A few years ago, I started dieting. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, I am sure that, like me, you’ve gone through several methods.
Maybe you tried a keto diet, cutting out all carbs and focusing on fat and a little protein. Or you tried a Mediterranean diet, a Dukan diet, Juice Fasting, or even Cleansing.
There are so many out there, and new advice is being published every second as I type down my words. “You should eat this superfood if you want to lose weight, do that work out for abs in 30 days, remove that food from your fridge”.
Of course, I believed them all, and for the most part of my first 5 years of dieting, I tried them all for at least a few weeks. I failed, again and again, to lose weight.
Things only started changing and working out once I simplified the process, and focused on the essential part of weight loss: caloric deficit.
I have been doing intermittent fasting now for three years. It started by accident. I was living in a homestay for about a year, and as volunteers, we would be served two large meals for lunch and dinner. I just wasn’t hungry in the morning and got in the habit of skipping breakfast.
I hadn’t heard of intermittent fasting then, but once I left the little Cambodian village where I was living, I decided to keep that way of eating. It was convenient for me to keep a caloric deficit, easy to regulate, and still suits my lifestyle.
Full disclosure, I am not a nutritionist, I am not a professional in the field, and what I am writing here, is based on my experience. And I am not going to tell you to eat or not eat any food. I am here to warn you about the challenges that come with dieting, and how you can better prepare.
So here are 4 things you should know before dieting.
1. Have clear goals in mind
You must have a very specific objective when you start on your dieting journey. No matter in what way you’ll go on about dieting, you’re bound to make some sacrifices, and you’ll face some challenges.
Take that main goal, and break it down into smaller, achievable steps. Say you want to lose 10 kg. Doable. Make it 1 kg per month. Achievable.
With a smaller goal you will keep track of your progress, and feel more encouraged at every milestone.
2. Have a plan for your cravings
Dieting takes time. Don’t listen to anyone telling you that you will reach your goal in just a week. That won’t happen unless you just want to lose 1 kg, but if that’s the case, I believe you don’t need to make any drastic change to your diet.
If you want to lose 20 kg, 10 kg, or maybe just 5, you’re going to have to change your eating habits in a way that’s going to get your brain to complain.
We are creatures of habits, and if you have been used to some specific eating pattern, having a snack at work, drinking a soda or a beer in the evening, and you suddenly refrain yourself from doing so, you’re going to get cravings.
Try to replace them. Do you want something sweet? Eat some fruit. Want to drink a soda? Make yourself a cup of tea. It’s basic advice that has been passed around for a while, but it works.
Cravings have a very negative psychological impact on you and will be some of your biggest challenges. This is also when having a clear goal in mind is important. Your desire to reach your goals has to be stronger than the cravings.
3. Be ready for sacrifices
Dieting is nothing more than basic mathematics. Your body needs X amount of energy, and to fuel it, you will eat Y number of calories (energy). If Y is higher than X, you will gain weight.
So no matter what new diet you are experimenting with, to see any kind of progress, you’re going to have to get your Y below your X. And that usually means, eating less.
That being said, it also means that you don’t need to remove food that you like from your diet, but you might have to reduce the amount you consume.
It isn’t easy. Especially if, like me, you like to eat large quantities. But hey, there is a solution for that too. Eat a large salad every day. It will fill you up, and be low on calories,if you refrain from using too much dressing.
If you never feel hunger, most likely you are not in a caloric deficit. But don’t let yourself feel like you are starving. You have to find the right balance for you to manage your diet.
4. Be patient
I said it already, dieting takes time. It takes years for your body to change, fully adapt, and embrace a new way of eating, and exercising. Nothing good comes out of extreme diets. Eating 1000 calories a day is unhealthy.
There will be ups and downs, your weight will fluctuate, and that’s normal.
It took me 8 years to get to the fitness level I have now. Maybe I could have gotten there in a shorter amount of time, but I made mistakes. Dieting is hard. If you’ve tried, you know it. And because it’s hard, it’s okay to do little by little. That’s why you need to set yourself some clear goals.
Reach them one milestone at a time. Be patient. If you stay consistent with your caloric deficit, results will show. Trust the process.
I will leave it to Mark Twain.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”
― Mark Twain