I’ve witnessed so many diets fail in the last 20 years of practice. Most people start off strong, many persist and endure, and few people maintain. Why is that? Because diet systems are not sustainable and eventually fail. What will never fail is the fact that all living things have to eat as long as they live!
The main motivation for going on a systematic diet is intervention. Whatever the end goal--weight loss, blood sugar control, inflammation suppression, blood pressure management or cholesterol control--when the goal is reached, it is human nature to coast, and in the context of eating there are so many reasons to fail and veer off the path of the straight and narrow. Just think of all the holidays we celebrate, birthdays, social events, and impulsivity we encounter on a regular basis. Diets fail!
I’m not suggesting quitting or throwing in the towel before you even start. Just recognizing that diets and eating cycles tend to fail is half the battle, and you can maximize the effect of eating and dietary interventions by fixing the following non-dieting things BEFORE you begin starting your diet.
1. Rehabilitate your sleep patterns. If you lack sleep or have curtailed sleeping patterns, identify it’s main cause. Too much sugar late in the day, lack of exercise, lack of certain nutrients, and binge watching movies are fixable problems. Remember that you can get “8 days a week” of sleep by getting an extra hour of sleep each night for a week.
2. Develop an exercise or activity pattern. If you don’t have an activity pattern, start one. I suggest trying a professional (even when you are experienced), to change things up or to develop a sensible program for your medical and situational needs.
3. Fix your weekends. Diets are less effective when you take cheat days and cheat meals. No one is perfect, and strict adherence to a “no cheat zone” is eventually impossible. Just realize that there is a consequence for cheating on your diet plan, and the more you veer, the less effective your outcome.
4. Understand the mechanism of your diet. When you match a dietary intervention with your intended goal, it is important to be able to describe what you are about to do and what purpose it fulfills For instance, abstaining from fruits, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, has some real benefits in certain diet systems. Know the why behind the action and educate yourself. This is the information age and there is no excuse for lacking information.
5. Learn to say ‘No’. Predict your situation when it comes to eating. Are you going to a holiday party, social event, or taking a flight? The more prepared you are, the less impulsive you’ll be. Have alternatives or arrive already fed.
The above will help maximize whatever dietary system you decide to adhere to. Having a transition period between your diet and the one you will sustain afterwards is also important. The better the transition period, the longer you sustain the diet effect. We are not perfect and therefore, neither is our lifestyle. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try! Just make it count, make it matter, and make it mindful.