Have you ever tried to switch to a more plant-based style of eating, but found yourself sliding back into old habits? If so, you’re not alone. Changing your diet can be difficult, and it’s important to have a plan for success. This article will give some time-tested advice about how to stick to a diet for the long run.
How to Stick to a Diet? Don’t Treat It Like a Diet
The word “diet” can mean many things. For the purposes of this article, we’re referring to a style or pattern of eating, not (necessarily) related to weight loss.
That’s an important distinction, because many such weight-loss diets are sold as short-term fixes. The trouble with this approach is that short-term diets only lead to short-term rewards. In order to reap the benefits of any new style of eating, you should plan for the change to be indefinite.
However, “indefinite” doesn’t mean “perfect”. One of the biggest mistakes that would-be healthy eaters make is to take an all-or-nothing approach. They assume that if they eat even one food that doesn’t align with their new goals, they might as well give up completely. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with having occasional treats or indulgences – in fact, giving yourself permission to do so can help you stick to your diet the rest of the time, because you know you won’t be permanently deprived.
Similarly, it’s important to make sure that your body is adequately nourished on your new plant-based diet. Many people associate dieting with drastically cutting calories, but this approach usually isn’t sustainable. A healthy, sustainable diet is one that gives your body the energy it needs to function over the long run. Eating adequate portions and getting lots of fibre and protein will help you to feel satisfied and energized.
Create New Habits
To set yourself up for success, make your new diet as automatic as possible. It’s a good idea to create habits that will make it easy to make healthy choices. Some examples include:
- Making a list of quick, easy plant-based dinners using staple ingredients you have in your kitchen. Pin the list to your fridge or keep it on your phone
- Making a weekly shopping list of healthy plant-based ingredients before you go to the store
- Bookmarking nearby restaurants with healthy plant-based options
- Subscribing to a plant-based meal-kit service or produce box.
- Having a regular plant-based potluck with friends or family
Focus on the Positives
Rather than thinking about all the things you want to eat less of, it can help to reframe your thinking to focus on all the new delicious things you can add to your diet. For example, adopting a more plant-based diet can be a great opportunity to try all sorts of new fruits and vegetables you may never have tried before. (Durian? Jicama? Dragonfruit?)
You can sample different kinds of legumes or unusual grains like Amaranth, Teff, or Kamut. You also have the opportunity to try different traditional dishes from various cultures around the world, many of which are predominantly plant-based. Looking at your new diet as an opportunity to expand your edible horizons will make it much more fun.
Have a Clear Purpose
Why do you want to eat a more plant-based diet? Is it to reduce your risk of chronic disease? Improve your energy levels? Benefit the environment? Whatever your personal reasons, it’s important to have them front and centre in your mind. You might even want to write them down or post a reminder somewhere you’ll see it regularly.
That being said, some reasons may be more motivating in the short-term than others. Reducing your risk of chronic disease in old age is a very worthwhile goal, but it can also seem very distant and far away. Focusing your attention on the more “here and now” benefits can help keep up your motivation. For example:
- Do you have more energy?
- Are you having fewer digestive issues?
- Is your mood improved?
Noticing and appreciating these things can give you a more immediate boost in motivation and help you stay the course.
Be Flexible and Find What Works For You
Plant-based diets come in many shapes and sizes. Some people may prefer to keep some animal products in their diets, while others may opt to be strict vegans. Some may choose to follow a traditional diet such as the Mediterranean diet. Others may have additional dietary restrictions or limitations for health, religious, or other reasons. All of these approaches are valid, and it’s important to find what works best for you.
On that note, we’d love to hear about your experiences on a plant-based diet. What habits have you found to be helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
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