The Best Diet for Weight Loss

Only five percent of dieters maintain their weight loss for more than a year. Here's how to become one of those five percenters

Credit: mingaling

Sticking to a healthy diet is essential to long-term weight loss

Anyone who’s ever tried to lose weight knows that losing the weight is only the first step. The real challenge is keeping it off long term.

Before I get to the good stuff let me just say I hate the word diet. It has so many negative associations. Simply saying the word makes you think of depriving yourself of delicious, fun food. I prefer to use the term nutrition plan.

Say to yourself “I’m on a diet” and then say “I’m following a nutrition plan.” Which sounds better?

Nutrition plan is much more appealing isn’t it? It implies you have control over what you eat and doesn’t emphasize what you can’t eat, which stirs up all those feelings of denial and suffering.

Most diets work in the short term because they limit calories by restricting fats, carbs or both. But because they’re so restrictive they also fail in the long run because no one can maintain eating that way.

With a nutrition plan you actually plan on eating bad foods. You know, the good stuff: cookies, chips, ice cream, chocolate. You just have to know when and how you’re going to do this.

How to Succeed with a Nutrition Plan

To succeed with your nutrition plan you must also understand some basic physiology. Many dieters fail because they overlook this; they have a misconception that all you need to succeed is willpower. But thinking that way is a sure way to fail.   

To lose weight you need to have a calorie deficit, meaning you have more calories going out than coming in. You can do this either by increasing your activity, by eating less or by doing both. Just force yourself to work out and eat less with pure willpower. Simple right? Well, it’s not quite as simple as that. 

Getting more exercise or eating less will trigger a host of physiological responses in your body as it tries to adapt to these changes.

If you increase your exercise your metoblism speeds up and you’re hungrier. If you eat less your metabolism slows down but you still get hungry. In both cases, your body is trying to make up for the calorie deficit by telling you to eat more. Your body resists moving from its current state. That’s what makes dieting so hard. 

Whenever you attempt to lose weight you’re fighting your physiology, and physiology will always trump willpower in the long run. The solution is to get your physiology to work with you and not against you. This is where your nutrition plan comes in.

Flexible Dieting – Your Long-term Weight Loss Plan

To succeed long term you need to realize that you must change your eating and lifestyle habits for the rest of your life. No wonder people fail. Who wants to stop eating desserts and pizza forever? 

WIth a nutrition plan there will be times when you restrict what you eat. Cut back on sugary, salty snacks. Cut out processed food. Don’t drink alcohol. But there will also be times when you can have these things. The trick is to plan this ahead of time.

For some people, doing this on a weekly basis will work best. Simply follow healthy eating habits during the week and ease up on the weekends. For others, following a diet for a few weeks then taking a week off works better.

But don’t misunderstand what I mean by easing up or taking a week off. This doesn’t mean you can go hog wild and scarf down as much junk food as you can in that time. It simply means you can relax and not follow all the rules. 

Another trick to long-term success is to change one healthy eating habit at at time. If you need to cut back on processed food, begin by having one fresh meal a day for a week or two. Then have two fresh meals for a couple of weeks, then three and so on until you’re eating four or five fresh meals a day. Then begin working on another healthy habit.

By switching from a dieting mindset to a healthy nutrition plan mindset you’ll become one of the five percent who not only loses weight, but also keeps it off.