Part Two of Staying Committed to a Diet: Realistic Behavior Change

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photo via Instagram

In my last post, I wrote about the basics of healthy eating. Now that you know it’s not necessarily a good thing to try every single fad diet out there, there are a few key things to remember in order to stay committed to a healthier way of eating and exercise.  Here are some guidelines that I’ve learned for myself and that I’ve observed through other people’s lifestyle changes

  • Although many people will claim that commitment to eating well and exercise is all about “willpower”, it’s more about being dedicated to something you can live with for the rest of your life. If you struggle to stay on a diet, it’s probably not because you’re weak-willed, but more likely you tried to implement too many changes, or tried to implement changes that are not conducive to your lifestyle (for instance, promising yourself to attend every new workout class at your gym, but you work long hours and the classes are scheduled during your workday).  Before embarking on any new lifestyle changes, assess what your current lifestyle is and what you’re willing to give up (certain foods, going out drinking more than a few nights a week, free time in order to workout) and then go from there.
  • Sometimes the members of your social circle will get in the way of your health goals. If your friends are a hard-partying bunch who either consume most of their calories after the midnight hour, or choose to forgo food calories in favor of a more alcohol-based diet, then you really have some big choices to make. As I’ve written before, a healthy diet is one that includes lots of fruits and veggies, adequate protein, quality rest, and ample activity. You only get one life, if you spend most of it recuperating from nights out, you might be doing yourself a disservice in the long run. Who you spend your time with and what activities you do influence your health greatly. If you’re looking to improve your life, try to get active in social activities based on health and fitness. Try a yoga class or attend a workshop at a health food store. You might end up meeting someone who can change your life, and if not, you did something new and enlightening.
  • Having realistic goals is also important when staying committed to a lifestyle change. Planning to lose more than 1-2 pounds a week may not be possible, and losing any more than that will most probably result in loss of muscle tissue. Lowered muscle mass leads to a decrease in overall caloric burn, so keep your goals realistic and healthy. Even if you lost a quarter or a half a pound each week, you’re still losing and overtime you’ll reap more benefits had you lost that weight in a shorter duration.
  • Stay away from fad diets! It is so tempting when you see a celebrity (or even a random person on social media) touting their weight loss due to a diet of green smoothies and air, but a) you don’t actually know if that’s how they truly achieved their physique and b) a drastic, restrictive change in diet will typically lead to rebound binge-eating and feelings of failure if you can’t stick to it (especially if you tend to be a perfectionist, or someone who is prone to black and white thinking).  Remind yourself frequently that any change in diet needs to be realistic, long-lasting, and one that is not going to drive you crazy!
  • If you’re going on a diet not because you want to improve your health, but because you want to focus on a goal and you think dieting will give you a sense of empowerment…then you need to talk to someone who can first determine if you even need to change your diet, and you need to ask yourself what is going on in your life that you feel weight loss is going to fix. This one is really geared towards individuals who are at a normal weight but feel pressure to lose weight based on unrealistic societal influences. I myself have been prone to this type of thinking and I believe it is so important to not use dieting or exercise to define ourselves or to feign self-improvement when it is really based on some unhealthy goal. Talking to a professional (a social worker, psychologist, or school counselor) may be the step to take in this instance.
  • Reward yourself! It’s hard to stay committed to something if you don’t recognize your achievements. Rewards can be as simple as a manicure at the end of the week that you lost a pound, or a trip to a tropical location when you’ve reached a long-term goal. Even just recognizing a new exercise or fitness achievement (such as running your first mile without stopping) can produce a great feeling of accomplishment that you should notice and celebrate.
  • Check your mood. One of the biggest barriers to success is having a pessimistic, woe-is-me mood. If you tend to magnify your shortcomings and berate yourself when you slip-up, then you need to practice a little more kindness and patience towards yourself. Some fitness and exercise gurus will claim the opposite, and that a tough-love approach is best, but in my opinion, if you can’t show yourself some compassion, it’s going to be awfully hard to actually believe you’re capable of achieving your goals. Sure, you want to have the discipline to get things done and not give into unhealthy temptations, but discipline comes from self-efficacy and self-esteem, which are impossible to maintain if you’re always feeling down in the dumps and you tend to be intensely hard on yourself.

There are many other tips and methods to staying committed to a diet, but these are ones that particularly stand out to me, and I also felt that some of the above pointers are rarely discussed when it comes to dieting and lifestyle change. For more tips on how to improve your diet, keep reading and subscribe to my blog via email! (see the side-bar tab) and feel free to follow my inspirational Instagram account @ vitaminvalentine, where you’ll find pictures of my food creations and other tidbits from my life.

-Jess

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