Do you feel like you’re always in a constant state of dieting? Feel like you’ve tried every diet known to man? And woman? And beast, or poodle, or bird, or grasshopper?
We’ve all been there. We try a diet. It doesn’t work. And it’s on to the next. Try that one. Doesn’t work. On to the next. And on, and on, and on.
You know that saying, “If everyone has a problem with you, it might not be everyone else that’s the problem?” It might not be the diets themselves that are the problem. More likely, it’s the way we approach those diets that’s the issue.
Successful dieting comes down to knowing the field you’re playing on. Arming yourself with a few nuggets of knowledge can mean the difference between a diet fail and a diet win.
Read on to find out how you can win the diet battle once and for all, and end diet-hopping for good.
Patience is a Virtue
The number one reason for diet failure is not giving it enough time.
Ask yourself how much time it took to put on the the weight. That didn’t happen overnight, did it? Neither will weight loss. This process takes a fair amount of time and whole lot of patience.
There was one such time I was cutting calories, but I wasn’t seeing a change in my weight. I was about ready to give up, but then I took a look back to when I began my diet. I saw I hadn’t been cutting calories for very long at all. So I stuck with it, and eventually started to see a downward trend on the scale.
Sometimes our perception of time is skewed. Especially in this “gotta have it now” environment, it’s so easy to lose track of just how much time we’ve put into something.
While I don’t go in for all the trendy, fad diets, or food avoidance and omissions , I believe if you’re going to try a diet of any sort, give it a fair chance. Give it time.
Water fluctuations occur throughout any diet. At the very beginning you will see a substantial drop in weight. This is usually just water loss. When first reducing calories, your body lets go of water. Then the fat loss comes.
There will be times of stagnation in the weight loss process, but this isn’t because your diet isn’t working. It’s due to your body trying its best to hold on to what it thinks it needs.
Your body prefers to be in a constant state of homeostasis, and strives to maintain a particular weight. It would rather lose or gain weight on its own terms. When you force it to lose weight, it sometimes says, “Nuh uh, nope, I won’t do it.” But this doesn’t last long.
In order for your body to “cope” with this unwanted weight loss, it fills recently-emptied fat cells with water. It’s like a placeholder of sorts. Your body is going into denial. It is holding on to that space, hoping, any minute now, it will need to fill that space with fat once again.
So even though you’ve followed your diet, lost a pound or two of fat, and even appear smaller in the mirror, the weight loss may not show up on the scale right away.
If you stick with your diet, and keep doing what you’re doing, eventually, the weight does come off. Your body finally lets go of the water as it realizes it doesn’t need to hold the space in those fat cells anymore. This phenomenon is known as the “Whoosh Effect.”
This is just one of many valid reasons that reinforces the idea that you must give your diet time.
It’s Not all About the Numbers
As I mentioned above, sometimes your weight loss may not be visible on the scale, but is visible in the mirror. For this reason, it is a good idea to pay attention to how you look, maybe even more so than the numbers on the scale.
Taking weekly measurements and progress photos really allows you to see the progress you’re making. This is super motivating, and will help keep you on track, minimizing your impulse to give up on your diet too quickly.
You Can’t Out-Train a Bad Diet
You’ve probably heard this one before, but never really paid it much attention. It’s true, though. You cannot go out and eat a 1500 calorie meal at a restaurant then expect to go to the gym and counteract the imminent weight gain that’s to come.
The same goes for rewarding yourself with a cheat meal or large dessert after all your hard work in the gym. Essentially, you’re just undoing, or rendering null and void, all that hard work you just put in.
Focusing on your calorie intake is the best way to lose weight. If you’re guessing at how much you’re eating, and then depending on your workouts to bail you out, you’re not going to get very far in this weight loss game.
Don’t Count on It
Monitors that keep track of calories burned seem great in theory, but they don’t have the ability to give you a true number. Some are better than others for getting a ballpark idea of your calorie burn, but they are far from 100% accurate.
This is why it is so commonly recommended NOT to subtract calories burned from your food intake. Instead, what you do to account for calories burned is use an estimated activity factor. And then adjust your calorie intake depending on your weight loss, or lack thereof.
Ditch the Diet Binges, For Good
Let Yourself Have the Food
When you restrict certain foods from your diet, your body craves them. This is why we often find ourselves deep in the throes of a guilt-ridden binge on none other than that very food we were trying to avoid.
If you let yourself have some of what you like every so often, you will be less likely to go overboard binging on said foods. (For more on how to “let yourself have the food,” check out my article “IIFYM: How to Eat What You Love and Still Lose Weight.”)
Another great way to permanently rid your diet of guilt-laden binging episodes is a dieting method called Intermittent Fasting (IF).
The main principle behind IF is eating during a certain window of time. IF doesn’t require counting calories, nor does it require giving up your favorite foods.
The main crux of this idea is that you fast for a 16 hour window of time, and eat during an 8 hour window of time. But it doesn’t have to be so regimented, in my opinion.
I’ve never truly been a breakfast eater, so I find it easy to skip eating in the morning. When I diet, I use IF by fasting from the time I wake up (around 5:00 AM) until around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. I find eating later in the day keeps the evening binges at bay.
With IF you are able to have black coffee and low calorie drinks during your fasting window. The caffeine helps reduce hunger pangs.
It’s not for everyone, but IF is a great weapon to have in your weight loss arsenal.
It’s The Little Things
You know that dollop of Daisy here, the squirt of ketchup there, and smear of cream cheese over that way? All that little stuff adds up. And in a big way.
Often we don’t think much of the condiments and small accoutrements that enhance our meals. If you count calories, but forget about these little things, it can get you into big trouble. It seems like such a small thing, like it couldn’t affect a diet either way, but it does.
Coffee creamer was the culprit in my personal undoing. I was at the very beginning of my weight loss experience, and I was keeping track of what I ate. I lost weight for a little while, then, nothing. I just couldn’t figure out why the weight loss wasn’t happening.
It dawned on me that I wasn’t accounting for the coffee creamer that I generously poured into every cup of coffee. And I drink a lot of coffee. It was definitely a “duh” moment, but an important one. It taught me that I might not be tracking calories as closely as I thought. Once I started accounting for it, the scale started moving again.
PSA: If you’re doing everything right in your weight-loss strategy, but not seeing a scale change, please account for your ketchup, mayo, sour cream, salad dressing, creamer, butter, oils, etc. The same goes for all those licks, bites, and tastes you take as you cook or plate your food. And drinks as well. It sounds extreme, but all that little sh*t adds up!
I didn’t pull any of this out of thin air, nor did I find it online in order to regurgitate it to you. I’ve lived it. I learned it all the hard way, and wish I’d known all of it when I first started out.
No matter what diet you choose, please keep these points in mind. Armed with these real-life diet solutions, you are now well on your way to real-life diet success!