Oftentimes when people try new diets, they start with gusto, only to lose their resolve later. This article discusses common mental roadblocks to maintaining a diet and the ideal mindset for success. Of course, choosing a healthy and reasonable diet is also important from the start. If your diet deprives your body of needed calories or nutrients, your body will make it known.
Feelings of deprivation
Some people feel deprived within a few days of starting a new diet and consider maintaining the diet a chore. Understand that your body and mind will need to purge themselves of your former dietary choices. Don’t be too anxious to give up from feeling deprived or miserable the first few weeks. Some foods, such as highly processed foods and sugars, are very addictive. You should expect cravings from the sudden elimination from your diet. However, if you continue to feel deprived and miserable after a couple of months, you should reevaluate your diet choice. Ideally, your eating plan or diet shouldn’t feel restrictive or miserable. Rather, it should come to feel natural to you, which brings me to the next point.
Is your diet choice even right for you?
Josh went through many periods of restricting his diet to try to lose weight. For example, he would limit his weekday lunches to salads or brown rice, chicken breast, and vegetables. Although he could tolerate this regimen for a couple of weeks, he understandably felt bored of it shortly after. At most, he would endure this type of regimen for a month before abandoning it. One day, Josh discovered a website on the Paleo Diet and thought the guidelines and philosophy sounded reasonable. He was thrilled to indulge in bacon, steak, and other meats regularly, and to try new recipes. This diet never felt like a “chore” to him. To date, over four years later, he is still mostly adhering to the Paleo guidelines. (I say mostly, because he believes being a strict Paleo follower is unnecessary for health.).
The above anecdote illustrates how some diets are not for everyone. You should experiment with different options until you find a diet that suits your tastes and preferences.
Avoiding splurge days
When you first start a new diet, splurge meals or days can be tempting. Don’t give in. If you allow splurge days early on, you’re preventing your body and mind from fully purging your prior dietary choices. For instance, if you eliminate refined carbs and sugars on weekdays, but allow them on weekends, you’re indirectly enforcing the mindset that cheat days are “pleasurable.” Thus, you are still labelling certain foods as enjoyable and others as not. Your body needs time to adjust and to adopt your new diet as “normal.” Once your body and mind are fully acclimated to your new diet, then you can have splurge days. You need to reach a point where you look forward to returning to your diet after splurging instead of dreading it.
Adopting an all-or-nothing approach
When Josh resolved to try the Paleo Diet, we tossed everything in the kitchen that was not Paleo to eliminate any chance of temptation. (As a side note, if you are in a relationship or live with family, getting your partner or family on board definitely increases your chance of success and maintenance!) We did not hold onto non-Paleo foods “just in case” we might consume them later, because doing so would denote our perceived possibility of failure with the diet. Why hold onto a box of pasta if your new lifestyle excludes it?
By taking an all-or-nothing approach with Paleo, Josh allowed his body to adjust without setbacks or temptations until he viewed it as a normal way of eating. He doesn’t miss things like pasta at all and feels comfortable knowing that any splurge meal won’t set him back in his healthy habits or create a snowball effect of more cravings.
In sum, a “diet” doesn’t have to feel restrictive if you find one that suits your tastes and lifestyle. You should fully commit to the change and most importantly, give your mind and body time to acclimate. Don’t be too anxious to see results or succumb to temptations, as your cravings could simply be your body’s struggle to purge addictive substances. Yet, on the flip side, you shouldn’t be completely miserable on your diet either in the long run. If months have passed and you’re still feeling miserable, then your diet may be lacking important nutrients or components. Find a healthy and reasonable diet that you know you can follow longterm, and ideally, you will find a diet that feels natural to you.