunch for work or thinking through what you will order at a restaurant before you arrive. Personally, I’m so much more successful when I have a plan in place—even if I don’t end up following it 100%. — Williams
Look at the week ahead and determine what your possible roadblocks might be. If it’s a busy week at work, how will you handle meals or late-night hours? If you have social events, what’s your plan so that you can stick to your new habits? Each week, I think through the week so there’s less of a chance of being surprised. — Mohr
Don’t sow seeds of habit in times of stress.
When people start to make changes to their diet, sometimes they get caught off guard and find change difficult when a stressful situation arises. It’s easy to think “this is a unique situation and I’ll just get through for now and get back to healthy eating later.” The reality is that most people are dealing with stressful situations on a weekly basis and so you can’t get accustomed to using excuses to abandon healthy eating. It’s ok to recognize when you may need to do something unique eating-wise to survive a brief season, but if you allow survival mechanisms to linger, they become habits all too quickly. So don’t be surprised when something stressful makes healthy eating challenging. Instead, go easy on yourself if you need a brief change in your eating habits, but the key is to return to a healthy lifestyle ASAP. — Braddock
Commit to the long haul.
It’s unlikely you will decide to follow a diet and stick with it perfectly. Life will happen. Aunt Edna will make your favorite carrot cake, or your friends from work will want to go out for drinks. If you realize that these things are just moments and events and not terminating factors to the whole goal, you’ll be able to stay focused until your goal is reached. — Mohr