There is a reason why crash diets don’t work and that’s because they are not sustainable. If you can’t see yourself eating that way for the rest of your life, then that diet probably won’t work for you. If you follow a diet for a few months and reach your goal weight, but then stop the diet and go back to your old way of eating, you will just end up gaining back the weight that you lost. So what makes a diet sustainable?
It needs to be easy.
If a diet is hard to follow, then you probably won’t end up following it. A diet plan should be catered to your specific lifestyle, include meals/snack at times that are convenient for you, include foods that are easily available and within your budget, and allow some convenient options for days that you might need it.
It needs to be flexible.
Not every day is the same and no human is perfect. There will always be days where you can’t control your food options. You will have days where you are busier than others, days where you have to travel, holidays or weekends away, work functions, birthdays and so many more. If a diet is very restrictive, eliminates food groups or gives you limited options, that diet will be very difficult to stick to at those times. A sustainable way of eating needs to provide you with the tools to make good choices even if they can’t be perfect ones.
It needs to be enjoyable.
To put it simply, if you don’t enjoy what you eat then you probably won’t be able to stick to that way of eating for very long. The psychological pleasure that you get from eating a meal is very important. If you don’t enjoy your food, then you may be more likely to seek out foods that you do enjoy. That doesn’t mean that you must eat a McDonalds burger every night for dinner. What I mean is that you must not force yourself to eat a tuna sandwich if you hate tuna. If you don’t like bran cereal, then don’t force it down because you think it will help you lose weight. Rather choose food options that you enjoy and that are also healthy for you, such as making your own healthy version of a burger.
It needs to be healthy.
By healthy I mean that it meets your macro and micro nutrient requirements. Not getting enough nutrition from your food cannot only lead to diseases, but it can also affect your energy levels, your mood and you’re sleeping patterns. Diets that eliminate food groups also cut out important sources of nutrients that you may not be able to get from other food sources. When it comes to weight loss and dieting we often forget about health. Health often comes second to weight loss, but by being healthy we can often end up losing unnecessary weight as a bonus.
It needs to allow you to have the occasional indulgence.
If you think that you are never allowed to each chocolate again then you will probably put chocolate on a pedestal, fantasies about it constantly and eventually binge on it. Rather allow yourself to indulge in those foods every now and again. I like the idea of allowing yourself to include those foods 20% of the time. So 80% of the time you eat healthily and the other 20% you allow yourself to indulge. 20% of the time is once, maximum of twice, a week.
If your goal is to lose weight and keep it off, then you need to follow a diet that you can see as being a lifestyle. It needs to be easy for you to follow and allow you flexibility in your choices. You need to enjoy the food that you eat and ensure what you are putting into your body is healthy. Lastly, and just as importantly, you need to allow yourself to have the occasional indulgence if you feel the need.