How to Mentally Prepare for a Diet

Three Parts:Evaluating Your ThinkingSetting GoalsBuilding Your Willpower

Starting a diet can be daunting, especially if you have not mentally prepared yourself for the change. When you're in the right place mentally it is easier to begin a diet and health program that you will follow. By preparing yourself you can have more luck following the correct diet for you and avoid falling off the wagon.

Part 1
Evaluating Your Thinking

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    Be aware of negative thought patterns about food. Oftentimes, diets fall apart because of negative thought patterns regarding food and eating. Try to be aware of your own thoughts in regards to food and how you should strive to change those thoughts.
    • Many times people feel special occasions mean it's okay to indulge. There's nothing wrong with overeating now and again, but be honest with yourself in regards to what you see as a special occasion. When things like eating out, working lunches, office parties, and other small events become an excuse to overeat this can sabotage diet plans. Try to reevaluate how you define special occasion.[1]
    • Do you use food as a reward? Many people feel that, after a long day, they deserve take out dinner or a bowl of ice cream. Try to find means to reward yourself other than food. Treat yourself to a nice, hot bath. Spend some money on a new outfit. Watch a movie. There are many ways to reward yourself without using food.[2]
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    Disassociate food with certain activities. Food is heavily linked to ritual. It can be hard to pass up sugary or fattening snacks if we emotionally associate them with certain rituals. Make a conscious effort to disassociate food with certain habits.
    • Try to be aware of when you overeat or ingest unhealthy food and drinks. Do you always get popcorn and a coke at the movies? Do you always have a few glasses of wine on date night? Can you not imagine a Saturday morning without coffee and donuts? If so, work to lessen these associations.[3]
    • Try replacing unhealthy foods with other associations. For example, play a board game on date night instead of chatting and drinking. Have fresh fruit and yogurt with your Saturday morning coffee. If you unwind by eating at the end of the day, try reading a book or listening to music instead.[4]
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    See bad eating in terms of a habit rather than calories. In the long run, you're more likely to stick to a diet if you address negative habits rather than solely restricting calories. Try to be aware of when and why you're eating. Even if it's just half a cookie, are you indulging because you've had a long day? Are you eating out of boredom and not hunger? If so, try to break out of the habit. Even if you're not going overboard on calories, it's the principal of the thing. You're eating the wrong foods for the wrong reasons.[5]
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    Seek support. Change is hard. You cannot do it alone. Seek support from friends and family members. Tell them you're trying to lose weight and ask for their help. Ask them not to invite you to parties where junk food or alcohol will be served. Ask them if it's okay to talk to them when you're feeling frustrated or tempted. Talk to household members about your goals. Request that they keep tempting foods out of your sights.[6]

Part 2
Setting Goals

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    Set small, realistic goals. Many people sabotage diet and weight loss plans by setting the bar far too high. If you want to stick to a diet, keep your goals realistic.
    • Keep in mind most people on a healthy diet lose 1 to 2 pounds a week. If you want to lose more than this, you may be setting yourself up for failure.[7]
    • Starting out, you should set somewhat inexact goals. That way, you're more likely to reach those goals and be motivated to keep going. Abstract goals like, "I will eat vegetables every day this week" and "I will order a salad instead of french fries when I eat out this month" are good starter goals that set you up for success.[8]
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    Prepare a journal. Part of sticking to a diet is accountability. Go out and buy a journal to use as your diet journal. Record everything you eat every day and count up the calories. Physically seeing how much you're consuming forces you to confront your habits. This can help motivate you to revamp your eating habits.[9]
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    Plan your meals. Meal planning in advance can help cut back on cravings. In the days leading up to the start of your diet, make a list of healthy meals you want to make. Try doing some food prep. That is, cutting up the necessary ingredients ahead of time. You can even make a large batch of something like soup or a salad to have for lunches for the first week.
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    Picture yourself thin. Try to picture a thinner version of yourself. Many people are less likely to indulge on their diet if they have a clear picture of where they want to be. If you're striving to get back to a previous weight, it may be helpful to print out pictures of yourself when you were skinnier. Leave these up around your house for inspiration.[10]

Part 3
Building Your Willpower

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    Pay attention to concrete behaviors. Increasing your willpower can be difficult if you're working in abstract terms. However, addressing concrete behaviors can help you strengthen your resolve over time.
    • Make a list of concrete behaviors you want to change. Start with small alterations and then move up. Try to stick to altering these behaviors for a week and then add new changes to your regimen.[11]
    • For example, say something like, "Today, instead of watching a movie after work I will take a 40 minute walk." Hold yourself to that for a week. In the next week, increase the duration of your physical activity. Walk for, say, 60 minutes instead.[12]
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    Hold yourself accountable. Even if you have to be hard on yourself, you need to hold yourself accountable for lapses in willpower. This helps you acknowledge you're the only one who has the power to change your behaviors.
    • Acknowledge when you failed in one of your goals. Write it down in diet diary. Take responsibility for your failure.[13]
    • Write out why you failed in terms that make your self disappointment clear. For example, write something like, "I did not forgo cake when eating out tonight because I chose to feel negative about myself later instead." While it may seem harsh, many people find it helpful to spell out failures. It motivates them to make a greater effort to change.[14]
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    Consider a weekly cheat meal. Many people find having a weekly cheat meal helps their diet seem feasible. Depriving yourself too long can result in your diet completely unraveling. Sticking to a strict diet can seem more doable when you know you have the food you've been craving waiting for you at the end of the tunnel. If you think it might benefit you, consider adding a cheat meal to your routine.[15]


  • Many people find it helpful to write down a list of reasons they want to lose weight in a diet journal. You can go back to this list when you feel stressed or discouraged.


  • Consult with a physician before starting any diet or fitness plan.

Article Info

Categories: Maintaining Diets