Updated: Sep 12
Diet adherence is crucial for long-term weight loss. You must stick to your diet to avoid being stuck in the yo-yo dieting loop and failing to reach your weight loss goals - or any physique goal. How frustrating!
Even if top-tier scientists, nutritionists, and personal trainers all came out and found the ultimate fat-loss diet of broccoli and camel feet with a sprinkle of pig ear shavings, success would be minimal if you couldn't adhere to the diet in the long run. That is why adherence is the most essential aspect of any dietary plan. Fortunately for all the camels and pigs, there are ways to increase your dietary compliance to reach your fitness goals.
Losing fat is all about the calories consumed vs. the energy expended. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Similarly, you will lose weight if you burn more calories than you consume. There is no such thing as a magic weight loss pill or fat-burning superfoods. There are only tools to help people restrict calories and become more active. So, refocus on what you can do to comply with a calorie-restricted diet for success.
Now that we know about the calories-in, calories-out doctrine, let's dive right in. Here are the top six strategies to promote dietary adherence using a multi-stage model approach.
Tip: Grab a pen and paper and carefully approach each step for the best results.
Step 1: Inspiration
Inspiration is why you decided to tackle the journey in the first place. It sets the stage by clearly defining your goals, its purpose, and setting reasonable expectations.
What is your goal? Get specific. A vague statement of, "I want to lose weight," will not propel you to take action if there's no apparent reason defining it. The more details, the better.
What inspired you to set this goal? Is it because you have an exciting event coming up? Is it career-related? Do you feel insecure about the way you look? Are you inspired to improve your health? Do you want to make yourself more appealing to your partner or the prospect of one? Whatever it is, jot it down. But keep in mind that the most successful dieters are internally motivated. Research backs up this claim showing that people lose less weight when a doctor requests it of them, while those who were internally motivated showed tremendous success throughout the process and were less likely to regain the weight. So, evaluate why you want to reshape your body and ensure you're driven from within.
How long should it reasonably take? For diet adherence to work, you need to set reasonable expectations. If you're reading this, you probably wanted to lose weight like yesterday. But you need to set up a sustainable diet strategy - that means you should only aim to lose 1% of your body weight per week, which should last about 12 weeks. Planned diet breaks are also encouraged! For one, it will help avoid diet burnout, and two, it prevents regaining weight. Consider setting SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Based. Or hire us at The Michaud Method, and we'll customize a diet plan for you and provide all the support and encouragement to pave your way to success!
Step 2: Motivation
Many people believe that inspiration and motivation are interchangeable. But they're not. The former gets you to create your goal, while the latter is the pushing force that leaps you into action.
Have you ever spotted someone at the gym that inspires you to get in better shape? Your desire to change will only come to fruition if you have the motivation behind that inspiration. For this step, write down what will motivate you to take action. A bride-to-be may be encouraged to lose weight to look fit and fabulous on her big day, which would drive her to go to the gym and comply with her diet. While someone who is motivated by money may decide to lose weight to have better career opportunities. A common motivator for the average dieter is seeing the digits fall on the scale. But what happens when you hit a weight loss plateau? Suppose you are taking on your fitness journey with a friend - you go to the gym together, share your food journal on MyFitnessPal, and constantly motivate each other throughout the process. But what happens when your friend is stuck at home with the flu? Motivation can only take you so far, which brings us to the next stage.
Step 3: Intention
When motivation dwindles, there needs to be a solid strategy in place, so you do not blow your entire diet and give up. If you've ever dieted before, think critically about what caused you to feel discouraged. Then, develop a plan to overcome those hurdles.
Have you ever felt frustrated when your scale weight wouldn't budge? Telling yourself that this is normal and that you will continue to follow your food plan is an excellent way of setting your intentions. Or what if your dog passes away, you are experiencing burnout at work, or you are just feeling lethargic in general? And all you want to do is sit in front of the TV with all the junk food, striving for that dopamine hit. What can you reasonably do instead? Create a game plan to limit or avoid alcohol, improve sleep quality, and evaluate your calories and macros to optimize dietary compliance. Write down all the possibilities that could jeopardize your weight loss and the solutions to mitigate them.
Dieting is not easy for me either. I am a major foodie and love sweets and cheesy, carby goodness. I know that junk food may spiral into an episode of overindulgence, quickly setting me back a whole week of dieting. Then I bloat, become frustrated with myself and the dieting process, and struggle to get back on track, despite how badly I want to lose weight. To combat this from happening, I made a deal with myself to avoid any trigger foods that would cause internal chaos and make the diet harder than it has to be. In fact, yesterday, I wanted to go ham on a pizza, Oreo ice cream, and all the processed, calorically dense food that my heart desires. But I set the intention to walk 10,000 steps, increase my caloric intake by 600 calories for the day, and enjoy extra chicken, cheesy broccoli, and various fruits to satisfy my urge to overeat. It worked!
Step 4: Self-Restraint
It's one thing to tell yourself that you will or will not do XYZ (yummy pizza and ice cream, in my case). Still, it's another thing to hold back. Self-restraint will fuel the intention to stick to your diet even when the going gets tough. Practice discipline and know that your efforts will only benefit you.
This process also involves what you will do after overindulging and exceeding your daily caloric target. Does that mean your diet is doomed, and you should restart next week? No. Stay strong! Muster up your willpower and continue your meal plan the next moment the food or drink enters your mouth.
Step 5: Habit Forming
When you form habits, you don't need as much discipline to accomplish your goals. You go into autopilot and can easily say no when someone offers you a beer, a decadent slice of cake, or a second helping of your favorite Mac & Cheese. Nothing phases you, and you're in complete control. If you'd like to learn how to form better eating habits, click here.
Step 6: Celebrate Your Success
Dieting is hard for almost everyone, so when you hit a new low on the scale, it's time to celebrate your victory. Even if you're only 5 lbs. down, I encourage you to jump up and down, share the good news with your support system, and go crazy with confetti. Anything goes - but please don't celebrate by eating a whole cheesecake. Celebrate responsibly, but also give yourself credit when credit is due. If it were easy, everyone would walk around with washboard abs and look like bad-ass superheroes. Feel good about this new accomplishment. You deserve it!