How to Stick To A Diet: Swap Your Fad Diet For a Sustainable Lifestyle
Let me lead off by saying that no one knows how hard it is to diet more than I do. Over the years, my relationship with food has been a total hot mess. On top of that, my mindset around eating was borderline unhealthy. I never saw a problem with this throughout college, even while my out-of-whack eating (or not eating) habits drastically effected my weight depending what time of year it was. All of that changed for me post-college as I was made aware of my bad eating habits. If you’re looking to learn how to stick to a diet, one that is actually healthy, stick with me. But before I jump into what I’ve learned over the years, here’s a bit of my backstory with food.
Table of Contents
|The Truth About Crash Dieting|
Reality Vs. Fiction
Cardio Will Not Solve All Your Overeating Problems
|9 Tips for Sticking to Healthy Eating Habits|
|Navigating Cheat Meals|
|Favorite Healthy Foods for Feeling Satisfied and Full|
|Fun Foodie Facts About Me|
How to not stick To a diet: Crash Dieting
Back in college, summer and springtime for me were all about being on the beach in a bikini. In my mind, this meant I had to be at my absolute thinnest. This led to crash diets or short sporadic periods where I often wouldn’t eat much at all for a couple weeks at a time, leading up to any beach or pool excursion. It never occurred to me that I could possibly have an eating disorder. I pretty much ruled out the possibility of anorexia because when I wasn’t crash dieting, I would eat just for the sake of eating and much more than any of my friends! Of course, in college my metabolism was working at an all-time high. I often stayed on my feet and did consistent 6am workouts with the ROTC program I was in, so I never worried too much about over-eating either.
On the other hand, fall and winter seasons were all about comfort. I didn’t care how much or how often I was eating then. I knew that even if I gained ten pounds, I could just wear oversized sweaters and yoga pants! Throughout the year, I pretty much anticipated this see-saw of eating habits and weight gain/weight loss. And again, due to my metabolism, it didn’t matter much to me. I didn’t know how to stick to a diet of any kind back then, but luckily for me, it hadn’t showed.
A Big Dose of Reality
Fast forward to age twenty-five, having a full-time desk job, and maintaining those same unhealthy eating habits. This time the weight gain came, and it absolutely stayed. Even while finding ways to workout each week, not being on my feet constantly and having a slower metabolism played a huge role here. Throw in the factor of having a weight-lifting obsessed boyfriend who lives with you and eats six eggs a day and massive amounts of food to support his muscle “gains,” and you’ve got a serious case of food FOMO (fear of missing out) on your hands. That often led to not being able to stick to a diet with healthy and smaller proportions. I also felt like what I was going to eat next controlled my every thought!
I have also found that crash diets just don’t work for me anymore. And nor should they because they’re horrible for you. I found fad diets impossible to do because of the food FOMO! Most importantly, having an unhealthy relationship with food was effecting my happiness. I knew something had to change.
Read my blog, “Learn to Love Working Out with Orangetheory Fitness.”
A World Without Any Thoughts of Food…A Blessing or A curse?
My ideal relationship with food would be to never have to think of it ever. Obviously this hasn’t only ever existed for me in the alternate universe that is my fiction novel Genesis Mortalis, Book 1 of the Take It Trilogy. I pretty much wrote the book to where there is probably one instance in all 300 pages of a character eating an apple or something LOL. Unlike an actual reflection of myself, Madisyn & Marcelle are much more focused on the job at hand – kicking butt and taking names. Which is probably how they stay so fit for missions. You would never catch one of these beautiful billionaire bosses catching that post-pizza sluggishness! This is what I strive to be on the daily…until hunger strikes, and when it does, it gets me good. But to get back on track…
Death By Cardio
It is important for me to acknowledge that I’m not a huge fan of the scale because a lot of my weight gain has actually come from muscle gain. Not all of it, but certainly a lot. In college, I only thought of exercising as “cardio” because of how cardio-intense our ROTC workouts were. I had never touched a weight in my entire life. (I played golf elementary through high school, so weight training wasn’t something taught to me in sports either.)
Being out of college, I started Orangetheory gym classes. This shifted my knowledge on the importance of weight training and muscle gain. But to get back on point, standing on the scale wasn’t what I had much of a problem with. Rather, it was seeing my body physically change that made me realize I needed to figure out how to stick to a diet. One that is actually worth sticking to as well.
Maybe you’ve heard the saying…
You can’t outwork a bad diet.
You can’t run off an entire large pepperoni pizza…trust me, I’ve tried multiple times throughout my life. Trying to outrun a bad diet was exactly what I was doing in college and for a year or so after. I hadn’t decided to do something about it really until January 2022. The holidays are tough for everyone when it comes to over-eating, so naturally I decided to make the new year about restoring my relationship with food.
Here’s what I’ve learned regarding sticking to a diet, including how to eat less while staying full longer to avoid food FOMO. This mindset switch and new habits have helped me to view what I eat as nourishment for my body. Food is not “the enemy” — nor does it need to become an unhealthy obsession that controls your thoughts and day.
How To Stick To a Diet That is Healthy and Works
- Ditch the carbs at breakfast and lunch time. Instead of eating avocado toast for breakfast, I typically go for a small plain avocado and/or a yogurt. You can make your avocado sans le toast just as yummy. Simply cut it in half and season with turmeric, pepper, a tiny bit of Himalayan salt and a small drizzle of chili oil. Since avocados are filled with healthy fats, eating one will keep you just as full until lunchtime. The yogurt I prefer is Silk Coconutmilk Greek Yogurt because of the extra protein per cup. Occasionally, if I do eat toast, it’s Dave’s Killer Bread, 21 Whole Grains & Seeds.
- And I especially avoid carbs around lunchtime like the plague. This typically leads to midday sluggishness (and no productive boss babe has time for that!) Typically for lunch, I’ll have a bowl of ready-made Asian Chopped Salad Kit and add rotisserie chicken or smoked salmon on top. Or for even healthier salad option, I’ll sauté some shrimp with fresh spring mix, diced tomatoes and cucumbers, sunflower seeds, and Wish Bone Garden Herb Vinaigrette, which is super low calorie.
- Up your protein and make it your go-to when you’re feeling snacky. Protein is your best friend when you’re trying to lose weight or stick to a diet because it can be very lean and low in calories. When it comes to meat, I typically will keep a rotisserie chicken on-hand. It’s already cooked, it’s easy, it’s affordable, and it tastes amazing! Chicken is one of the leanest meats as well, which makes it great. Smoked salmon and shrimp are two of my other favorites that are quick to make. Sometimes for a quick option I’ll buy the packaged smoked salmon for a salad – not as good, but it’s easy. Eggs are a great option for breakfast, and yes, you can eat the whole egg and still lose weight! When hunger strikes, have a boiled egg, protein shake, or high protein Greek yogurt readily available to wield off the urge of opening a bag of chips.
- Always include a hefty portion of veggies with your lunch or dinner. Adding a lot of vegetables to your protein will help you become full more quickly. This is because you can have a lot more of them for practically no calories.
- Don’t be too afraid of oils. Healthy fats and oils are an essential part of our diet. They can help you stay full and add lots of flavors to your meal. I typically opt for coconut oil and chili oil. For special occasions I’ll add olive oil as well (though I typically prefer this one in a 0-calorie canned spray).
- Go easy on the fruits. I realize this is against everything you’ve probably been told, but fruits have a ton of natural sugar. Too much sugar can spike blood sugar and insulin, making you hungrier. You don’t have to completely stop eating fruit though. Choose fresh fruit options and limit how much of it you’re eating.
- You don’t have to skip dessert. I know this is great news if you’re like me. I am a dessert fiend thanks to my nana who always made sure her grandchildren had dessert growing up! However, you must be strategic about how often, how much, and what kinds of dessert you opt for. When trying to stick to a diet, it’s important to treat yourself in order to keep from falling off the wagon. I like to substitute most of my dessert for fresh strawberries and Redi-whip. OR I like to have a cup of Silk Almondmilk Yogurt (which has a little more sugar than the coconutmilk Greek yogurt cups I eat for breakfast) and add a tablespoon of plant protein powder.
- If you’re feeling like these options just aren’t going to get you off your dessert craving, my absolute favorite healthier dessert option is Sweet Loren’s Cookie Dough. This cookie dough is gluten and dairy free, vegan, and has clean ingredients. My boyfriend and I actually stumbled upon these by mistake. He accidentally bought these instead of the normal cookie dough, and we just happened to love them!
- Keep your meals interesting. I’ve never been a fan of meal prepping. The thought of making a large amount of the same food and eating the same dinner every night for a week sounds awful. For me, eating boring food or the same food leads to ordering takeout. An easy way I found to have healthy, tasty, and different meals each day – Hello Fresh! My boyfriend and I absolutely LOVE Hello Fresh. We can choose our meal options the week before on the app, have them delivered on Sunday night and have a quick, interesting, yummy meal every night of the week. Their boxes come with just enough fresh ingredients for your requested serving.
- We typically do 2 servings and have plenty of food for my boyfriend to have a large portion and for me to have a small portion. If you and your partner eat the same amount you’ll definitely both get plenty splitting the 2 servings evenly. The meals typically take between 20-40 minutes and turn out so delicious! If you’re hoping to stick to a diet, this meal service will make it more sustainable to eat healthy home-cooked meals.
- Combine healthy eating with a healthy exercise and sleep routine. Watching what you eat plays a huge role in losing weight. But you’ll see much more dramatic results when combined with other healthy routines. Find an exercise that works for you that you can maintain at least 3-4 times a week. Even if it’s just walking for a half hour. Any exercise is better than nothing. And always be sure to get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. I typically go for 8.5 hours. I also try to get to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time so that my eating schedule doesn’t fluctuate too much. Avoid staying up too late at night. This can lead to being hungry again after dinner. And you’ll definitely be more likely to reach for an unhealthy option.
- Get some outside help. Outside help for sticking to a diet can come in various forms. For some people, their live-in significant other or roommate might be a great accountability partner. For others who have a partner on a completely different eating routine, the best form of outside help I have experienced is doing LED body sculpting sessions. Why? Because it completely removes your hunger – no seriously, I’m not kidding. This might sound drastic even, but if you’re someone who has had an unhealthy obsession with eating or a problem with food FOMO, anything that will reduce your appetite helps.
- How does this process work to remove hunger, you might be wondering? The more fat cells you have, the more hungry you feel is what I’ve learned from research. This is why operations like LipoSuction help those who are overweight or obese kick-start their weight loss plan. The MyLipo non-invasive body sculpting machine does the same thing by zapping away fat cells with heated LED pads. For more information on this and my experience using it, check out the blog “Red Light Therapy Pros & Cons: My FREE Week of Wellness & Kickstart to Weight Loss.”
Okay, I know you must be wondering now… What about those so-called diet “vices” such as alcohol and cheat days/meals that might tempt to throw you off your game? Anyone who knows me knows that I am a HUGE wine connoisseur. So no, I would absolutely NEVER tell anyone to completely cut alcohol out of their diet. The key to sticking to a diet is to have balance. Know how to enjoy yourself responsibly!
- When it comes to alcohol — Have that favorite drink of yours but stick to one glass. And try not to make a habit of drinking every night with dinner. If this is already a habit of yours, take baby steps to limit how much you drink per night! Keep in mind that beer and cocktails can have a ton of calories or sugar. If these are your go-to beverages, choose lighter options like light beer and mixed drinks with less syrups. OR treat yourself with the real deal fewer times a week.
- When it comes to cheat days and cheat meals — I always make a habit of at least treating myself once or twice a week with a cheat meal. This includes going out to eat at a restaurant. This is totally healthy and will keep you on track for making home-cooked meals the rest of the week. Let’s get one thing clear though: there is a difference between a cheat day and a cheat meal. If you’re trying to stick with a diet, having a cheat day where you indulge in unhealthy takeout all day will quickly throw you off track. Stick to savoring a cheat meal or two and avoid indulging all weekend. If you’re on vacation though, feel free to indulge a little!
My Favorite Foods for Feeling satisfied and full
- Avocado – Love this fruit either by itself for breakfast or topping a salad or rice dish! Avocados can help you stick to a diet because of how full they keep you. If your digestion system is sensitive, you may need to limit your intake because this fruit is incredibly high in fiber.
- Matcha – I absolutely love this powdered green tea because of ALL its benefits. The main reasons I love it: matcha gives me sustained focused energy, doesn’t upset my sensitive stomach like coffee, and keeps me feeling so full! You can find matcha green tea lattes at just about any coffee shop nowadays. I prefer keeping a bag of organic matcha powder at home so I can drink it more often without paying $6 per latte. ALSO, matcha is great to add to smoothies!
- Kale – My all-time favorite superfood for like the last five years. Kale is amazing because of how filling it is. I typically will cook an entire pan of kale – and unlike spinach it doesn’t shrink. Because of this, kale will often make up the biggest portion of any meal I eat it with. Somehow, kale doesn’t mess up my stomach the way I’ve heard other people complain about. It’s filled with fiber, so if you’re not used to kale, start by trying a little at first. I prefer to sauté kale on the stove top with a bit of oil and seasoning, but I also enjoy it as a salad. Trust me, if you’re looking to stick to a diet, eat a plate full of kale.
- Almonds – These power nuts are incredible. You only need a handful to curb your appetite. This makes them perfect for between meals. You can also add to a meal like a salad to make it more filling.
- Greek Yogurt – As stated earlier, I love Greek yogurts because they’re high in protein and low in sugar. Because of the high protein content, this type of yogurt keeps you fuller longer. They do typically have more calories, but I actually love that factor since it allows me to eat less with breakfast and still feel full. I usually always opt for the non-dairy yogurts since I’m lactose intolerant. But also choosing a plant-based yogurt is great since dairy can often cause inflammation and bloating.
- All Plant Protein Powder – I am a huge fan of protein powders, and an even bigger fan of the plant protein powders. They contain more nutrients than whey and can provide all nine essential amino acids. Protein powder is great for post-workouts and also to keep you full between meals. This makes it much easier to stick to a diet if you’re getting in a protein shake or two. I have a plant protein that is flavorless (it actually has a mild taste that I love by itself), but this makes it perfect for cooking with as well! I’ve added my plant protein to pancakes, sprinkled over eggs, and even to bake with. Want to know my favorite brand of plant protein powder? Subscribe to my email list to find out!
Example A and B of my kale addiction! Scroll through my Food & Wine and Wellness Highlights on Instagram to learn more about how I maintain both a healthy and balanced lifestyle. (FYI, I know how to indulge on good food from time to time!)
Fun Foodie Facts about me!
Food that I love that HATES me: Brie Cheese
I used to love brie cheese more than anything else in the world ever since I first got a taste in my high school French class. My sister once baked me a huge wheel of brie as a birthday cake and drizzled blackberries on top…it was totally amazing. Unfortunately, I recently developed an intolerance for lactose. I have no idea how this happened because I’ve eaten cheese my entire life! It’s literally my favorite food group, or was at least. But now my body pretty much can’t handle most cheeses or anything with cow’s milk. Sigh…
Favorite Seasoning of all time: Turmeric
Turmeric is this amazing orange powder typically found in Indian dishes. I have cooked with it for years because it’s great for inflammation and for your skin’s complexion. You absolutely must use pepper any time you use turmeric to get its benefits. This is because the pepper activates the curcumin in turmeric that helps the body absorb it. I have a really great turmeric latte pre-made mix that I love (that also has a dash of black pepper in its ingredients). It tastes great by itself, with coffee, or even for making curry dishes. Subscribe to my email list to find out my favorite brand of turmeric latte mix as well as other turmeric products I use.
How’s all that for sticking to a diet? If that was a lot of information for you, no need to worry. Start off by changing one part of your current lifestyle in one of the several ways mentioned above. Gradual transition is the ultimate key to success when it comes to sticking to a diet that is sustainable and balanced. Have some tips that you found to have worked over the years? Drop it in the comments below and let’s get a conversation started!