How I Finally Managed To Find A Diet And Stick To It

“If you are persistent you will get it. If you are consistent, you will keep it.” – Unknown


I Can’t Diet

While most of us have the best intentions of losing weight or gaining muscle the diet is where we often fail. Adjusting our bodies to a new way of eating un-appetizing foods in smaller quantities can be very difficult. I have also suffered from the same problem. I have tried tons of different diets, only to abandon it a few weeks later because it was too hard, un-appetizing or I didn’t see results immediately. I soon realized that the problem wasn’t the diets I was trying, it was me. For me to see the results I would have to change my methods and mindset when it came to dieting.

Our Food Culture Is A Deep-Fried, Breaded, Rice Bowl Mess

Most diets or weight loss programs try to steer us away from carbohydrates and processed foods. Unfortunately, the modern diet has been built around these two types foods and it becomes challenging trying to completely remove them. Our bodies even go into withdrawals when it no longer gets these foods because of how much we have fed it throughout our lives. To make it worse, all of the good and delicious foods contain carbs and sugar. Pizza, Fries, Noodles, Dumplings, Tacos, Burritos. And we are constantly reminded of this with tons of advertisements and promotions across every multimedia form. Let’s face it, our food culture has been built around anything that has been breaded, comes with fries or that we can get in mass quantities.

There Are Way Too Many McDonalds Restaurants On My Way Home From Work

Lifestyle and work make sticking to a diet very difficult. We do not fit our lives into our diet, we fit our diet for our lives. Work, school and parenting trump priority over diets and healthy food choices. What’s more, our economy and society have allowed for healthy options to be less convenient, more expensive and overall just a hassle.

How common is it to find an organic grocery store with fresh vegetables and meat to make a well-balanced meal? How common is it to find a McDonalds, Burger King or Wendy’s a few minutes away from your office or home?  Where are the nearest Whole Foods or organic grocery stores in your neighborhood? There are six McDonalds restaurants within a block from any of the streets between my house and work. The nearest grocery store is all the way across town. Some cities do not even have a WholeFoods or PCC but they have every type of fast food open past midnight.

When we actually get into a grocery store the prices for cooking a healthy meal can actually be more than grabbing a quick value menu meal at the nearest fast food restaurant. A meal with two chicken breasts and broccoli can cost around $8. Similarly, $5.99 can get you a Big Mac Value Menu Meal with Fries and a large Coke. Or you can go even cheaper selecting items from extra value/dollar menus most fast food restaurants have.

Lastly, at the end of a long day, we do not want to cook. We just want to relax and enjoy a nice meal without all of the hassle and extra effort of meal preparation. This is understandable because we just put in an exhausting day of work and we are completely drained of energy. Why would we want to spend 30 minutes to an hour cooking a healthy meal when we can simply go to a drive-thru and get something hot and tasty in under five minutes. It becomes really hard to rationalize a healthy meal will take time to shop for, cook and clean up, versus a drive-thru meal at a fast food restaurant you can eat immediately in the car and finish before you get home.

Simply put, the inconvenience of driving a few extra miles or spending time after a long day is enough to deter us from breaking our diet. Over time, we succumb to this convenience more and after a while, we abandon the diet because we feel our lives are just too demanding or busy and a diet of cooking meals just won’t work.

Healthy Foods Will Never Taste As Good As A Pizza

Healthy options do not taste as good as restaurant food. We know this. There is hardly a comparison in taste between a low-sodium meal of grilled chicken breast and broccoli versus a double cheeseburger, large fries, and a coke. As such, it becomes difficult to rationalize the appeal of food that has been grilled, seasoned with less salt and oil and has little-to-no carbohydrates. Over time, we began to lose our willpower and start to introduce more and more cheat meals to add variety and flavor to our boring healthy diets. Soon, choosing healthy food options over delicious fast-food or unhealthy counterparts becomes very difficult.

Similarly, we also get bored eating the same meals days on end. Most diet plans involve a rotation of a few bland and under seasoned meals, we are allowed to eat. After a while, these meals get boring and unappealing and we seek variety. It is difficult coming up with different recipes and tastes when you only have a limited set of ingredients to choose from. At a certain point, we lose interest and appetite and this often leads us to turn to unhealthy options because they are different and delicious.

A lack of variety or foods that are bland can both quickly lead to the abandonment or break of a diet. Not having foods which taste good and rotate from week-to-week can leave anyone bored and craving.

I Can’t Order A Salad When All My Friends Are Ordering Burgers

Peer pressure can also be a huge burden on the longevity and consistency of maintaining our diets. When we go out with friends it is never healthy restaurants. Nor does it involve healthy food. This is because some people want to enjoy going out to dinner. They want to eat delicious food and they do not want someone eating healthier options taking away pleasure or reminding them how unhealthy they are eating. They are convinced eating out should constitute a good meal despite how unhealthy it is. Any moderation, substitution or subtraction in an attempt for healthier options is seen as depriving ourselves of a “good meal”.

There are others who simply do not believe in diets. Whether it is because they have good genetics, a lack of understanding of how diets work, or they themselves have tried diets in the past and have failed. What’s worse, they express this belief towards anybody around them. They often discredit, ridicule or make example of those who diet. Around these types of people, real fears and peer pressure can be developed. Those of us on diets around these people fear we will be judged, ridiculed or even put on display.

Despite the type of people we surround ourselves with, most often when we go out we encounter one or more of these types of people. Despite the intentions, we abandon our diets in fear of the repercussions or to simply not stick out. This can have a dramatic impact on sticking with our diets because immediately after that meal we feel regret or drop the diet altogether because of the fear of how much damage that meal has done.

How To Start A Diet Plan And Stick To It

Identify A List Of Healthy Proteins, Fats, Carbs

The key to any diet is understanding what is acceptable to eat and what is not. Since all foods are broken down into the three major groups: Proteins, Fats, and Carbs, creating an acceptable list of these is a good place to start.

Identify a large list of extremely and moderately healthy foods in the categories of Proteins, Fats, Carbs. You can use many different internet resources to help make this decision. The one I use for my diets is: It is important to only concentrate or extremely and moderately healthy foods. Extremely healthy foods are those that pose limited or no harm to your diet no matter how much you have. Examples: Celery, Spinach, Kale, Grilled Chicken, Olive Oil. Moderately healthy foods are those that pose harm to your diet only if you consume a lot of them. Examples: Carrots, Sweet Potato, Ground Beef, Butter.

It is important to make a large list because this will allow you to have an inventory of multiple foods you can have, mix or substitute with to ensure you are staying on track with your diet.

Make Sure Your Fridge Is Always Stocked With Foods Acceptable By Your Diet

In the previous point, we talked about creating a list of extremely and moderately healthy foods. The next step to ensure your fridge is always stocked with items from this list in each category. Make sure you always have equal representation of each group (Proteins, Fats, and Carbs). A meal consists of a combination of these groups and having only carbs or fats in your fridge can prevent you from being able to make meals when you need them.

The importance of always having your fridge stocked is so at any given moment you can create a meal that is healthy and acceptable by your diet. Although most diets deter you from eating past a certain hour or a number of meals, we all get cravings. Having ready to use ingredients in the house will allow you to make a meal and prevent starving yourself or seeking food outside the house at a restaurant because your fridge was empty.

Spices, Herbs And Hot Sauce Will Become Your Best Friend

Despite how many different healthy recipes or food combinations you can come up with, our palates will get used to them and over time crave more flavor. In addition, many healthy diet recipes will call for lack of sodium or sodium-based seasonings which can dramatically underwhelm the appetite for the dish. Having turkey burgers with low salt is nothing like a ground beef burger with sea-salt.

To solve this, spices, herbs, and hot sauce will become your best friend. These toppings contain very little sodium (if any) but release fragrances, heat, and taste to your food which can transform a boring and bland dish into something savory or spicy. Some of my favorites are:

Spices Herbs Hot Sauces Other
Cumin Basil Tobasco Garlic
Tumeric Cilantro Cholula Ginger
Paprika Mint Sriracha Onions
Cayenne Rosemary
Crushed Black Pepper Spring Onion

Apart from using spices, herbs, and hot sauces as toppings, they can also be used as ingredients for marination. Mix them in with any meat or vegetable marinade and they will add new flavors and fragrances to your dish. The best part is these ingredients allow you to achieve flavor without adding a lot of sodium. Sodium makes the body retain water weight and might make you look bloated so an alternative can only help you stay on track with your diet.

Every Week You Get One Cheat Meal. But Be Smart About It.

We all need cheat days and cheat meals. Despite how religious you are to your diet, your body needs a break from eating the same foods and mentally depriving itself of cravings. Cheat meals actually serve a couple of purposes for keeping you on track to your diet if they are implemented correctly.

Give you a psychologic reward for your hard work.

By keeping cheat days at the end of the week, you can treat this as a reward for a whole week’s worth of dieting. This trains your mind into working towards a goal (cheat meal). By having a reward in mind, you are more willing to work towards it and stay on track. Training your mind and body to have cheat days at the end of the week is a powerful motivator to enforce good diet behaviors.

It is important to note cheat meals are not cheat days. Cheat meals should be treated as individual and small rewards which do not pose much threat to undo progress made by the diet. Combining cheat meals into a cheat day can have adverse effects and lead to even stronger urges to break the diet and undo the process made. It is important to understand the difference.

 Can keep leptin, ghrelin, and thyroid hormone levels balanced.

Leptin is a protein which helps regulate appetite and energy levels. Ghrelin is an appetite stimulant that produces growth hormone. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism. Most diets enforce a caloric deficit in the body. Over time, this causes leptin levels to drop which decrease energy. Ghrelin levels increase causing increased hunger and cravings for food. And thyroid hormones to decrease which slows down your metabolism. All of these hormones and proteins need work together to regulate proper food intake, appetite, and metabolism function. When the body is in a calorie deficit we are depriving the body of what it needs so it can perform catabolism and utilize the internal fat and stored energy stores it has accumulated. To the body, this is seen as a threat and over time the body adapts by going into “hibernation” mode where the balances of Leptin, Ghrelin, and Thyroid Hormones are all dropped so the body can survive in the absence of food. Unfortunately, when this happens our diet progress stalls because the body is fighting and resisting the effects of the diet. As such, we need cheat meals because they provide spikes in calories. These spikes tell the body and mind it is not starving which in turn keep levels of Leptin, Ghrelin and Thyroid Hormones in balance.

Prevent massive cravings and cave-ins.

Diets are typically perceived as banning foods we all crave. If that craving goes on for too long then we eventually cave and give in to it. When this happens, we cave in hard. All of that suppression turns into gluttony and we binge in excess causing large damage to the progress made in the diet. However, when you periodically treat yourself to cheat meals as rewards, you no longer develop cravings for things you deprive yourself of. Through cheat meals, you can tame your cravings so you can maintain will-power to prevent breaking your diet.

For example, if I crave Lays potato chips and I periodically treat myself to a small bag on my cheat days. By doing this, when I see a bag in the grocery store or at a friend’s party I am not compelled to eat as much as I can. I know if I pass I will get some in just a few more days. This helps me build will-power into my decision making and curb cravings.

Drink A Tall Glass Of Water Before And After Every Meal

The average maximum capacity of a human stomach is 4 liters. Your stomach starts to send signals to your brain when it starts to reach 80% of maximum capacity. The stomach will do this despite what is used to fill up the stomach. 80% of 4 liters is 3.2.  Your stomach could be full of 3.2 Liters of Candy, Fruit, Meat, Golf Balls, Cotton Candy or Broccoli, the feeling of full and signals to your brain will occur regardless. Having said this, it makes sense to use water to fill up the stomach so you are forced to consume less food and you feel fuller after meals.

Drinking a tall glass of water before and after every meal can add up to a liter of space consumed in your stomach. That means your small meals as part of a diet will actually fill you up. Doing this for every meal will convince your brain it has been satisfied. This will curb taking multiple servings and snacking in between meals.

Eat Slower

We all know it can take up to 12 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it is full. 20 minutes can be a really long window to consume a lot of food. When we are hungry we tend to quickly scarf down as much food as possible because we are starving. This shoves a large amount of food to the stomach and still leaves us with the feeling of appetite because our stomach has not had enough time to tell our brain it is full. Furthermore, all of the food we shoved down our throats is hardly chewed and when it comes time for processing our digestion may only be able to harness a small portion of the nutrients and proteins because it takes too long for our stomach acids and enzymes to break down the food.

Eat slower and chewing each bite for 10-15 seconds will send down the food to your stomach in small sizes. It will also slow down the speed at which you finish a meal, allowing your stomach and brain to both feel full and prevent after-meal cravings and snacking. Your food will also be digested in smaller manageable sizes for the stomach. This will also allow your body to improve nutrient absorption and bowel regularity.

State The Benefits Of A Healthy Diet

When I started dieting I was 190 pounds with a BMI of over 20%. I went through at least a dozen of different diets, dropping out within a week or two of each one. At first I blamed the diet for being too strict or unrealistic, however, I started to realize I was failing these diets for the common reasons listed above. Once I was able to pinpoint the root causes I started to incorporate the tips and tactics mentioned in this post. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a challenge and I had positive and negative weeks. However, overall, I was able to build myself framework in which I could work hard, not get bored of my meals and reward myself occasionally. This framework allowed me to drop 30 pounds and 8% BMI over a five-month period with exercise.

If you are diligent, disciplined and follow the tips and techniques mentioned in this post, I am confident you can stick to any diet you choose. We all have good intentions and want to lose the weight. We just need to understand our human psyche and trick it occasionally.

How’s The Diet Going?

What I’ve shared above are tactics and techniques that have worked for me, however, I am not perfect and still occasionally cheat on my diet. I would love to hear what tactics or techniques have worked well for you. Feel free to comment below with an example or identify an area I might have missed. Please share so we all can learn and possibly incorporate ourselves.

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