Getting in excellent shape is never going to be simple. The chances are, your body and your mind are most comfortable where you are right now. That is, you have fallen into an easy pattern with both the foods you eat and your daily activities, which have resulted in your current body. So, changing your body means you are going to make some changes that may not be so comfortable or convenient for you to follow long term. After months or years of eating more or less what you want, when you want (or at least caving in on a regular basis), the trick of getting in great shape is to break the pattern that got you to where you are, then develop new patterns that are in line with a healthier and better looking you. Before you decide to take on a new diet and training plan, it is important to ask yourself with pinpoint specificity, what are your ultimate goals? That is not to say; “I want to lose 20 pounds.”, as that will only get you to a point (even if you succeed). What you need to determine is what lifestyle changes can you make that will result in long-term, sustainable, and comfortable results that you won’t feel like you are agonizing to maintain them? How can you make this as easy on yourself as possible? Most, if not all diets fail at some point or another because they are simply too much of a deviation from your standard, non-dieting routine.
So what makes a diet easy? Essentially, the more in line with your effortless status-quo, the easier the diet is going to be to follow. That is, decent tasting food, satiety, not a ton of hours prepping food, convenience, and also variety all need to be included in a successful, long-term diet program. If you are dreading any part of the diet, you are sure to, eventually fail. Below are some keys that make a tolerable and rewarding diet that can be followed painlessly for months or years:
Give yourself options: Redundancy creates boredom, and boredom creates failure. Pick several foods and quantities that have about the same nutrient combination and feel free to use them interchangeably as the mood strikes you. For instance, chicken breast, turkey breast, pork tenderloin and lean beef are all pretty much the same in their nutritional values. The same is true of rice, potatoes, oats, and other type carbs. While there are differences, they are negligible and won’t really affect the outcome. That is not to say eat cake instead of rice or hot dogs instead of chicken breast though, as those, and other type processed foods behave differently in the body.
Eat according to your schedule: The common belief is that with a good diet you eat exactly every two or three hours. While this is important as protein is not stored in the body, don’t create havoc in your schedule by running out of meetings or pulling the car over to eat. Eat within a reasonable timeframe that adheres to your schedule. The more intrusive the eating times are on your day, the less likely you will keep it up.
Don’t eat foods you don’t like: Some foods don’t taste great to everyone. While the non-dieting version of you didn’t eat foods you didn’t like, the dieting version shouldn’t either. Every food on the planet has alternatives that match up very well. If you don’t like broccoli, eat spinach, if you don’t like spinach, eat asparagus, and so on. While many food groups are essential, specific foods rarely are. If someone tells you to eat two pounds of plain boiled chicken every day, but you can’t stand it, find a substitute. Not everything is for everyone.
Minimize food preparation time and buy in bulk: Eating clean, healthy and often requires a lot of food prep. Instead of cooking every day, cook your foods in bulk and store them for quick access throughout the days to come. The less work you have to put in the less likely you are to stop working. Cooking less often means less work, less clean up, and less total investment in the diet.
Keep backups on hand: Sometimes we end up in situations we don’t expect. An appointment runs long, we get called out unexpectedly. We won’t always have our perfectly prepared foods available for us. For that reason, it’s important to keep quick and easy alternatives on hand. This may be a protein bar, shake, dry food, etc. These may not be exact alternates, but they are close enough and much better than having to grab fast food on the fly or some other diet buster.
Learn about foods nutrition value: On occasion you will be unable to eat your planned meal or your backup. Be it you go out to eat with friends/family or otherwise, it’s important to be able to make good decisions on the fly. Learn what foods have what in them and order accordingly.
Give yourself some slack: No successful diet will be set up to follow 24/7/365. Holidays and birthdays arise where you may feel overly compelled to splurge, as well as just basic food cravings. Give yourself some slack ever so often and eat some foods off your diet. The important part is to not let this snowball. Christmas is one day, and is Thanksgiving and New years are also, so you need not eat badly from mid-November to Early January. Pick your battles and be reasonable.
Successful diets need to be rigid but don’t need to shackle your life. Anything that is uncomfortable will ultimately wear you down and lead to failure. Design a diet that fits your schedule and your lifestyle. Pick foods you can tolerate, give yourself some slack, and most of all, make things as easy on yourself as possible.