Making it Stick: Six Things to Do BEFORE You Start a Diet

making-it-stickThe “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” has given way to one of the most hopeful. A host of New Year’s resolutions are waiting, and since the number-one resolution is weight loss, here are six tips for before your diet begins.

IDENTIFY WHY YOU’RE DIETING

How did you get to a place where you’re unhappy with your current weight? Have you been unhappy with the scale for as long as you can remember? Did your clothes get a little snug through 2014? Think about the path that led you to a resolution of dieting. If this isn’t the first time you’ve made this resolution, consider why you haven’t had success in years past, and more importantly, how you can avoid staring down the same resolution for 2016.

DECONSTRUCT YOUR CURRENT EATING HABITS

Did you gain weight as a food quality issue? A quantity issue? Both? Most people have developed a weight problem because they simply aren’t thinking about the amount or type of food that they’re eating. A great way to start is to track your food for a week before your diet starts. The key to this exercise is to not change your eating habits for a week, and to view your food diary without judgement. You want this to be an exercise in honesty, and in self-assessment, both of which are pivotal to long-term success with feeding your body what it needs to be healthier.

BE REALISTIC

What if you hate Brussel sprouts? What about a nightly week with your friends? Dieting shouldn’t be about suffering through a plate of food you dislike, or sipping seltzer while your friends split a bottle of wine. You’re not conditioned to live in misery, and taking charge of your health shouldn’t be miserable.

Your new style of healthy eating will require changes, of course, but if you know that you won’t stick to your green juice for breakfast, replace it with something equally healthy, but more satisfying to you. The more you consider your needs, the more likely that your diet will shift into a lifestyle change.

BE PATIENT

Chances are you didn’t gain all the weight you want to drop in a week. As it likely took years for your body to gain the weight, it will take a while for your mind to learn the new habits for you to lose the weight.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re relearning how to nourish yourself, how to love yourself, and get past the obstacles, physically and emotionally, that have kept the weight on you. Being patient with yourself, and your body is a learned habit; just as important as coming home to cook clean food instead of going to the drive-thru.

STAY IN THE PRESENT

Of course you’re going to need a food plan that will transform your lifestyle. But every meal that you cook cleanly at home instead of a fast food binge is a win. Each time you have your healthy pre-prepared snack instead of reaching for a bag of chips is a win! Diet extends so far beyond food, into emotional baggage, our social situations, and even our family dynamics, so each time you listen to what your body needs, each time you feed yourself with nutrients and protein instead of salt and sugar, you’re winning the battle against unhealthy choices, and moving towards a lighter you.

BUILD A SUPPORT NETWORK

As you embark on this journey to a new you, remember that you aren’t alone. If you don’t have a support system in place through friends or family, consider joining a gym, or an online group for weight loss and accountability. This network will help you remember your strength when you don’t feel strong enough, and will encourage you to move on from lapses.

Chelsea McCutchin is a work in progress. A writer, researcher, fitness enthusiast, wife, and mom, when she isn’t busy with those things, you can find her on her porch with a cup of decaf coffee, loving that she can sit outside 365 days a year.