10 Tips To Stick To Your Diet

I was recently asked for 10 tips for sticking to your diet. I quickly made the following list but I didn’t necessarily include the 10 most important tips, especially because each dieter is different. Which tips (on or off the list) have been most important to you?

  1. Don’t even try to change your eating until you have learned important skills, such as how to motivate yourself every day, how to get yourself to use good eating habits, how to withstand hunger and craving, and how to get yourself back on track immediately when you make a mistake.
  2. Motivate yourself every day by reading a long list of reasons that you want to lose weight every morning. Pull out this list at vulnerable times of the day, as well.
  3. Eat everything sitting down, slowly, and enjoy every bite–whether or not you feel like it. It’s much more difficult to allow yourself to eat off plan, eat mindlessly, or binge if you are doing this.
  4. Stay accountable. Report (whether or not you have used good eating habits and followed your eating plan) to another person–daily–through email, texting, or voice messages. Stay accountable to yourself by weighing yourself every day.
  5. Stop looking for the perfect diet or the perfect combination of foods. Eat in a very healthy way but allow yourself to have one favorite food, in moderation, every single day. If you’re tempted to eat more of this food or go on to other foods you hadn’t planned to eat, then consume it shortly before bedtime, brush your teeth, and get in bed.
  6. Change your mindset about food and eating. Recognize that you can eat whatever you want whenever you want OR you can be thinner. You can’t have it both ways.
  7. Prove to yourself that hunger is never an emergency (if you don’t have a serious medical condition). Skip lunch and snacks one day. You’ll find that hunger is only mildly uncomfortable, compared to real discomfort such as you might have experienced after surgery or after breaking a bone; that hunger comes and goes, lasting no more than 5-10 minutes at a time, usually; that hunger is certainly tolerable.
  8. Teach yourself the difference between hunger (that empty feeling in your stomach when you haven’t eaten for a few hours) and craving or the desire to eat (which you will feel in your mouth or throat). Ultimately, you want to just label what you’re feeling (hunger, craving, tiredness, boredom, or a negative emotion) and tolerate it without eating. In the short-run, have a list of powerful distractions to turn your attention away from food.
  9. Regularize your eating with a set plan of meals and snacks. Some people do well with no snacks, some with a snack after each meal, some with two snacks after dinner. Eat only when it’s time to eat; not when you feel like eating.
  10. Tell yourself that every time matters. It’s not necessarily the calories (after all, cookie crumbs are not very fattening); it’s the HABIT. Every time you eat something you weren’t supposed to, you strengthen your giving in muscle, which makes it more likely that the next time you’ll give in and the time after that and the time after that. Every time you stick to your plan when you’re tempted to eat something else, you strengthen your resistance muscle, which makes it more likely that the next time you’ll resist, and the time after that and the time after that.
3 replies
  1. Amy
    Amy says:

    These are all helpful! These are the best skills I’ve ever learned for dieting. I know they’re going to “stick”.

    Before, I “muscled through” a diet with willpower, thinking of it as temporary. Learning to tolerate hunger has been a big shift. Regular meal and snack times help. I’ve learned to eat more soups, fruits, veggies, and beans to help curb the hunger. I make sure to get at least 70 grams protein a day, which also helps with hunger. I’m really hungry several times a day, for a half hour or hour before meals and snacks, and sometimes it wakes me up. When this happens, I adjust the calories a little bit and though the weight loss is a little slower, it’s much more comfortable.

    I went on a few 15-20 mile bike rides last fall, and had to adjust the calories for that so now I eat more on days when I do something like that (not very often)

    Being accountable with a scale and counting calories gets easier with practice. I don’t account to anyone else, though, but every month or so I trade emails with a friend who’s controlling her diabetes with carb counting and we give encouragement to each other. It’s enough to account to myself and my software. I record my weight once/week and enjoy looking at the graph it makes to see how far I’ve come.

    It’s great to have the phrase “no choice” to use when tempted, and follow it up with a promise to myself to have some chocolate after dinner (and I do). Also very helpful to think of managing weight as a “have to do” rather than “optional”, in the same category as going to work and brushing my teeth.
    Going to the grocery store every 5-6 days works better than once/week, if possible. I only shop for myself, so I’m in and out in about 1/2 hour.

    Number 6 is very helpful. Simple, truthful, effective message to really KNOW in your heart. The rest sort of falls into place with practice over time.

  2. Jean Fain
    Jean Fain says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. There is no perfect diet. In fact, dieting is a big part of the problem. Mindful eating, a liberating and effective solution.

    I underscore some of the points you make in my quirky new YouTube video, “Barbie’s Dream Diet?” Take a look:


    Jean Fain, psychotherapist
    Cambridge Health Alliance/
    Harvard Medical School

  3. Carol Romine
    Carol Romine says:

    Hello All.

    I’m on Day 28 of the Beck program, which I’ve combined with Weight Watcher’s point system. I’m having great success and I’ve never enjoyed my food more. I know now that I can stop eating something I love and am actually doing it every day!

    I plan my meals everynight and include three fruits, three milks, two or three veggies, and 3 proteins, and leave enough points for a really scrumptious dessert in late evening.

    The BIG change for me is in knowing I can eat whatever I want as long as I plan for it! So, I’ve started baking again and am having no problem seeing a beautiful home-made cake sitting out in the kitchen. I get a 1 1/2 in by 3 in piece every night for 5.5 points. Very satisfying. I just threw away a package of oreos because I got tired of them after eating 3 every night for a week (4 points) and they got STALE! I’ve never had food that I love go stale in my house.

    Ditto for my favorite foods out. For instance, I LOVE the chef salad at my favorite restaurant but couldn’t have it on other diets because its high in fat and calories (15 points on WW). SOOOO – I discovered during my “leave it on the plate experiment” that I could eat half at one sitting (7.5 points), leave the other half on my plate (I’ve never done that in my whole life), and have it again the next day.

    In a nutshell, this program completely overrides the belief that you have to eat everything in sight once you eat something that is off your plan. Since absolutely nothing is off MY plan, I know now I can just plan it and enjoy it. I haven’t experienced a craving yet, but am studying my Advantage, Response, and Memory Cards every day so I believe I’ll know what to do when it happens.

    Thanks for this great program. Carol


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