You will soon ring in the New Year after surviving another holiday season filled with parties, from soup to nuts festive meals, and plenty of decadent cookies. Excellent! But, let me guess: you will have packed on a few more pounds and you’ll be on the lookout for the latest, greatest “eat this, don’t eat that,” restrictive diet to lose weight. Like so many other consumers, you'll want to take off those pesky pounds (aka “holiday weight gain”) and other pounds you’ve accumulated over the years.
Been there, done this in years’ past? Have you found that by Valentine’s Day, or even by the end of January, your New Year’s gung-ho diet plan to lose weight was once again short-lived?
Most of us have repeated this cycle more times than we’d like to admit. That’s because it can be hard to stick to a diet, eat healthfully and lose weight, particularly in our food-focused, convenience driven world.
No worries, no guilt. Don’t beat yourself up!
One definition of insanity is “doing something over and over again and expecting different results.” So, are you open to considering a new action plan in 2018? This plan throws the concept of being “on a restrictive diet to lose weight” out the window. Instead it offers you eight repeating steps to put into action to slowly, but surely, and over time, change to healthier food choices and eating habits to help achieve a healthy weight.
8 Steps for How to Stick to a Diet and Stay Motivated to Lose Weight
Step 1. Be ready, willing and able to make specific changes. The changes you want to make must be important to you, your health and your life, not your spouse’s, friends’ or employer’s.
Step 2. Do an honest appraisal of your current eating habits, food choices and particularly, the amount of foods and calorie-containing beverages you consume. Keep records of the foods and amounts you eat for at least a few days. Include weekdays and weekend days. For most people they vary. Remember, be honest with yourself as you strive to stick to a diet.
Step 3. Reflect on your observations. Gather insights. Ask yourself: What did I discover about my eating habits and food choices? What did I learn about the timing of my meals and snacks? What did I learn about what beverages I drink?
Step 4. Select a few food choices or habits to change first. With your discoveries in mind contemplate which will be the easiest habits or food and beverage to change. Break these down into bite-size changes. Visit this page for a few simple suggestions to cut 100 calories or add 2,000 extra steps (walking) a day: Splenda.com/health-wellness/simple-changes
Use these changes to create a few S-M-A-R-T goals (see step #5). Choose changes YOU want to make. Make sure they’ll benefit you in meaningful ways. Experts in behavior change theorize that you must believe that the changes you choose to make are important to you. This means you have more reasons to change the behavior than to continue doing it. Also, you must be confident in your ability to make the changes.
Step 5. Make your goals S-M-A-R-T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-frame specific). If your goals are too general or overly ambitious, you won't achieve them.
Step 6. Track your progress. Research from long term weight-management programs demonstrate the benefits of using tracking tools to record food intake and calories. Though tracking is a burden that few people relish, it’s been found to raise your awareness and increase your accountability.
Step 7. Evaluate your progress, revamp or regroup if necessary. Stringing together a series of behavior changes to help you eat and drink smarter and permanently achieve a healthier weight can take months, perhaps years. Persistence pays off! Gain insight from your positive as well as negative experiences. It’s common for people to start this venture with excitement. Then, just as you’ve experienced when you try to follow a rigid diet to lose weight, unexpected life events occur. These may be positive or negative – a family wedding, birth of a grandchild, or family illness or death.
Learn to navigate these life detours. Put a plan in place to manage those life situations you know you’ll encounter. If your plan is not initially successful, put another plan in place. If you fall off the wagon, don’t give up and don’t beat yourself up. Get back on track as soon as possible and move forward!
Step 8. Repeat this behavior change cycle repeatedly. Once you master a few healthy changes, choose a few more easy changes to make. Implement one tiny habit change after another. Eventually you will have strung together a series of successful changes. Keep the expression, “Nothing succeeds like success," in mind.
Are you willing to give this approach a try this year? I sincerely hope so.
Also, here is some great advice from my colleague and dietitian Robyn Flipse on this topic: "Making New Year's Resolutions for Realistic Weight Loss Goals."
Happy – and healthy – New Year!
I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.
Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, is a nationally recognized dietitian and diabetes educator who applies more than 35 years of expertise as an author, freelance writer, media spokesperson, consultant and diabetes educator. Hope notes: “Healthy eating today is one tough job! The good news is that simple tweaks in your food choices and how you prepare foods can often set you on a path to healthier eating. Each positive step is a step in the right direction along the path to a long and healthy life.”
- Look AHEAD Research Group. Eight-year weight losses with an ILI: The Look AHEAD Study. Obesity 2014;22(1):5-13.
- Graham Thomas J et al: Weight-loss maintenance for 10 yrs in NWCR. Am J Prev Med. 2014;46(1):17-23.