The Healthy Way to Start a Diet

Did you know that many people who go on a diet end up regaining the weight they lost? That may be shocking, but there are many reasons for this. Simply put, diets fail because not enough preparation is done beforehand and it’s thought to be a short-term fix rather than a lifestyle change for the long-term.

Going into a lifestyle change without a plan of action is a recipe for failure. When making a lifestyle change like losing weight or simply giving your diet an overhaul, many experts refer to the “stages of change theory” to explain the success or failure of such a lifestyle change.

The 5 Stages of Change

The 5 stages of change include:

  • Pre-contemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance

Researchers have realized that those who are successful at a lifestyle change, such as losing weight and eating healthier, spend a lot of time thinking about the pros and cons of that change like what it would take to be successful and possible roadblocks they may encounter. This is known as both the pre-contemplation and contemplation stages.

And when these individuals spend time mentally and physically preparing for the change, it is referred to as the preparation stage. Those who are not successful with dieting spend a limited amount of time in these stages and simply jump on the resolution bandwagon. Lifestyle changes are hard, so it’s critical to fully prepare for these changes to ensure success. In order to combat these challenges, it is important to fully prepare for big lifestyle changes.

Be Realistic

The surest way to fall short of your goal or resolution is to make it unattainable. For instance, resolving to NEVER eat your favorite food again or losing 50 pounds in 1 month is simply just setting yourself up to failure. Instead, strive for a goal that is attainable, such as avoiding it more often than you do now or losing 1-2 pounds per week until you lose 20 pounds. To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work.

Be Specific

To be effective, goals need to be pretty specific. Rather than simply saying I will “lose weight” say “I will lose 1 pound of weight per week by reducing calories by 500 per day and I will monitor this by getting on the scale every Monday morning and keeping a food journal.” Making a plan, rather than stating one daunting goal can create a series of smaller steps that are much more attainable, making it more likely you will reach the goal.

Be Prepared to Encounter Obstacles

One reason that diets fail is people don't anticipate the obstacles they will face. Making a big diet change is hard, and as soon as we are given a chance to quit, many people do. Anticipating what these obstacles are and how to overcome them is a powerful game changer. For example, if you know you are tempted to stop at the ice cream shop every time you have a stressful work day, you need a plan for when that happens next. Understand your habits and figure out what else could be a stress reliever for you. Maybe you decide to get a massage instead, take a walk or blow off some steam at the gym.

Talk About It and Ask For Help

Share your plan with family and friends to make it known. Consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a group of co-workers or an online weight loss group. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating. Further, accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress caused by your goals. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking professional help. Counselors are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body. They can offer strategies as to how to adjust your goals so that they are attainable, as well as help you change unhealthy behaviors and address emotional issues.

If you or someone you know is considering starting a diet, be sure to fully prepare for such a task. This means both physically and mentally. If not fully prepared, it is easy to become overwhelmed and not successful long-term in your weight loss goal.

If you are looking for a diet or meal plan that not only leaves you feeling and looking great, but also ensures that you are receiving proper nutrition, take a look at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating. Our meals are created by registered dieticians and adhere to the most current recommended dietary guidelines.