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How to stick to a diet: 8 tips on how to achieve your fitness goals

When it comes to achieving fitness goals, most people have at least a general idea of the “how.” From a broad perspective, almost all of us understand that adjusting our diet and level of activity is the main way to bring about the desired changes in physique. The specifics will vary depending on your exact goals and preferences, but the basics have always been the same: weight loss requires burning more calories than you consume, while weight gain requires consuming more than you burn.

The “knowing” part isn’t a problem – the bigger issue comes with the “doing.” Almost everyone knows the feeling of starting a new healthy diet plan with the best of intentions, only to find themselves going back to the same food habits after a few weeks or even days. No matter your background, fitness level, or exercise preferences, consistency is required to achieve any type of fitness goals.

The good news? That also means consistency is accessible to everyone. You don’t need any special skills to show up and put in the work required to achieve your fitness goals. All it takes is the right attitude and a commitment to finding the time needed for healthy habits. However, that doesn’t make it easy – there will be times when you aren’t feeling up to working out, for example, or social situations that might make it tough to stick to your normal plan for food intake.

Below we’re sharing eight helpful tips that can help you stick to your healthy eating plan over the long-term:

Tip 1: Know your why

Too many people associate "dieting" with a set of eating habits they are forced into against their will. This isn't a productive way to view a new diet plan, because it focuses on the specific work required to achieve your goals. Instead of thinking about a new eating plan as a "diet," view it as the athletic lifestyle you are now a part of . Your why is wrapped up in what you will do with more strength, energy, health, and endurance.  Only you can determine your ultimate reason for changing your diet, but once you do, it's helpful to return to that reason to improve your motivation and make life-long changes Do this and body composition follows. 

Tip 2: Evaluate your taste preferences

As is the case with reasons for dieting, everyone has their own unique taste preferences. Some people love the classic examples of "healthy food" in the fitness community, like tuna and brown rice. Others might try to recreate their favorite foods with healthier ingredients than the original recipe. If you want to stick to a diet, it's important to know yourself and your tastes – there's nothing wrong with sticking to just a few different types of meals if you enjoy them and they are easy for you to prepare.

Tip 3: Factor in your lifestyle

Do you commute or work remotely? How many people are you responsible for feeding? What times are the easiest for meals? What's your kitchen space like? Where do you go grocery shopping? These are the kinds of questions you'll want to consider when planning a healthy lifestyle you can stick to for the long term. If you're having trouble staying on a diet, it might not mesh well with your daily responsibilities. 

Tip 4: Find a way to reward yourself

The endorphin boost we get from working out is great, but there's not always a tangible reward for having another healthy meal or another day of skipping unhealthy food. To overcome this challenge, you can build your own reward system that fits into the parameters of your diet. As an example, maybe for every 2 or 3 weeks you stick to your diet and exercise program, you could reward yourself with a new piece of workout apparel, a special type of protein shake, or another kind of healthy food treat. 

Tip 5: Allow yourself flexibility

No one can eat in perfect alignment with their fitness goals 100% of the time. We're all humans with relationships, work functions, holidays, and other occasions that tend to involve foods that may not be part of our healthy eating plan. Our advice is to not view this as a "cheat meal" or a "slip up," and not to look at these kinds of meals as "junk food" with no value. It is all just eating. Most the time we eat in accordance with our health and fitness goals. It is ok for some of the time for pleasure, socializing, or in celebration.  

A good strategy is to plan 80-90% of your meals to be in line with your fitness and wellness goals, while allowing 10-20% of meals to be connected to other important purposes like gathering with friends or celebrating a birthday or holiday. This reframe will help you avoid some of the short-term guilt that comes with indulging in sugary "unhealthy snacks" like ice cream, which are probably not part of your regular meal plan.

Tip 6: Add variety

Our brains are wired to crave new experiences, including meals. And while it can be hard enough to stick to a healthy diet without changing it up every week, there are ways you can create variety without a ton of effort. For example, you might add a new kind of sauce or marinade to a meal you're already used to cooking, or change the types of vegetables you use in a stir-fry or chili dish. Variety in taste, color, and texture of food can also be more satisfying. 

You can also add variety by changing up workouts in your exercise plan. For example, if you always do one specific type of cardio, like running, maybe try swimming or hiking instead. You could also add in a group workout, or consult with a personal trainer to get some professional input on how to vary your workouts.

Tip 7: Find support from others

Whether it's a family member, colleague, or a virtual accountability partner, it's always easier when you can talk with someone else who is also changing their eating plan. You'll be able to inspire each other with your own hard work, and when one of you is feeling down or unmotivated, the other can step in and hopefully provide some extra encouragement. Thanks to the internet, you can seek out a dieting partner or accountability partner anywhere in the world.

Tip 8: Choose the right supplements

We all know the importance of drinking water – especially when changing to a new eating plan – but there are other drinks, bars and supplements that will not only contribute to your well-being but also help make dieting a little easier. Protein powder supplements, for example, can help you gain muscle mass while making you feel more full, which in turn can prevent you from overeating. Supplements can also help achieve specific goals you may have with your dieting, such as adding more muscle mass or improving performance in a particular athletic event.

The final tip: never give up!

Lots of people start off a new year or new month with the best of intentions, only to find that their enthusiasm and discipline peters out sooner than they thought it would. It's tempting to feel down about yourself and get negative thoughts when this happens.

The key thing to remember is that one or two meals with a different goal in mind than your health or athletic performance isn't a cause for concern. Even if you have gotten away from your desired eating plan, you probably still have plenty of meals left in your life – there will always be opportunities to do better.

If you can follow the tips above, maintain a good attitude, and keep trying to achieve your goals, you'll eventually improve your health and achieve fitness success: a concept that should be defined by you and you alone.