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How To Avoid Derailing On Changes With Your Diet

This is a piece I’ve wanted to write on for some time as it’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years while consulting personal training clients.

There’s not a lot of talk about the mental side of sticking with dietary changes, but this is equally if not MORE important than the “how to” with what to eat for a successful body transformation.

I’ve witnessed literally hundreds of people set out to make changes in their diet and observed some pretty common recurring trends in behavior. Most people start out all gung-ho and look to make significant changes in how they eat.

This is not a bad thing in itself but far too often the expectations are not in line with reality. The pursuit of perfection, while futile by nature, leads to a cascade of negative emotions like guilt and failure when slip up’s inevitably happen.

In this post I’m going to cover the three most common traits of people who see the best results and are successful in the long term with making lifestyle diet changes.

At the same time we’ll address the most likely culprits that cause people to fall off the wagon and revert back into old habits.

For starters, let discuss the whole idea of starting a “diet.” Obviously this is a word that can have different meanings. In my experience people who jump from one fad diet to the next don’t fare very well in the long run. One month it’s the HCG Diet, then it’s the South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet, and the list goes on.

While diets certainly have their place in a fat loss program, they’re best used to compliment an otherwise supportive nutrition diet. In other words, diets are best used as a tool and not a lifestyle plan for eating.

If you don’t have a foundation of healthy eating habits and routines, once you end the “diet” it’s back to your old ways. We commonly refer to this as “yo-yo” dieting where the individual goes back and forth between the latest diet crazes.

This method only sets the person up for inevitable failure.

It’s very difficult and impractical to say the least, to try and stick with any traditional “diet” long-term. Sooner or later you cave in and crash on the diet. Instead of looking to simply change the way you provide your body with nutrients and energy, the objective becomes to strictly remain in-line with the diet protocols.

I’ve seen people completely fall of the wagon with their diet because they gave in and had something not approved in the protocol.

A lot of times we’re not even talking about junk food or big slip up’s. Maybe it was fruit, a piece of bread, red meat, or what have you. Their body craved something, likely for a good reason, but when they followed their gut (literally), it led to feelings of guilt and failure.

As we know things can quickly spiral downhill after this.

For the purpose of this discussion I’m going to use the word “diet” to signify a way of eating, not a particular quick fix routine. It’s the way you go about fueling and feeding your body on a daily basis. Changes to your habit and routines constitute changes in your “diet.”

Ok, now that we’re on the same page let’s look at the three most common traits of people who see the best results and experience true lifestyle diet changes.

Success Principal #1: Patience

There’s no question that people who ultimately are the most successful understand the process for change takes time. You don’t go for years on a poor diet and reverse things overnight. You must be patient with yourself and be in it for the long haul. Know going in there’s going to be challenges, slip-up’s, and obstacles in your path.

There’s a universal truth I want you to think about here for a second…

“Growth in all areas of your life will entail challenges and some degree of discomfort.”

Exercise provides us with the perfect lesson to display this truth. In order to increase lean muscle, improve your conditioning, etc, you’ll be required to push your body in ways that produce discomfort. Nobody ever saw results in a fitness program by “taking it easy.”

We all know you get out of it what you put in it!

Any growth, be it in your relationships, career, spiritual development, etc, will all require work, sacrifice, discipline, and persistence. This doesn’t happen overnight and complete perfection is never attained, no matter how diligent our efforts. We simply strive to get better each and every day on whatever is important to us.

Patience comes in by being in it for the long haul and not abandoning plans when the road gets rough.

There’s a critical lesson I want to touch on here in relation to diet changes. Invariably whenever a person sets out to remove excess sugars, processed foods, sodas, etc, from their diet, there’s going to be a period of discomfort and resistance. It’s a natural part of the process and should be expected.

The most successful people understand this truth and embrace it instead of fighting it. Quite simply they’re patient with themselves. When they cave in and consume some sugar after pulling it out for a while, they don’t beat themselves up and quit. Instead they get right back on track and get back doing the things that will produce the results they want.

Remember the big picture…it’s what you’re doing the majority of the time that makes the biggest difference. We’re only human, slip up’s can and will happen.

Be patient with yourself and allow CHANGE to happen. Sugar addictions can be one of the hardest things for people to break. While it’s true you want to take hard measures on cutting it out of your diet in order to condition your body to fuel off fats instead, this process won’t happen overnight.

Perfect over the short term or steady and consistent over the long term?

You can be perfect with your diet and eat no sugar, processed foods, etc, for an entire month, but what good is it if you crash and burn at the end and go back to your old ways?

Now granted you’d be much better off to give your body some additional healthy carbs from plant starches and sugars when needed than processed foods. If you have to give in and cheat a little do it from whole foods and NOT foods you know have zero nutritional value.

My point in all of this is that if you keep working on the changes to your diet (like pulling out sugars), over time things get easier and easier. If you keep after it week after week (even if you have small slip-up’s along the way) sooner or later your body will adjust to the changes and the cravings will dramatically subside.

The secret my friend is staying the course. As legendary strength coach and my mentor Dan John likes to say “little and often over the long-haul.” This leads us to success principal number two.

Success Principal #2: Consistency

Remember it’s what you do the majority of time that matters most. People who are ultimately the most successful and stick with a healthy diet simply look to establish habits and routines.

They pack a cooler with supportive nutrition snacks, protein shakes, and water to take to work. They prepare their meals and grocery lists in advance. Bottom line is they don’t leave things to chance.

Will-power can be weak when impulses are strong, and bad choices are easy to make when you’re not prepared. Those who are consistently prepared win out in the long run, period.

The same thing holds true for the exercise that accompanies dietary changes. Consistency is the key. There are going to be good days and bad days, but are you consistent with exercising no matter what? Unless I’m direly sick I’m going to stick with my set time to exercise each day.

Sure there’s going to be days when I’m dead tired, not feeling well, injured, etc, but I’m going to look to improvise and still get something done. Thirty minutes of walking on the treadmill is better than nothing. Don’t neglect the power of habits and sticking with a routine. Commit to consistency.

Success Principal #3: Short Term Memory

Those who are most successful in general all have this common trait. They’re constantly looking forward and not back. Watch Tom Brady after he throws an interception or any elite professional athlete when they miscue. It doesn’t make them blink…they’re right back on top of things focusing on the next play.

The same thing can be said for successful business leaders. How many times do you think Donald Trump has had a business venture go belly up? Nobody strikes gold on every deal. Heck, he’s repeatedly filed for bankruptcy on numerous occasions but remains one of the richest and most successful entrepreneurs on the planet.

The point is there’s no failure other than refusing to get back up and persist on. Individuals who are successful with making long-term diet changes likewise have very short term memories. They don’t beat themselves up when they’re not perfect. They chalk it up as a weak moment, a slip-up, a bad day, or whatever and get right back on top of things.

What they did in all their “yesterdays” doesn’t matter one bit with today. The focus is on the here and now and what can be done to get better.

The 3 biggest reasons people fail with making lifestyle diet changes…

#1: Not having a strong reason “why.”

Whenever someone comes in to my Charleston personal training studio for a consultation, one of the first questions I ask him/her is “what’s led you to the decision that NOW is the time?” The stronger the reason they have for wanting to make a change, the more likely they are to see exceptional results. I’ve seen these countless times over.

Show me someone who is highly motivated with a strong reason “why” and all I have to do is lead the way. These are the people who take everything about their workouts and diet very serious. They’re in it to win it and it shows. The body will follow in line with what the mind is focusing on.

Some people may think this is “wishy-washy” meta-physical stuff, but I’ll tell you straight up it’s the gospel truth. The more your subconscious mind gets programmed with what you want (a strong reason why), the faster you’ll get there.

Program your mind that you’re lean and healthy and you’ll find yourself taking actions that lead you there. Program your mind that you’re fat and chances are you’ll stay exactly that. This is a whole subject in itself, but you get the point.

#2: Not having a plan

This one seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many people omit having a clearly defined and well thought out plan. You wouldn’t expect a contractor to build your house without a set of blueprints. The end result would be a pile a rubble. What makes you think you’ll build your body without doing the same?

You’ve got to first establish what you want then clearly define what it is you’ll need to do to get there. If you know little about fitness program design or nutrition, what kind of plans do you think you’ll create on your own? This is where getting help from a coach can be worth every penny of your investment.

You’ll either need to invest time in educating yourself or invest in someone else’s time who’s already become knowledgeable. But either way you’ll need a plan for success.

#3: Not being accountable to someone other than yourself

This is a big one as we all need someone else to hold us accountable to our goals and plans. It’s easy to make excuses and justify things in our own minds. “Well of course I couldn’t get X,Y, and Z done because I had <fill in the blank>.” We all know the drill with this one.

Left all alone you’re an easy target. One day off your diet leads to two days and so forth. There’s nobody else who knows and can remind you of your commitments.

Don’t neglect the positive sides of this either. It’s helpful to have the affirmation and encouragement of others along the way. You need to have that feedback as a way to push you further down the path.

Obviously, this is what I provide with my personal training and coaching business, but this isn’t designed to be a sales pitch. Sure, I’d be grateful to earn your business and have you as a client if you’d like to use a trainer, but getting accountability one way or the other is essential.

Maybe it’s your spouse, a workout partner, a small group. Just look to have accountability from others if you’re serious about making a change.

I hope you’ve found this post to be encouraging and helpful. If I can ever be of assistance, even if it’s just with a question, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Coaching is my passion and nothing brings me greater satisfaction than knowing I’ve helped play even a small role in helping someone change their life for the better. That’s the good stuff, and it’s what gets me out of bed and looking forward going to work each and every day.

Also feel free to leave your comments and feedback below. Always love hearing from my readers. Until next time take care. -Shane

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He specializes in helping people achieve a body transformation with burst training exercise and whole food nutrition. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal fitness programs and start experiencing the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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