A diet is easiest to keep in the first few days, when excitement is high, and even the strictest meal plans at least have the benefit of novelty. But after a while, you start missing banana cream pie, you want to vegetate on the coach and watch TV instead of heading for the gym, and you start losing confidence that all the sacrifice will really get you to your desired weight.
When you’ve been hit by the diet blues, here are a few ways to stay motivated, and more importantly, stay on track. Hang in there! Pretty soon you’ll see results, just don’t let this momentary depression distract you from your goal.
Get a workout and diet buddy. It’s always easier to do things with a friend, since you won’t feel that you’re alone. At least you have someone to eat out with, so you won’t be the only one ordering from the South Beach menu. You can check up on each other (at least she won’t find it strange that you’re calling her at 11:00 pm to talk you through a pizza craving). And when you’re too lazy to make that morning jog around the block, you know someone will force, blackmail, and cajole you—even when you’re screaming at her to go away—because she knows you’ll return the favor when she’s not in the mood. And when you do lose the fat, you know she’ll be the first to stand up and applaud you!
Join an Internet forum. Aside from your diet buddy, you can join a number of thriving online communities, where you can share your diet concerns with thousands of people from all over the world. They can give you support, answer your questions, or share a recipe for low-fat cheesecake. In fact, you’ll discover that one of the best “side benefits” you’ll find on your diet journey is that you have a chance to make friends with people you otherwise wouldn’t have exchanged more than two sentences with.
Think positive. Moods come and go, but an over-all positive outlook plays a very big role in how willing you are to stay on a diet and exercise program, regardless of how you may “feel” about it on any given day. So keep your spirits up, and reinforce your commitment to a better lifestyle with a lot of pep talks. Look in the mirror and say, “I feel great. I look great. I’m doing something good for myself.” Concentrate on how much more energized you feel after a workout, and how your body seems more refreshed now that you’re no longer feeding it junk.
Celebrate the small triumphs. Instead of thinking, “I have 20 more pounds to go,” concentrate on what you’ve already accomplished. “I’ve already lost 2 pounds” or “I no longer miss my sodas.” It’s easier to face what lies ahead if you acknowledge how far you’ve already gone! When you’re feeling discouraged, tell yourself: “If I did (name one of your victories in the diet path), I can do this.”
Visualize. “Losing weight” is very abstract. Instead, concretize your goal. Peg it at a dress size, and buy an item to hang in your closet and remind you every morning of why the diet and exercise is all worth it. Tape a picture of an older, thinner you on your refrigerator door.
Take care of yourself, today. Many people go on a diet because they want to look and feel sexy. Why wait? It’s easier to stick to your program if you already feel good about yourself. Get your hair done, take time to put on eyeliner, treat yourself to a facial, paint your toenails bright red—celebrate how beautiful you are today, and your mood and outlook will lift. You’ll have the drive and the determination to keep at your diet, because you already believe in the new, sexy you!
If possible, vary your workout and your diet. You don’t have to punish yourself with exercises or food that you hate. Find an activity that works on the same muscle group, or produces the same cardiovascular output. There are so many fun programs to choose from—bellydancing, water ballet, taebo, just to name a few. And a little time surfing on the Internet will generate thousands of recipes that use healthy ingredients and fall within the prescribed calorie count. Inject a little spice and excitement into your diet and exercise program, and it’ll be easier to stay on them.
Listen to your favorite music while working out. Not only will this help the time on the treadmill pass much faster, it’ll up your energy levels—especially if you’re playing upbeat music.
Stay away from negative people. You know them: they’re the ones who have the talent of deflating your spirits and making you feel like your diet is either stupid or futile. They say things, “You’re on another diet, again?” or “Well, it’s about time you went on a diet, you always were chubby. I hope it works this time.” If you can’t stay away from them, learn to ignore them. Remind yourself that you’re not doing it for them, so their approval doesn’t matter. Or don’t even tell them about your diet at all—if they can’t be nice enough to support you, they don’t deserve to know what’s going on in your life!
Start each day with a fresh slate. So you slid a little—skipped a workout, pigged out on pizza, and cheated on your servings of carbs. Don’t give up completely. Almost everyone has setbacks now and then; what matters is your long-term commitment. Shake off the guilt and get back on track.
Keep a diet journal. This is one of the best ways to record both your progress and the feelings or insights you develop along the way. Be sure to jot down what you eat for each day, your weight, whatever eating patterns you’ve discovered (for example, when your cravings tend to occur), and even your setbacks (understanding what happened will help you pick yourself up and prevent it from happening again).