Follow these three easy steps.
Diets, like clothes, should be tailored to you. — Joan Rivers
EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health
Iwas talking to a friend the other day, and he was telling me how it was time for him to get in the best shape of his life (ala Will Smith) because he just felt it was time.
I immediately got excited because I love when people realize the power they have to change almost EVERYTHING about their lives by starting with a great physical fitness foundation.
He shared a few things that he was going to start doing, and I instantly recognized where he was making a monumental mistake in regards to this lifestyle change. He wanted to lose weight as quickly as possible (who doesn’t?) and thought the best way to do that was to go on a no-holds-barred diet in which he would only eat salad and drink smoothies.
I immediately advised against this and helped him realize that when you take this all-or-nothing approach that cuts out all the things that you’ve gotten so accustomed to instantly, you are actually setting yourself up to fail in the long run.
Trying to give up too much too quickly is actually the opposite of what you should do if you want to make a lifestyle change that is lasting and not just go on a short-term diet.
Therefore, I shared with him three easy tips that I felt would be easy for someone to follow if they really want to make the diet change and lifestyle transition not only easier but also much more likely to be followed and sustained over time.
Change only one thing at a time
For many of us, our diet isn’t something that we often think about for much of our lives.
We were probably eating the same things since we were young kids and pretty much followed the philosophy that we ate whatever we liked.
If it was good, we ate more of it. If it wasn’t so good, we ate less or none at all.
This is one of the reasons that cheeseburgers, french fries, and pizza are so popular in the standard American diet, while broccoli and brussel sprouts are typically put on the back burner.
It’s no wonder then when someone decides to change up these decades of wiring by eating things that are healthy as opposed to just good, the body has a tendency to freak out and wonder what is going on.
Mentally, you are so used to eating things that are not healthy for you that when you try to immediately cut all of it out, it will almost feel like your body is craving it since it’s so used to it.
For that reason, instead of trying to cut all the bad habits out of your life, just choose ONE thing that you think is having the most negative impact on your diet right now and cut it out.
For some, it could be to stop drinking soda. For others, it could sweets. While for someone else, it could be red meat.
It can be different for everybody, but it is typically that one thing that is always in the back of your mind as something that you typically overindulge in and you know it is hurting your weight loss efforts.
When I started on this fitness journey 16 years ago at 25, for me it was high-fat content foods. It’s not that I ate a lot of fat-laden foods, but whenever I did, I recognized that I would always have the feeling of it just “sticking” with me longer than when I didn’t.
Therefore, I just stopped eating any type of food that had a lot of fat content in it. This typically translated into all types of fried food, potato chips, ice cream, etc.
I would read the label of anything I was thinking about buying to eat and if it had more than about 5% fat content in one serving, I just wouldn’t eat it. It was one of the four changes that I wrote about that completely changed my fitness life in a previous article.
This one change had TREMENDOUS results on my ability to lose weight and keep it off, as well as tone up in a number of different ways. Think about the one thing that you think holds you back the most and then resign to give it up to see where it leads you.
Find substitutes instead of just giving things up completely
This next step is important, as I just didn’t stop eating everything that I thought was bad automatically.
Instead, I would look for various alternatives that would (hopefully) taste just as good but that didn’t have the same fat content as the full-bodied version. Therefore, instead of eating all types of ice cream, I would only do low-fat or sugar-free ice cream. Gelato and sherbert ice creams were great alternate choices.
Instead of eating fried chicken, I just started eating grilled chicken with every meal. I honestly can say that I didn’t miss it at all and actually found that I liked grilled chicken better because it didn’t leave greasy stains on my hands or make me feel bloated and full afterward.
When you identify something that you think you should quit, don’t just give it up cold turkey. Instead, find something that you feel is somewhat comparable to what you’re giving up that still gives you a sense of excitement, so you don’t feel like you’re giving up enjoyment in life.
The trick is to just find something that is a healthier option for you. It might not even be the healthiest option, but as long as it is better than what you would’ve chosen otherwise, then you are moving in the right direction.
This is also the strategy I used to give up alcohol that worked well for me.
The only caveat is that you can’t now overcompensate not eating one thing bad by increasing the amount that you eat of other bad things. For example, if you switch fried chicken with grilled chicken, this doesn’t give you the ability to now have EXTRA macaroni and cheese to make up for that.
That would just defeat the purpose and keep you in the same spot as it relates to losing weight and keeping your diet under control.
The interesting thing is that, with time, you’ll be surprised at how you’ll slowly stop missing what you used to it and get used to your new diet, as it’ll become your new homeostasis and what it will expect.
Make it incremental
Lastly, when you are trying to make a lifestyle change, it’s not something that you can think you’re going to do overnight. This is often one of the biggest mistakes individuals make when they decide to go on a new diet.
They automatically think they are going to change everything about themselves in one fell swoop. The reality is that it has taken a certain number of years doing the exact same thing for you to be programmed mentally and physiologically to want to get certain foods.
This internal programming is not something that you can just turn off because one day you decide you don’t want to do it anymore. If you try to do it all at one time, your willpower is going to be tested so heavily that the likelihood of you sticking to it all at one time will be unlikely.
This often leads to someone ultimately deciding that they can’t do it and going back to the same lifestyle they led before since they will just figure it’s too hard.
When you make small, incremental changes, it’s much easier to manage. By choosing something small and sticking with it, you will gain confidence in your ability to have self-will and discipline.
Once you then see the results of your changes, and how it is helping you reach your fitness goals, this will then increase your desire to make other changes.
With the added confidence that you’ve gained from making the first change, you then choose something a bit harder to give up this time but something you feel you can do nonetheless.
This confidence and belief in yourself from being successful in this first go-around will help you do much better on giving up the next incremental item.
Sugar was a heavy substitute for me and something I had to ween myself off of slowly. I never would’ve been successful at giving it up/cutting back, had I not had the confidence from previously being successful giving up other things before it.
This way success begets success that begets even more success.
For each item, it may take you 3–6 months before you are ready to move on to the next item. For others, it may take longer depending on how much your body was accustomed to it and how quickly you are looking to see the results you desire.
For each decision, you should see some positive results that will hopefully be the strength that encourages you to stay on the path to get a little more disciplined with every increment you make.
And while no one says that you will see dramatic results overnight, by starting with the three tips above, you give the best version of yourself the chance it deserves to emerge.