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Sticking to a diet can be extremely hard. Many of us yo-yo diet for years, constantly losing and gaining the same 10-20 pounds. These ten tips for sticking to a diet are ones that I, along with many others, have used to help stick to a diet and have long term success. I do not use all these tips every day but I have used every single one many times, and still use the majority of them. If you can slowly start to incorporate a few of these tips at a time, they can help you initiate a habit change that will create a healthier lifestyle. Change does not happen overnight, so it is important to have methods you can use to stick to your lifestyle change.
- Eat more low calorie dense foods
This is not my first time saying this on the blog and it will definitely not be the last. Nobody likes feeling hungry on a diet. When you spend the time between meals thinking about your next meal, it is miserable and quickly leads to breaking the diet.
Diets do not have to be like this. By eating low calorie dense foods you can leave every meal feeling full and keep the calories minimal. Examples of low calorie dense foods include
- Veggies (e.g. Broccoli, spinach, peppers, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, spinach, etc.)
- Fruits (e.g. strawberries, melons, grapes, berries, apples, oranges, etc.)
- Low-fat sources of protein (e.g. chicken, fish, turkey, egg whites, and low-fat beef)
- Low Calorie wraps (e.g. P28 wraps)
- Smartpop Popcorn (by far the best and lowest calorie popcorn. Other kinds have more calories than you think)
- Low-Calorie Condiments (e.g. sugar-free syrup, G-Hughes BBQ, sugar free ketchup, hot sauce, etc)
- Article: Best Food Hacks for Weight Loss
There are plenty of ways to prepare these foods into something delicious. Do not let diet fatigue set in by eating boring foods.
- Eat more protein
Protein is one of the most satiating macronutrients. This means it will leave you feeling full for longer due to its high thermic effect. This is because your body has to spend more energy and time to digest and convert the protein into a usable form. By taking advantage of this, you can remain satisfied by your meals for longer.
- Eat 30g of protein for breakfast
Research has shown that eating 30g of protein has had a positive effect on people losing weight and keeping it off. The exact reasoning is not exactly clear on why this is, but current speculation is that it may be starting the metabolic clock, subconsciously priming the body for more activity during the day than those who skipped breakfast. This means that you will move more, even if it is just fidgeting during the day. All of this movement adds up to a significant amount of calories burned.
The protein at breakfast is also important because of the previous tip. The satiating effect makes you less likely to crave a snack before lunch. This is much better than a sugary breakfast, like cereal, or a fast digesting carb, like toast, because the two former food types digest quickly, which means you will be hungry again sooner. Plus, when you skip breakfast, you may be more likely to eat larger amounts later in the day because of the prolonged hunger earlier in the day.
Some people also have great success with intermittent fasting, which typically includes skipping breakfast. If it is something that works for you, great. Keeping doing that. Only a suggestion 🙂
- Make eating healthy convenient
I believe the biggest issue many of us have with eating healthy and sticking to a diet is that unhealthy food choices are usually much more convenient. If you get home late after work and the gym and there is nothing prepared or easy to make, it can be very tempting to quickly pick something up or snack on something unhealthy. Usually these choices are higher in calories and not as healthy as what we would have prepared for yourself and those choices can lead to weight gain.
This is why I always recommend meal prepping. If you choose one or two days a week to cook food to last either a few days or the whole week, it will be quick and convenient to reheat it and have a healthy, delicious meal. I typically spend ~2 hours every Sunday preparing my lunch and dinners for the work week. This allows me to bring a healthy lunch everyday that I can quickly reheat, and have dinner ready for when I get home so that I can quickly warm it up in the microwave. This convenience makes it much easier to stick to a diet.
Keeping convenient and healthy snacks in the house is also a great way to grab something quick that will not add on a lot of calories. Fruit is excellent for this.
- Find foods you love eating that fit into your diet
Diet fatigue is one of the leading causes of breaking a diet. Forcing yourself to eat foods that you do not enjoy is exhausting and can quickly lead to cravings. These cravings often lead to binge eating a food that does not fit our diet. This is a slippery slope to giving up on the diet entirely. Actually enjoying the foods you eat on a daily basis during your diet is essential for a sustainable long term diet that gives permanent results.
I have tested many different meals and foods over the years to find a rotation of 10-20 that I love eating and fit into my diet. This has allowed me to eat healthy all year round for many years. When I decide to cut weight for the summer, I still eat the same foods because I like them and they still fit my diet.
I have found many delicious recipes on sites like FitMenCook and BudgetBytes. Just be aware that BudgetBytes also has some unhealthy recipes so just take a look at ingredients and make swaps as necessary, such as cutting down on oil or sugar used. I promise it will still taste good.
- Drink more water
Besides being important for our body to function properly, water is also an excellent tool to keep hunger away. Our bodies do not know the difference between being full of water or food. All it knows is that our stomach is full, which leads to the release of the hunger suppression hormone, leptin, and stops the body from releasing the hunger inducing hormone, ghrelin.
By drinking a large glass of water before each meal and with each meal, your stomach will be full with less food. This will leave you feeling satisfied because of the hormone response previously mentioned. As a result, you can subconsciously eat less because you are satisfied sooner.
- Avoid liquid calories
Probably one of the most important places to cut calories in your diet is liquid calories. This can come from things like soda, fruit juice, smoothies, shakes, sports drinks, etc. Liquid calories can quickly add up and are digested quickly. This leads to a small turn around time before you are feeling hungry again. Plus, these drinks are typically loaded with sugar. Sugar, on top of being calorie dense, also causes a response in the body that blunts the full and satisfied feeling. This response can lead you to keep eating because you are not receiving the signal that you are full. You have probably noticed this response before when you always have room for a dessert once you start eating it.
- Remove the temptations
There are certain foods that we all have that we cannot stop ourselves from overeating. For me, these trigger foods are cookies and brownies. If I buy a container of cookies from the grocery store, it is almost guaranteed that I will eat the whole thing in a day or two. I have tried being disciplined over and over again but it never works. Other typical trigger foods can be cereal, ice cream, peanut butter, etc.
When it comes to trigger foods, it is easier to have the mental battle in the grocery store than in your pantry. By keeping trigger foods out of your house, you save a lot of mental strain and willpower that can be better used for other things. If there is a food that always triggers you to overeat it, remove it from your house so that it is not easily accessible.
If you want to indulge the craving, try to do so in a way where you can limit the amount you eat. Aim to buy a single serving instead of buying in bulk or only eat it at a restaurant. This alone can save your diet.
- Realize you might just be bored
There can be a lot of reasons that we have a craving or feel hungry. A few possible reasons are sleep deprivation, emotional distress, or maybe we are just bored. Before mindlessly eating or grabbing a snack, take a moment to pause and ask yourself if you are actually hungry. This can make us aware of why we actually want to eat at that moment.
Furthermore, this momentary pause can be enough to stop the autopilot response of eating. Many times, we have habits engraved into our subconscious that trigger a response. For instance, when you are bored or working on something that does not interest you, a typical response can be to crave a snack. Most of the time, we indulge in this craving without a second thought, even though we are not actually hungry. The momentary pause to think about why you have this craving can be enough to break the engrained autopilot habit response.
Other ways to break the habit loop and minimize you mindlessly eat the snack can be chewing a piece of gum, taking another lap around the house before grabbing the snack, drinking a glass of water. Basically anything that interrupts the automatic response to eat and let’s your mind process why you want to eat.
- Drink coffee or tea
Coffee and tea are great appetite suppressants. This means that they can keep hunger cravings at bay and help avoid needless snacking. Just be aware of overconsumption of caffeine. The recommended daily limit of caffeine is about 400 mgs, or about four 8oz cups of coffee (and the typical cup of coffee is larger than 8oz).
Furthermore, caffeine has a half life of four hours. This means that it takes your body 4 hours to process half of it. So, for example, if you drink 100mg of caffeine at noon, by 4pm you will still have 50mg of caffeine in your system, and by 8pm, there will still be 25mg of caffeine, and so on. While you may no longer notice the effects of caffeine, it can still be detrimental to your sleep.
Even if you are able to fall asleep, the caffeine will still have the same stimulant effect on your body. So, even if you sleep for a full 8 hours, your body will spend more time in light sleep and struggle to fall into deep sleep and REM sleep. Deep sleep and REM sleep are essential for repairing your muscles and brain.
Without a proper amount of deep sleep and REM sleep, you will have adverse effects, such as but not limited to, slower metabolism, inhibited muscle growth, increased sugar cravings, and poor brain function. Plus, you will not feel fully rested, and that typically leads to drinking more coffee, which can further compound the problem. It can be a vicious cycle. I love coffee as much as everyone else, just be aware of how it can be harming you.
Bonus Tip: Track your calories
One thing I always recommend to my clients who are looking to lose weight is tracking their calories, either in a food journal or using an app like MyFitnessPal. It is a pain in the ass but it can help keep you accountable. I think the greatest benefit of this is that you gain an understanding of how many calories are in the things you typically eat. This can be eye opening for many people and can lead to making healthier choices and swaps.