If you are tired of the perpetual cycle of starting and failing at dieting, then you will want to hear some of the secrets I learned about how to be successful at sticking to a diet long term.
I’m not sure about you, but I have tried many diets and failed miserably. I start off excited and eager to lose some weight and get healthy, only to find myself a week or two later sneaking bites of raw cookie dough when the kids aren’t looking. One slip-up turns into another, and next thing I know, I’m “off the wagon” and resolving to start again Monday.
After being on the “dieting rollercoaster” for years, I finally learned some secrets that have helped me start a diet I could stick. Plus, I have happily maintained (and improved upon!) it for over a year now.
Dieting doesn’t have to be super hard or complicated. Stick to the rules below and you will be on your way to living a healthier and happier life.
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8 Secrets to a Successful Diet
The first secret to a successful diet is to throw away the word diet.
The word diet can often give us this idea that we need to deprive ourselves for a temporary period of time. Then once we have achieved our goal, we can relax and eat the same old foods again.
The problem with this idea is that we typically end up being unable to stick to our diet for very long. Or worse, once we make it to our goal, we put the weight back on.
The real objective should be to create lifelong healthy eating habits. A short term diet will only give you short term results. Then all that effort you went through ends up being for nothing because you are right back where you started.
When you choose to create lifelong healthy eating habits, you are going to create changes for your body that are going to last for a lifetime.
Only eat when physically hungry. Not emotionally hungry.
There is a difference between eating when we are physically hungry and when we are emotionally hungry. Physical hunger usually shows up 3-4 hours after our last meal. Emotional hunger usually shows up after a stressful day or when the kids have been driving us crazy.
Eating when we are emotionally hungry is training our body to respond to emotional cues for hunger instead of physically needing to eat. It can be tempting to want to try and feel better with food, but we inevitably end up regretting it later.
Drink half your weight in ounces of water a day.
Our bodies don’t just like water, they need it. Our bodies can go weeks without food, but they will only last a few days without water.
The food industry spends lots of money trying to make us think that by drinking sodas or juices that we are giving our body what it needs, but those drinks often just dehydrate us further. Our bodies will then start looking for water from other sources, such as food.
When we don’t drink enough water, it increases our hunger. This makes it a lot harder to stick to any sort of diet or healthy eating plan.
The recommendation is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water a day. If that goal currently seems too high, aim for 64oz of water a day. If that amount seems too high, aim for half that.
Even increasing your water intake by just 1 cup a day can help. You can always build up from there.
A helpful tip!
When trying to meet your water quota, I suggest some sort of tracking system. I have a water bottle that fits 18oz of water.
I make it my goal to fill it up 4 times a day. I also have daily discussions with small people and their sticky fingers about stealing Mama’s water, but such is life lol.
Stop eating when satisfied: not full or stuffed.
This secret is crucial to maintaining a successful diet. Learning to stop eating when we are satisfied versus full helps us learn to stop overeating.
Overeating is why most people gain weight in the first place. We are eating more food than our body can use.
The feeling we are aiming for when we overeat is feeling “full” at the end of our meal. Feeling like we couldn’t fit another bite in.
The objective of a meal should be to eat until we feel satisfied. This means that we no longer feel hungry anymore, but we also don’t feel stuffed or uncomfortable. When we eat until satisfied we are giving our body just enough fuel to get us to our next meal.
It takes some practice learning to tell the difference between full and satisfied. Once you get the hang of it, you will start to realize how much extra food you were eating that your body doesn’t need.
Plan your meals ahead of time.
Planning your meals ahead of time is so important to a successful diet because we can use our initial motivation on a good day to set us up for success on the harder days.
On Sunday night when I am feeling rested and motivated, I am much more likely to plan meals for myself that will reflect my healthy eating goals. On Wednesday night, when I have been running my kids around all day, the last thing I want to do is try to figure out a healthy meal to feed my family.
When I plan my meals out ahead of time, I save myself the trouble of trying to make healthy choices throughout the rest of the week. Planning your meals doesn’t have to be a complicated system.
You can plan for as little as 24 hours in advance, or as far out as a month.
For more tips and a step-by-step breakdown on how I do meal planning, see my post on beginner meal planning.
Sticking to a successful diet means you journal your food – good, bad, and ugly.
In order to be successful with your diet, you are going to have to keep track of EVERYTHING that you eat. Yes, everything! This step is one a lot of people struggle with, but it’s so helpful.
When we write down every single bite that goes into our mouth it does a couple of things for us. First, it holds us accountable for what we are eating. I won’t tell you how many times I have passed on some cookies because I didn’t want to put it in my journal and own up to eating them.
Secondly, it is a great record of what types of foods are helping us reach our goals and what types of foods aren’t. If I saw my weight dropping after a week of eating fish and salads, I know those are meals that will keep me on track.
If I noticed that I had planned fish and salads and I wasn’t eating them but kept substituting other foods, I know there is no point in planning those meals again, because they aren’t working for me.
Get enough sleep.
Getting enough sleep is another crucial part of being successful with your diet. When our bodies are overtired, they crave more energy, which in turn means more eating.
Sometimes just the idea of how tired we are can cause us to want to snack more. I have often found myself craving some sort of sugary pick-me-up when I have had a long night with the baby.
Sleep is also key to a successful diet because it’s one of the times that our bodies start to burn excess fat. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies don’t get as much of an opportunity to get to work.
The recommendation is to aim for 6-8 hours of sleep a night. If you have small children like me, that’s not always possible, but just aim for as much as you can get and you will see the results.
Make small changes you can live with forever.
The last secret to a successful diet is to make small changes to your diet that you are willing to do for the rest of your life. People often fail at diets because they make grand sweeping changes that they can only maintain for a short period of time. Then temptation comes knocking and they quit everything altogether.
This leaves us feeling like a failure and like we won’t ever be able to achieve our goal. If you start with small changes, you set yourself up for success that you can maintain.
Once you start building that motivation off your small successes, you can start building on them. Eventually, they combine to make big changes in your health.
I started off with two adjustments to my diet. I started drinking only water and I would only eat out once a week. That was the only thing I changed when I started to improve my eating habits.
Once I felt like I could keep that going without any trouble I added in my planning my meals. Then I added in journaling my food, etc. I made sure I could master the current changes to my diet before I added in any new ones.
This helped build up my confidence in my ability to maintain these changes. They were also changes that I was willing to live with for as long as I wanted my weight loss results to last.
I’m not sure about you, but I plan on rocking that bathing suit with the grandbabies, so I want these results to last a good long time!
Conclusion to 8 Secrets to a Successful Diet
So those are my secrets to a successful diet. These are the steps that I used to start my healthy eating lifestyle and that help me maintain it over a year later.
If you have any successful diet tips that you have used, please share them below or email me at Candice@littlestepsbighappy.com. Follow me on Pinterest here for more tips and advice on healthy eating and losing weight.
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I’m a busy mom of 3 turned Health and Fitness Coach and Self Defense Instructor. I help inspire other moms to reach their health, fitness, and weight loss goals. You can usually find me chasing my kiddos around, training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or sneaking away to read romance novels. About Me