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Sticking to a Diet

Why is Dieting difficult?

If you have been or are on a diet, you probably know that for most people dieting is difficult (If you are one of the rare breed of people who can simply decide to give up certain foods or follow a set diet plan and then carry through your plan without succumbing to any temptation, many congratulations but this article is not for you!).

For most people dieting is difficult because it involves changing habitual patterns of eating and changing habits is hard, whatever the habit is - whether it is smoking, drinking coffee, eating sweets, reacting in set ways in relationships or anything else.

Furthermore, the habitual pattern of eating which you have established may have become associated in your mind with certain positive experiences - relaxing and unwinding or dealing with stresses, for example.

Add to this all the positive images from food advertising that are associated with eating sugary or fattening foods or drinks and it is hardly surprising that the process of unlearning the automatic associations that we may have with eating unhealthy foods is difficult.

Dieting and Willpower

If you try to overcome all these positive mental and emotional assocations to unhealthy foods by relying solely on willpower, then there are 2 things that are likely to happen at some point:

1. You will probably 'lapse' at some point, because it is difficult to be on your guard at every point in your life and we all have moments of weakness.

2. You may well feel guity or inadequate at that point, because you feel you ought to be able to diet perfectly and straying from your diet is perceived as if it is a sign of your own weakness or inadequacy.

Practical Dieting

To deal with the above situation, I suggest that you try to adopt a practical approach to dieting:

1. Recognise that you might occasionally 'lapse' from your diet.

2. If you do 'lapse' from your diet, don't allow this to be an excuse to 'relapse'. This has two sides to it:

(a) If on an individual occasion you start overeating or eating something outside your diet, remember that you can still limit the damage - you do not have to take the fact that you have had one piece of cake as an excuse to go on and eat three more. Instead, acknowledge that you have (like most people) made a slip but don't beat yourself up about it. Stop before the slip becomes worse.

If you can, afterwards see if there is anything practical you can learn from the situation to help you if the situation occurs again - what was it in the situation which made it particularly difficult for you to resist temptation? What can you do next time to guard against that or deal with it?

(b) Don't allow the odd lapse in your diet to lead you to abandon dieting altogether. The process of dieting successfully can take time and usually requires regular monitoring (of your weight and/or waist measurements). As long as the overall direction over a period of time is towards your target weight, then remember that there may be some weeks when you don't manage to go in the right direction. If that happens, don't give up altogether - Try to work out what will help you to get back on track. This may involve minor adjustments to your routine or planning, or thinking positively, or it may involve deciding to try out a different kind of diet that is more suitable to your personality and strengths.

Dieting is an ongoing process - Don't expect to achieve everything perfectly from Day One. Remember that it may take time and patience. Don't be too hard on yourself but be committed to trying to make it work, using sensible practical measures, eating healthily and learning what works best for you.


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