Whether you are cutting or ‘just’ losing weight, you will have to conform to a calorie-restricted diet for a longer period of time. We discuss seven ways to make that easier, all based on scientific research.
1. HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Set realistic goals. After all, expectations that are too high can lead to disappointment, which does no good for the motivation to diet [ i ] .
2. REMEMBER THE WHY
If you threaten to deviate from your diet, remember the why of your diet. Try to imagine as vividly as possible a future event related to your goal. For example, if your wedding is approaching, imagine what that day will look like and how confident you will feel, knowing you achieved the body you wanted. When the summer holidays are coming, imagine yourself on the beach and how you walk around there with your beach body. If you are a competitive bodybuilder, imagine how you will shine on stage.
This strategy, which can give motivation a significant boost, scientists call episodic future thinking. Several studies have shown that it can be useful in people who want to lose weight [ ii ] [ iii ] .
3. CREATE A DIET-FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT
Our environment influences our actions and decisions in myriad and invisible ways. For example, it is more difficult to eat healthy if unhealthy foods have a prominent place in the house [ iv ] [ v ] . It is better to ensure that they are not clearly visible or, even better, that you do not have them at home at all.
4. EAT MINDFULLY
Mindful eating involves:
- Do not let yourself be distracted by, for example, telephone or TV while eating;
- Eat slowly and focus on every bite [ viii ] ;
- Pay attention to your hunger signals and eat only until you are full*;
- You focus on things like the taste, texture, smell and appearance of your food;
- Approaching food as if it were the first time you’ve ever tasted it.
* Preferably eat as many products as possible with a high degree of saturation.
5. LOG WHAT YOU EAT
Tracking your food consumption through a calorie app contributes to a successful diet, several studies have shown [ ix ] [ x ] [ xi ] . After all, measuring is knowing, while using a calorie app is a relatively small effort.
6. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Tracking your progress is one of the best ways to keep yourself motivated to lose weight. After all, numbers don’t lie: they show you that you are on the right track.
You do that in the first place, of course, by means of the scale. Do not weigh yourself every day, but once a week, always at the same time (preferably after waking up and using the toilet for the first time). In addition, you can measure your waist every week and/or take a progress photo.
7. PLAN YOUR MEALS AHEAD
It is estimated that we make about 35,000 decisions a day. As the day goes on and the number of decisions we make increases, we begin to experience decision fatigue — the diminished ability to make rational, pragmatic, and prudent decisions [ xii ] . As a result, it can be difficult to make healthy choices for dinner.
The easiest way to get around this is to do all the thinking and plan your meals in advance. And if possible, prepare those meals (partly). For example, prepare all your meals on Sunday for the coming week. We also call it meal prepping. It’s the way to avoid having the pizza delivery come after a long day of work.
- [i] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16339128/
- [ii] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26431684/
- [iii] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26562686/
- [iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16418755
- [v] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25916909
- [vi] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24636206/
- [vii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6401674/
- [viii] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24847856/
- [ ix ] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.22382
- [x] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25220777/
- [xi] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23229890/
- [xii] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550616639648