The word ‘diet’ has a bad reputation. Most people associate the term with feelings of dread and deprivation. But a diet can simply be a plan you're trying to stick to or a curated list of foods that work best for your specific needs. After all, the word diet is said to come from the Greek word “diaita," which means “way of life." That isn’t so dreadful.
Not all diets are created equal, but since there's no one-size-fits-all in nutrition, you have to find the right one for your needs, whether your goal involves optimized blood sugar, metabolism, gut health, weight or even mental health.
Specific popular diets such as the Paleo, Mediterranean, AIP (autoimmune protocol), and the keto diet can have various health benefits for some people, including:
Some other diets can help with specific conditions:
(To ensure you're making the best choices for your body, you have to be careful not to only eliminate or add foods without consulting with a professional like a doctor, credentialed dietitian, or nutritionist).
How to Stick to Big Dietary Changes
With what feels like a laundry list of rules, diets can be difficult to stick with, even if they benefit a specific health condition.
However, you can make your diet enjoyable and realistic with the right tools and some planning. So, before you think about quitting, try implementing these tips and reap those health benefits.
One of the most important parts of choosing and starting a diet is knowing your why, as it can be a big motivator to keep up the new lifestyle change. Keep your health goals in mind, and set your self up for accountability. What dietary changes help you achieve your health goals may not be helpful for another. It’s all about personalized nutrition and making changes that are right for you and aligned with your goals.
Aiming to lower total carbohydrate intake to address concerns such as insulin resistance? A lower-carb eating style may be best. Or maybe you have an autoimmune condition you want to improve. The AIP diet may help with that.
Even if they’re specific, write down your goals, like achieving a certain HbA1c level or lowering your LDL by a particular amount. If you’re working with a credentialed dietitian or nutritionist, discuss your goals with them.
It’s easier to stay on track when you can envision how the lifestyle change can help you achieve your health goals and thrive. Keep that vision in mind when you feel like quitting.
Doing so will switch your mindset out of scarcity mode and into a growth-oriented one. Instead of thinking of what you’ll be losing, like a specific food, focus on what you're gaining. You may gain benefits such as improved energy, healthy weight loss, or saying goodbye to food comas for good.
One of the biggest hurdles to sticking to a big lifestyle change is preparing your plan of what and when you'll eat.
Tack a list of foods you want to consume more of (along with meal ideas) onto your fridge or store them on your phone. Just keep them somewhere you look at regularly. This way, you don’t have to memorize each detail and can simply pull up the list when you’re eating out or grocery shopping.
Another way to use these guidelines would be to look at them when making dinner plans with friends or family members. Suggest a restaurant you know will have options aligned with your health goals. Avoid slippery places (and people)!
Another critical piece to sticking with a diet is understanding your eating habits and how they may sabotage your efforts to stick with your lifestyle change.
It’s important to remember that while reframing your mindset is helpful for a long term, lifestyle change, it’s equally as important that you’re choosing dietary changes that feel sustainable to you. Part of doing that is understanding your eating habits.
Take a minute to grab some pen and paper or open a blank document and make an exhaustive list of potential eating habits that you think would make your lifestyle change challenging to stick with.
Next, come up with one to three solutions for each perceived obstacle. Learn to live in the gray area. Life is not black and white, nor perfect. You can still make progress.
For example, if you have a sweet tooth, you could search for recipes with foods that use naturally sweet foods like sweet potatoes or fruits. You can bounce ideas around with your dietitian or nutritionist. If sugar addition is a problem, the good news is your taste buds change when you eat less sugar. Many, many people have found their once intense obsession with sugar turned in a sense of calm indifference.
When making big changes in your eating habits, it's important to know your personal tendencies. Some people do better with abstaining from foods (ie keeping them out of the house), whereas others do well with moderating their intake to minimize cravings. The important thing is to know yourself and your limits, and set yourself up for success.
If you live with other people and this isn’t a realistic option, you can keep a designated cupboard or fridge shelf for the foods you want to include.
Remember to stock up on easily accessible foods for your meals and pre-prepped nutrient-dense items (think chopped veggies, pre-cooked protein foods, ready-to-eat yogurts, etc.) you can grab when you’re in a pinch.
Make sure to reference your prepared food list whenever you’re creating your grocery list or planning to stock up on certain items.
It may seem simple, but it's the most straightforward way to stick with a big lifestyle change—plan delicious meals and snacks that you know you’ll enjoy!
Make sure to base these on your food list and your eating habits and preferences. Simple is fine!
Meal prepping will take the panic out of figuring out what to eat at each meal, especially when adhering to specific rules. I promise you that being prepared is more than half the battle.