Dieting and weight loss have been two hot topics for ages now. There’s always a big hype around these topics, and as a personal trainer, I know that first hand. Everyone wants to be lean, look sexy, have a six pack and a nice toned up body. Most people think that happens just by giving everything they got in the gym… and that’s pretty much it.
Nothing further from the truth. Working out hard is just half (if not less) of the battle. If you want to see results you need to stay on top of your diet. It doesn’t matter how many hours of cardio you are doing, how many push-ups or crunches, or how many times you workout per week, if your diet is all over the place, all the time and effort you put into your workouts will be practically fruitless.
For most people, its not going through an intense 45-minute workout 3 or 4 times per week that’s the real challenge, its eating clean on a long-term consistent basis. You’re done with your workout when you step out of the gym, but you are never truly done with eating the right stuff.
Now, this might sound a bit rough and harsh, but dieting doesn’t really have to feel like dieting at all. There are creative ways to make dieting a part of your lifestyle, while still enjoying a dinner out with your friends or the foods that you love. It is a learning process, without strict rules that work 100% for everyone.
So, in an attempt to make everyone’s diets more enjoyable, we reached out to some of the best fitness experts and asked them one simple question: What are your top tips for staying on top of your diet?
In an attempt to make this article a little more fun, we had our artist draw up some custom illustrations that hopefully will put a smile on your face 🙂
These tips are in no particular order. Just read them all and find which ones resonate with you.
Please share this article with anyone you feel may enjoy and benefit from any of these expert’s tips!
Anyway, without further delay, here’s the outcome.
#1 Kindal Boyle, Lifting Revloution
Start small. You’ve eaten the way you have for a long time. It’s unrealistic to change your habits overnight and often leads to frustration and giving up within a week or two. Instead, start with small changes.
Try eating a cup of vegetables with each meal, try to drink 3 liters of water/day, focus on JUST eating healthy lunches for a couple of weeks before tackling other meals, etc. Small changes add up over time and allow for lifetime habits to form.
Be okay with being imperfect. People tend to give up at their first slip up. “Ugh, I ate the slice of cake, I might as well just the rest of the cake and all the leftovers from dinner too. I suck, I can’t do this.” Instead, focus on being imperfect.
Know that eating “bad” from time to time will happen and doesn’t mean you won’t hit goals. Eat the cake, drink the wine and get right back to healthy habits.
Forget diet titles. Just eat real food. No one ever gained weight from too much broccoli. Avoid diet fads and labels and focus on a diet made with real ingredients of mostly vegetables, seeds, nuts and healthy cuts of meat.
#2 Nicole Crane, Foodie Loves Fitness
Plan ahead. It can make all the difference to meal prep and have a plan for what you’re going to be eating each day. I recommend and personally use MyFitnessPal to keep track of calories, macro percentages, and vitamins & nutrients. I also like to plan ahead by making a few healthy snacks at the beginning of the week to have on hand as a quick grab-and-go snack or little bite if I’m starving when I get home from working out. Additionally, I keep protein bars everywhere for an emergency fix if I’m getting hungry and need something healthy.
Don’t let your weekend be your weak end. After you’ve gotten in all of your workouts and eaten well all week, you may be tempted to let loose on the weekend. And while it’s definitely ok to have a glass of wine or eat a bit more than you usually do while out to dinner here and there, if you pig out and drink like a fish every Saturday night, you’re not going to have consistent weight loss. A few ways to avoid letting your weekends be your downfall include planning date nights at healthy restaurants and doing active things with friends, such as trying a new fitness studio out together or going for a hike.
Don’t be all or nothing. It’s so easy to have an extremist attitude towards dieting, but the truth is, you’re not always going to be perfect. Having ice cream one night will not sabotage all of your efforts. Missing a workout during a chaotic week doesn’t mean that you should completely throw in the towel and eat an entire pizza for dinner. Give yourself some slack if you didn’t do every single thing right that day, and start new the next day.
#3 Tina Haupert, Carrots n’ Cake
Meal plan every week
I love meal planning so much, I started a custom meal plan business called Designed to Fit Nutrition. Every week, I sit down a plan a week’s worth of meals to keep myself on track. I find that if the food is already prepped and ready to go, I’m much more likely to stick to my plan instead of grabbing take-out or eating 5 bowls of cereal for dinner.
Ask yourself: Can this fit into my lifestyle?
A lot of people try to change too much at once when they want to get healthy. For me, making one small change and seeing how it fit into my life (before adding another) was what ultimately made them stick. If something didn’t work, I tried something else.
Maintaining my weight is all about balance. If I overindulge at a weekend barbecue or mindlessly munch throughout the afternoon, I don’t throw in the towel. I make sure my next meal is healthy and move on.
#4 Scott Laidler, Scott Laidler Fitness
When setting out on a diet plan, start by changing one thing at a time, if you set out at first to have one perfect meal each week, that’s a far more achievable goal than a complete overhaul.
This way you can build upon your progress gradually, successfully doing the things you set out to do is the key to self-esteem and continued motivation
#5 Nick Nilsson, Fitstep
To really stick to a diet or eating plan, you need to change your mindset from one of “option” to one of “not an option.”
One of the biggest killers of diet is the feeling of having a choice. This may sound harsh, but if you give yourself an option, you often have a tendency to take the easier option.
You have to think in terms of “that’s not an option”…kind of like flipping a switch.
If you do want foods that aren’t in your dietary program, schedule them in, don’t let it happen by accident or breakdown
#6 Natalie Knezic, Natalie’s Happy Health
Realize that it takes time to change your eating habits. The transformation will not happen overnight. Be persistent and don’t give up. Motivate yourself every day by reading a list of reasons why you should stay on healthy track. Your primary reason should be to get healthier.
Make a food journal and track your meals. That way you’re not only track calories intake, but you also LEARN about the food you eat and nutrition. You will also learn how to eat in the right and balanced way.
Eat mindfully. Think why you eat and what you eat. Take the time to choose the food you want to eat and think about is it good for you. Eat your food slowly and sense when you’re full to stop overeating.
#7 Lyndi Cohen, The Nude Nutrionist
Stop trying to lose weight, focus on being healthy instead. If you’re struggling to lose the last 5kg, maybe it’s because you’re not meant to.
Those 5kg, that’s where your hormones are balanced, your mood is stable and you feel strong. Don’t give up 95% of your life to weigh 5% less.
And also, when you restrict, you set yourself up for binge and emotional eating. You need to give yourself permission to enjoy treats, especially when out in public, to out-of-control overeating. Rather than focusing on what you can’t have, practice ‘crowding’ by simply trying to add more vegetables and fruit into your diet. Naturally, you’ll fill up on more of the healthy stuff and won’t have room for the less healthy options.
#8 L’Tisha Walker, Physique 57
Set fitness goals that are not focused on the numbers on the scale.
Aspire to use heavier weights or complete more reps successfully.
Achievement is so much more than simply losing weight.
#9 Amie Hoff, Fit Kit
For both weight loss and building strength, diet plays a leading role. 75% actually in my book.
But keeping a diet “clean” can be tough. 3 of my biggest tips are to:
- Plan ahead.
Spend an hour Sunday night prepping for the week. Boil eggs, cook up some chicken breasts, cut veggies, etc. This way you have you grab and go healthy choices.
- Write it down.
Once you take pen to paper or log your food intake online/app, you will think twice about putting something in your mouth.
- Track how you feel.
Both mentally and physically after you eat a particular food. Eating a salad vs. a candy bar will certainly have a different effect and when you track how it affects you, you’ll gain a better perspective on future choices.
#10 Bonnie Gowen, WeMake7
- Not skipping meals or going a prolonged period without eating
- Keeping track of what I have eaten each day like using the Fitbit app
- Having someone to diet or eat healthy with so you both can support each other
- Keeping unhealthy food and drinks out of the home so no distractions
#11 Andrea Metcalf, Fit. Happy. Well.
Quick tip – complicated diets with measuring, specific foods etc. are great. But keep in mind that general guidelines work just as well.
I tell my clients to focus on 9-11 servings of fruits/vegetables a day (4 at breakfast, 3 at lunch, 2 at dinner and 1 as a snack) and this keeps up their antioxidants, fiber (25 grams) and hydration intake.
Research showed that when participants focused on a strict diet versus on fiber intake, that the results were about the same for weight loss.
#12 Jennifer Fisher, thefitfork
Don’t look at your diet as a temporary end to a means. Sure, it’s great to lose weight and see lean muscle emerge.
However, the most significant health benefits are gained by keeping at a consistent goal weight over the long haul. Aside from pregnancies, I have weighed no more than 5lbs. more or less than I do now, for my entire adult life.
I keep “eating clean” exciting and convenient by experimenting with new recipes, meal-prepping my proteins, eating a rainbow of seasonal fruits and veggies, and allowing for an occasional splurge.
And exercise, I do something to “move” every day.
#13 Menno Henselmans, Bayesian Bodybuilding
Diet tip: Planning with projection bias.
A little over 10 years ago, Dan Ariely and George Loewenstein performed a scientific study that would probably never be approved by an ethics committee anymore [ref]. The researchers asked a group of men to fill in extensive questionnaires about sex on 2 occasions. Once when not doing anything. Once when jerking off to pornography. When aroused, on a scale of 1 to 100, the answer to “Can you imagine being attracted to a 12-year old girl?” went from 23 to almost 50.
“Would you slip a woman a drug to increase the chance she would have sex with you?” went from 5 to 26.
“Would you keep trying to have sex after your date says ‘no’?” went from 20 to almost 50.
In other words, when aroused, the men essentially admitted that the chance they could resist trying to engage in behaviors close to rape and pedophilia was little better than a coin toss.
This study doesn’t just show that men are pigs. It shows that humans are fundamentally incapable of ignoring their current feelings when trying to predict their future feelings, even if the reason for their current feelings is literally staring them in the face. Psychologists call this problem projection bias. We project our current feelings onto the future. We intuitively think we can predict accurately how we’ll feel in the future because it’s so easy to feel how we feel right now. But really, we just feel how we feel right now and then assume we’ll feel similarly in the future. It is a form of the more general affective forecasting bias, our difficulty in predicting how we’ll feel in the future in general [ref, ref]. For example, research has found our current mood causes us to make systematic errors in predicting how happy we’ll be when we receive a certain grade when the president we voted for wins the election or when we win the lottery or lose a limb. The latter two actually have very little long-term effects: you can get used to almost anything.
Projection bias is also why smokers so often say they’ll quit smoking yet end up lighting a cigarette again that very same day. When we don’t feel the urge to smoke right now, we consistently underestimate how badly we’ll want to when the craving starts [ref]. For our diet, the exact same principle applies to hunger and food. We systematically underappreciate the effect a ravenous appetite can have on our decision making. And so we overly optimistically put ourselves in positions where we have to resist temptation in the face of hunger. We think we’ll be fine at that birthday party. We think we’ll be able to stick to our diet at that business lunch. Easier said when satiated than done when starving.
To avoid suffering from projection bias, planning ahead is crucial. I already emphasized the importance of having a meal plan. A paramount piece of advice I’d add to that is: never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. When you’re hungry, you’re likely to buy all sorts of crap that are not conducive to achieving your ideal physique. You think you want that food now, but that’s just because you’re hungry. It’s much easier to make rational decisions when you’re full.
If you have a meal plan and you do all your groceries when you’re satiated, you should have a relatively easy time sticking to your diet at home. Things get much trickier when you’re out of your own house. When you have a trip or social event coming up, I find it helps to plan ahead in a very specific manner.
- Think about a time you were extremely hungry. It is crucial to try to emulate how you felt.
- Now visualize the trip or event in detail. Actively simulate the whole period of time from beginning to the end, door-to-door in the case of trips from A to B.
- Assume the worst: do you foresee yourself easily sticking with your diet? If not, plan ahead. Bring your own food, check Google Maps for nearby supermarkets, call the venue or restaurant to see if they can accommodate your diet, etc. Make the necessary arrangements for future success now.
- Make as many possible decisions ahead of time. Are you going to have cake at the birthday party? Are you going to have dessert at the restaurant? Will you eat the snacks served aboard the plane? Making these decisions now when your rational rider isn’t being distracted by your emotional elephant yet will provide you with an action plan to hold on to when you’re in a state of ego depletion.
We’ll get to more specific tips for traveling and eating out in restaurants later in the book, but in all cases, the above framework is a crucial starting point for success.
#14 Josh Bryant, Josh Strength
With a Ketogenic diet, it’s not an elaborate meal plan which results in a mile high stack of Tupperware that causes you to feel ostracized in the office lunchroom.
You will now be able to follow a nutrition program that isn’t a burden on your lifestyle. The best diet is the one you will follow!
#15 Mike Vacanti, On The Regimen
Don’t aim for perfection. Rather, aim to be “consistently pretty good,” and when you do veer of track, simply do your best the next day.
One bad meal or one bad day is not enough to prevent you from making progress; however, the ‘screw it’ mentality that can stem from failing to meet unrealistic standards is enough to completely derail you.
Additionally, and in another vein, unless you have a very good reason not to, I would recommend strength training at least a couple days per week.
In my experience coaching clients, this is going to drastically reduce the chance of a yo-yo diet or regaining a substantial amount of body fat when the diet is over.
#16 Jennifer Lynn, Wine to Weightlifting
While some people need a strict regimen to stay on track, for me it all about balance! I follow a macro plan, where I incorporate real foods, healthy fats, clean carbs.
However, I believe in an 80/20 rule, so stick to “clean” eating during the week, but don’t deprive myself of a glass of wine (I mean, my blog is Wine to Weightlifting!) in the evening or dinner out with friends on the weekend without stressing about what to eat!
#17 Samantha Shorkey, Jacked On the Beanstalk
The trick is to not stay in a deprivation mindset. Find healthy treats to replace the “bad foods” / binge foods or whatever your “vice” is.
For me, I have a huge sweet tooth and chocolate and peanut butter are life. But I know that if I dip my spoon into a tub of peanut butter, I’ll find myself fist deep into it in one sitting. So I set boundaries. I allow myself to eat the peanut butter but I’m not allowed to eat it alone.
So that means if I’m going to indulge in some PB, I have to eat it with some celery slices or an apple or my all-time fave sweet treat satisfier: chocolate protein pudding with a glob of peanut butter on top. And this one goes back to my original statement of replacing your “junk foods” with healthier options.
I know if I ban “treats” altogether, it will only put that unhealthy “all or nothing” mentality into effect which as we all know, never lasts long-term. So instead, I “treat” myself to chocolate protein pudding with a glob of PB on top every night as my little sweet snack.
I genuinely love it and I genuinely look forward to it. So if I have something to look forward to, there’s no reason to feel deprived and mess up my diet.
It’s all about changing your mindset and moving away from this “black or white” diet thinking. The body does what the mind believes. So if we can trick our brain into thinking that it DOES get what it wants, it’s not going to be tempted to deviate.
#18 Linda, The Fitty
My tips are to plan plan plan.
Portion out the meal and bring it with you, write it down in a notebook 🙂
#19 Petra Kravos, Be Healthy Now
Eat only when you are hungry (when your stomach starts to growl).
It’s very common people eat out of boredom or just because there is food, but if this is something you do, you need to change it if you want to lose weight. It will take some willpower but it is possible.
Eat until you are about 80% full.
When you eat until you are about 80% full you are reducing your calorie intake and this will set you on a good way to losing weight.
Increase your activity levels but do something that you enjoy.
Exercise is essential when trying to lose weight but it doesn’t have to be a chore or a torture. Just do something fun and something that you love. You could try dancing, trampolining or something else. Even paintballing counts as an exercise.
#20 Ashley Lawrie, Free Form Fitness
Top tip is: fail to plan – plan to fail.
Plan your meals ahead of time. Prep your week efficiently.
#21 Suzi Fevens, Confessions of a Fitness Instructor
- Drink lots of water!
- Try to eat a minimum of 25g of fiber/day
- Make sure you are eating enough protein!
- Eat to nourish your body most of the time, but also enjoy treats guilt-free occasionally!
#22 Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian
Try to make changes in your diet that are sustainable. And by that I mean make your diet a lifestyle that you can live with.
If you despise your diet, feel hungry all the time, and feel emotionally deprived, it is not a sustainable way of eating. You will go “off” this diet and feel that you failed.
A healthful diet should be a lifestyle that makes you feel nourished, well, and happy. A healthful diet should be delicious. That means eating a diet packed with whole plant foods, pulses, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices.
#23 Jordan Syatt, Syatt Fitness
Staying motivated enough to keep up with your diet is less about your knowledge of nutrition and more about your ability to understand and appreciate you’re never more than one bite away from being right back on track.
Think of it this way.
Everyone logically knows, between an apple and a donut, the apple is the “healthier,” more nutritious option. But if you gave 10 people who wanted to lose weight the choice between a donut and an apple…guarantee they wouldn’t all choose the apple. I’d put money on, at least half, (if not more) choosing the donut.
Nutritional knowledge is important. But it can only take you so far. Because the truth is this: life happens. You’ll have parties and holidays and get-togethers and random days where being “perfect” with your diet just isn’t possible. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s good to enjoy yourself and go “off track” every now and again. What’s the point of living if you can’t enjoy yourself in moderation?
People run into trouble, though, when they indulge a little and think they screwed up. When they have a teeny tiny bite of something they feel like they shouldn’t…so they say “f#%k it,” and go on an all-out binge. It might last a few hours…it might last a few weeks…or maybe even months. Regardless, had they just enjoyed themselves and understood no one got fat from eating one donut just like no one got skinny from eating one salad…they could have indulged, had fun, and got right back on track without bingeing and setting themselves further back.
#24 Jolene, Pilates Pal
I prefer not to “diet” per se and my eating habits change depending on my goals. For general fitness, to me, it is more about good nutrition with whole and natural foods, calorie consumption, and allowing yourself a treat rather than denying yourself of what you love.
That is part of the joy of eating. I do try to include protein in every meal and snack.
Of course, if I’m really looking to reduce my body fat, then my food consumption would be much more strict.
#25 Amy Summers, Girl Get Strong
If I had to offer one suggestion to people who want to stay on top of their diet, it would simply be: don’t make yourself miserable.
Find a good balance of eating happy, but also treating yourself once in a while. A diet won’t make you happy if it makes you miserable.
Over to You!
Wow, I don’t know how you’re feeling about reading all these amazing tips but I’m blown away. Definitely a ton of takeaways and quite a few dieting “gems” in here.
I encourage you to select the top 3 or 4 ideas that you liked best, or that fits you best, and start implementing that in your diet and everyday life. Let me know how it goes in the comments section below.
Lastly but not least I would like to thank everybody for taking the time to participate and for their valuable input.
P.S. PLEASE SHARE THIS with anyone or any group that you feel would find this article helpful 🙂