7 Hacks to Help You Stick With Your Diet

Behavioral changes you can make for short-term weight loss

For long-term, permanent weight loss, your best course of action is sensible, healthy eating combined with exercise. Still, there are times you may opt for a stricter diet over the short-term — to jump-start your weight loss effort, to slim down quickly for a big event or when undergoing a physician-approved fast or fasting-mimicking diet, for example.

Whatever your reasons, sticking to a rigid, calorie-restricted diet can be really hard, especially when your habits have been in place for years. But these seven diet hacks can boost your willpower and help make your short-term diet a success:

1. Do Ahead. One of the biggest dieting pitfalls is coming home ravenous at the end of a busy day and then having to prepare a healthy meal. Avoid this obstacle by getting organized the day before your diet starts.

Sit down with a calendar and plan out all your meals and snacks ahead of time. Then head to the grocery store, get what you need and immediately prep and portion as much as you can when you get back home. Doing this work in advance not only gives you ready-to-eat meals and snacks, it also provides a schedule for your diet, where each meal or snack is a box to check off on a list. When you get to the end of the list, your diet is over! Having this structure can greatly increase the likelihood of success.

2. See No Evil. For a diet to really work, you’ve got to stick to it, and that means consuming only those foods and beverages in your plan. That can be tough to do, though, if you’re constantly surrounded by food.

To keep from grabbing whatever you see, clear your desk and countertops of all food (even your pre-portioned snacks and meals), and stash non-diet foods and beverages at the back of cupboard and refrigerator shelves. This will remove the temptation and prevent mindless snacking.

3. Drink Up. If you’re usually an avid snacker, you’ve probably grown accustomed to that hand-to-mouth behavior, and skipping it can drive you crazy on a diet. A good substitute behavior is drinking water, because it gives you something to do and also helps you feel fuller.

Not only that, but research has shown an association between low hydration levels and obesity, possibly because people mistake thirst for hunger. So keep a full water bottle with you at all times and sip freely throughout the day.

4. Treat Yourself. Surviving a strict diet is easier if you create little rewards for yourself along the way. When a food craving strikes, drink a cup of delicious but calorie-free — and not artificially sweetened — herbal tea. {Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners may lead to weight gain.) Take your time and sip mindfully, savoring the aroma and flavor. Not a tea drinker? Try sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime instead.

5. Think Big. You’d be amazed at the volume of food that equals just 100 calories when that food is vegetables. A mid-day snack of cucumber slices, baby carrots, sweet bell pepper strips and grape tomatoes will leave you feeling full and hardly make a dent in your daily calorie allotment.

6. Turn Off Temptation. Food and the temptation to eat it is everywhere. We are constantly bombarded with content about food and beverages on TV shows and in commercials, social media ads, news feeds, magazine articles and even “scholarly” papers. Then there are all the real-life situations where tempting food and beverages lurk, like happy hour, the break room at work, movie theaters and, ironically, sporting events.

While it would be nearly impossible to remove all of these from your life, for a week or so, you can eliminate a lot of them by turning off the television, staying off social media and saying no to social invitations and other outings where temptation is likely to lurk. Worried about how you’ll fill that void? Read on to find out what you can do instead.

7. Replace Food With Fun. Skipping out on your favorite food and food-related activities can be a real downer, but not if you distract yourself with fun or relaxing activities. Take a leisurely walk or bike ride around the neighborhood each evening when the weather is right. Play cards or board games with your family or friends. Rent a movie to watch at home (just be sure it’s not one with a food or beverage theme). Meditate, try a relaxing yoga class, get a massage or take a bubble bath.

All it takes is a shift in perspective to make your short-term diet seem less like a punishment and more like a mini-vacation where the focus is all on you.

By Rashelle Brown
Rashelle Brown is a long-time fitness professional and freelance writer with hundreds of bylines in print and online. She is a regular contributor for NextAvenue and the Active Network, and is the author of Reboot Your Body: Unlocking the Genetic Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss (Turner Publishing). Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @RashelleBrownMN.

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