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It takes time and energy to adopt a new diet plan and to stick with it. Here are some common reasons why you might be tempted to quit your diet – and some diet fix ideas to stay on it.
Trying to stick to a diet takes work. Once you’ve made the decision to take charge of your weight, you’ve got to break away from your usual routine. Instead of mindless eating patterns and loafing on the couch, you’ve got to start planning and cooking your meals. You also have to count your calories and make extra time for exercise. That’s a lot to tackle, which explains why so many people have a hard time sticking to a diet.
How Long Does the Average Diet Last?
It’s generally recognized that people diet frequently (and often give up), but the average length of time people actually stay on a plan is a bit hard to pin down. One survey from the UK found that women start, on average, three different diets a year. And they stay on each one for an average of about 19 days. By day five, two-thirds will have already cheated – tempted by at least one of the top five diet deal breakers: chocolate, potato chips, wine, pizza and cake.1
Another poll from Britain was slightly more encouraging and a lot more precise. In the 1,000 women who were surveyed, it was determined that they quit their diets after an average of five weeks, two days…and 43 minutes.2 Similar to the other survey, a quarter of the respondents had given up after two weeks, and by week four nearly half had quit.
Whatever the time frame – whether it’s five minutes or five weeks – the point is this: many people have a hard time sticking to their diet plans. Why is sticking with a diet so hard? And, more importantly, what can you do about it?
5 Reasons It’s Hard to Stick to Your Diet
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: When you say you’re going “on a diet,” it implies that, at some point, you’ll be going “off your diet.” This often happens when people try to adopt a diet plan that just doesn’t fit their lifestyle. Maybe it calls for a lot of food preparation, and you just don’t like to cook or you don’t have time. Maybe there are too many restrictions. So you quickly get bored, or you can’t find anything you can eat when you go out with friends or family.
Easy diet fix: Rather than trying the latest “diet,” focus on making lifestyle changes for the long term. If you don’t have time to cook or don’t enjoy it, seek out recipes that are quick and easy, and learn your way around a restaurant menu so you can always find something that works for you.
Once you’ve made the decision to “go on a diet,” you may have high expectations for your weight loss – especially if you find yourself making a lot of sacrifices. But if you expect to lose more than you can safely achieve over a period of time, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. And if you expect that you’re going to follow your new diet to the letter, you’ll probably abandon the whole thing as soon as you make a slip and cheat.
Easy diet fix: First, recognize that a safe and reasonable rate of weight loss is about one or two pounds (up to about a kilogram) per week. Recognize also that when you’re working to establish healthy new habits, it’s natural to slip once in a while. Rather than letting that diet slip turn into a diet fail and giving up altogether, try to learn from your mistakes and allow some time for the new habits to get established.
Your environment has a big effect on your eating. Think about what you keep in your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards at home, the snacks you have stashed in your desk, the burger places you pass on your commute every day. There are temptations all around you, and if you don’t take charge of your environment, it’s just too easy to give in.
Easy diet fix: Clear out tempting, high-calorie foods from your house and replace them with healthier items. Rather than a jar of candy on your desk or a bag of cookies on your kitchen counter, put out some fresh fruit or protein snack bars. Cut up some fresh veggies and put them in a highly visible spot in your refrigerator where they’ll be the first things you see. Stock your freezer and pantry with healthy staples, so you always have what you need to put together a healthy meal. If you can’t drive past your favorite fast food restaurant without taking a detour into the drive-through, find another route.
Too often, people think the quickest way to weight loss is to just eat as little as possible. So they skip meals and snacks, which leaves them hungry, tired and cranky. Then they crave sugar and caffeine to get them through the day. Skipping meals and snacks usually doesn’t help you lose weight, because you’re likely to just eat more at your next meal.
Easy diet fix: Work on establishing a regular eating pattern that will keep you from getting overly hungry. In general, people feel the need to eat about every three to four hours during the day, which means that most people need, at a minimum, three meals and a snack in the afternoon. When you know you’re going to eat every few hours, it makes it easier to control your portions at each meal and snack, too. You can teach yourself to eat just enough to hold you until the next time you plan to eat. And make sure that each meal and snack provides some low-fat protein to help keep your hunger under control.
Emotional eaters turn to food when they’re feeling depressed, angry or stressed. If they start on a diet and deprive themselves of the emotional comfort of food, you can imagine what happens. They just get more depressed, angry and stressed. If you find yourself eating when you’re not really physically hungry, you’ll want to work on finding other ways to make yourself feel better.
Easy diet fix: When you get emotional and feel the need to eat, take a moment to stop and simply acknowledge what it is that you’re feeling. Rather than ‘stuffing down’ the negative feeling with food, just let it be. It might help to write down how you’re feeling, or call a friend and talk it out. You can also tell yourself that you’ll wait five or 10 minutes before giving in. Chances are you’ll get busy doing something else and forget about eating altogether. Exercise is one of the best mood-lifters around. Instead of drowning your sorrows with sweets, put on your shoes and go take a walk, or get down on the floor and stretch instead.
1Engage Mutual Assurance. Cost of Dieting. July 23, 2010.
2 Daily Mail Online. Five Weeks of Willpower. February 11, 2013.
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Adding Tabata training to your current fitness routine is a great approach towards improving your overall fitness level and pushing your fitness to the extreme.
The Tabata mode of training requires that you work out at an elevated intensity level. The reason many people fall in love with this style of training is because it helps you to get maximum training results with minimal time commitment in the gym. This favorable timing makes Tabata a go-to favorite for those with a busy schedule.
Tabata training consists of a set protocol of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). A Tabata routine requires you to alternate intense bouts of exercise with periods of rest. The exercise timing is 20 seconds of hard work, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continually for eight full sets of the chosen exercises. A traditional Tabata routine is made up of four exercises in total, which makes your workout time a mere four minutes in length.
Four minutes, although incredibly intense, is not enough for many people and often leaves you wanting to spend more time exercising. It’s possible to piece together three or four Tabatas with a rest in between each complete set in order to make the entire workout time closer to 20 minutes. I’ve witnessed this format in a class setting, and it allows you to do a core, leg, upper-body and cardio Tabata for an extreme total body challenge.
The intense nature of Tabata training means that it’s not recommended for beginners. Participants need to be injury-free, healthy and already exercising at an intermediate or advanced level before attempting to take on high-intensity formats. Tabata was originally designed for one Tabata to be performed per training session, so I’ve provided my personal favorite leg- and glute-focused routine below.
Leg and Glute Blast Tabata
Exercise 1: Squat – 20 seconds
Rest: 10 seconds
Exercise 2: Right leg reverse lunge to knee drive – 20 seconds
Rest: 10 seconds
Exercise 3: Left leg reverse lunge to knee drive – 20 seconds
Exercise 4: Alternating lateral lunge – 20 seconds
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Take a tour of any large grocery store and it would seem we have “everything” we could want to eat, row after row of food offering something for everyone. After all, the average number of items carried in a supermarket last…
Read more on We Really Are What We Eat: Nutrition Gets Personal at I Am Herbalife.
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Sure, chocolate and strawberries make a delicious combo, but there’s more to pairing foods than combining items that taste great together. Get the most out of your diet by learning to pair foods that complement each other nutritionally, too.
People often ask me if there are certain foods that they should, or shouldn’t, eat at the same time. Some people have heard that “If you don’t eat proteins and carbs at the same meal, you’ll lose weight.” But a study published about ten years ago debunked that idea. On the other hand, there is another concept around food combining––sometimes called food synergy or food pairing––which recognizes that certain foods offer a bit more nutritional benefit when eaten together than if you eat them separately. Think of it as a nutritional ‘one and one makes three.’
Many fruits and vegetables contain compounds called carotenoids. These are natural pigments that give foods like tomatoes, carrots and spinach their beautiful hues––from the pigments lycopene, beta-carotene and lutein, respectively. Carotenoids function as antioxidants in the body, which is one reason why fruits and vegetables are such an important part of a healthy diet. These important compounds are fat-soluble, which means that when you eat your veggies with a little bit of fat, your body is able to take up more carotenoids. So, adding some healthy fat from avocado or olive oil to your salad, for example, will help you absorb the carotenoids found in the romaine lettuce, carrots and tomatoes.
Iron comes in two different forms in foods. One form called ‘heme’ iron is found in fish, meat and poultry, and it’s more easily absorbed by the body than the so-called ‘non-heme’ iron found in certain veggies and grains. When you take in some vitamin C along with a source of non-heme iron, your body will absorb the iron better. And it doesn’t take much: the amount of vitamin C in one orange or one tomato can nearly triple iron absorption. So, tomatoes in your chili will help you absorb the iron in the beans. Strawberries will help you take up the iron in your cereal. And the iron in spinach will be better absorbed if you toss some orange or grapefruit wedges into your spinach salad.
Green tea phytonutrients, which are naturally occurring and contain some unique and beneficial antioxidants called catechins, act to help protect the body’s cells and tissues from oxidative damage. When you add lemon to your green tea, the vitamin C can help your body absorb these beneficial compounds. If you don’t like lemon in your tea, have a fruit that’s rich in vitamin C along with your brew, like a bowl of berries or a sliced orange.
When you drink milk that’s fortified with vitamin D (as is nearly all the milk sold in the US), the vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium in the milk. But there’s another great way to pair these two nutrients––fish and veggies. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel provide vitamin D, and leafy greens like turnip greens, mustard greens and kale provide calcium. Pairing the two will help your body take up the calcium in the veggies.
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