Thinking Thin

Training your brain to think like a thin person, and other psychological techniques for healthy weight loss.

10 Tips to Stick to Your Diet

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.

Judith S. Beck, Ph.D., is President of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy and author of The Beck Diet Solution (Oxmoor House).

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