Ah, discipline...that one concept that everyone loves to hate. Let's face it--if you're planning to achieve long-term health goals, discipline is one of those necessary evils you simply won't be able to avoid. But, while most of us would agree that employing discipline is one of the surest ways to achieve our goals, like anything else, it's easier said than done. So how can you develop diet discipline when all you want to do is eat what sounds good - regardless of whether it's good for you? Below are some eye-opening tips that will help you gain control of your eating habits, so you can win the battle over unruly cravings and keep your diet in check.
1. Start by reducing--not eliminating--the foods you love.
While there's definitely an argument for going cold turkey, for many people a complete elimination of their favorite foods is simply not a practical solution. So much of our eating habits is intricately connected to our emotional state, and if you've generally associated feel-good emotions with junk foods, it's going to take a while to completely sever that connection.
If you try to go too far too fast by immediately swearing off all junk foods, your mind hasn't been trained to think that this is an okay thing to do yet--it still associates too many good feelings with those particular foods. This will inadvertently send the message to your brain that "I can't have any good feelings anymore," resulting in a sense of loss or deprivation.
So instead of completely swearing off potato chips, just start off by eating half of what you would normally eat. Eat half of that candy bar that you love so much, and save the other half for tomorrow. Even if you put it down for 20 minutes only to pick it up again, you're at least doing the beginning work of rewiring those neural connections, which will teach your brain that you can enjoy the feeling of applying discipline just as much as the feeling of giving into those cravings.
2. Take a moment to think of the consequences.
Eating the wrong kinds of foods can definitely carry some short-term physical consequences (e.g., sugar rush/crash, bloating, indigestion, pimples, etc.), but the long-term effects of a poor diet can be even more harmful.
Is eating the next sugar-rich or fat-laden food really worth putting yourself at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure or heart disease down the road? And besides the potential physical health consequences, do you really want to reinforce those self-defeating feelings of guilt, frustration or even hopelessness after giving into a craving all over again?
If you work on painting strong mental picture of the negative consequences of eating unhealthy foods, you'll eventually become convinced that it's just not worth it.
3. Make yourself accountable to someone.
Isolation has the tendency to skew your judgment. If the only voice you're hearing is your own, it can be easy to justify any number of self-defeating behaviors. Becoming accountable to someone can inject a good dose of motivation into your dieting journey, and keep you on your toes as well.
Enlist the help of a personal trainer who can give you solid advice regarding the best type of eating plan for your particular weight loss goals. Your personal trainer will be able to keep you sharp when you're beginning to drift, and help you avoid the many pitfalls that have the potential to derail your progress. Simply put, you'll be much more motivated to stick to a disciplined diet when you have someone to hold you accountable.
4. Put off any "cheating" for just one more day.
Whenever you start a new diet, it's almost guaranteed that you'll be tempted to cheat sometime during the process. Instead of thinking "Wow, I'm going to have to fight these food temptations for the next three months," don't even think that far ahead; simply resolve to put off cheating for just one more day. Don't make any promises about what you may or may not do next week, or even in the next two days; just make up your mind to postpone eating that doughnut for just 24 more hours.
If that still seems too tough, try putting it off for just one hour. Once you get to the end of that hour, try going for another hour. You can abstain from practically anything for one hour, right? Using this method of "strategic procrastination" will help you ease the pressure of the immediate moment, and build a greater sense of self-discipline that will work to your advantage over time.
Keep in mind that developing diet discipline is a process, not at instantaneous event. Remember to be patient with yourself, and if you happen to stumble along the way, resolve to learn from your mistakes without beating yourself up.