How to Stick to a Diet

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Expert advice from our partner ChickRx.

Q: Whenever I start a new diet, I’m motivated for a week and then lose inspiration. Do you have any advice for staying motivated to continue a new diet or exercise routine?

Losing motivation is completely normal whenever you start a new diet and exercise routine. So here’s my advice on the matter: Don’t think of these changes as a “new diet” or a “new exercise routine.”

Instead, think of your diet and exercise changes as adapting a healthy lifestyle that will eventually lead to a happier (and hotter) you! These changes in diet and exercise can’t be thought of as temporary, because if that’s the case, then your old habits will inevitably return along with the feelings (and pounds) that accompany them.

I recommend adapting healthy lifestyle habits one (maybe two) at a time. If you change too much at once, you’re setting yourself up for failure because it’s difficult to stick to it when you make a lot of drastic changes all at once.

Here’s an example: During the first two weeks of your new and improved healthy life, you might commit to going to the gym three days a week and giving up soda. Maybe during week three you up the ante and commit to going to the gym four times a week, plus you eat breakfast every morning and a smaller dinner. Making changes one at a time is much more manageable and not nearly as overwhelming.

I generally don’t recommend counting calories, because I think it can get exhausting and somewhat discouraging when you consider food only as a source of calories rather than enjoying nutritious food and the benefits it can have on your health.

I do, however, think it’s important to be able to identify ways to decrease calories in your daily diet if you’re trying to lose weight. For example, when choosing a salad dressing, it’s generally a good rule of thumb to reach for a vinaigrette-based dressing (even better is a light version) rather than a cream-based dressing. Or, rather than drinking your morning glass of orange juice, reach for an orange instead.

As far as tracking your weight goes, the decision to weigh or not to weigh is a personal one. In the beginning especially, it can be encouraging to track your progress by stepping on the scale once a week (and always at the same time of the day). Weekly weigh-ins can also be helpful during the weight maintenance phase because it can help individuals identify a 1 to 2 pound weight gain before it becomes 4 to 5 pounds. On the other hand, some people prefer to track their weight according to the way their clothes fit. I’d say you should stick with whatever works for you!

Expert answer by: Andrea Garman, a registered, licensed dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. Read more answers to this question, or ask your own.

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