As a dietitian I have spent plenty of my time writing up custom diet plans that include recipes, grocery lists and specific food likes/aversions. The rate of 100% compliance from those who are given these meal plans? 0%. Some adhere to the meal plan while adding in their own snacks here and there. But for the time invested, it is hardly worth it when trying to achieve a goal.
What I have found to be far more successful is general guidelines that apply specifically to that person. They can run around eating whatever they want as long as it adheres to the specific rules I give them. Here are 5 rules that are very applicable to just about everyone when trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Which one seems to be the hardest for you?
1. 99% of all the fluids you take in should be water. I know, Diet does not have calories. But you would be surprised at the studies that are showing the damaging effects of diet and regular soda. There is proof that you feel more satisfied after eating a solid food than after eating the same amount of calories from a liquid supplement. So, lets just simplify it for our bodies and our cravings: don't drink fluids other than water for a few weeks. Find out why you were drinking those other drinks in the first place.
2. Whole Foods is your new mantra. Everything you place in your mouth, you should be completely aware of where it came from and the pathway it took to get to your plate. Make it a habit to shop the perimeter of your grocery store first: meats, dairy, fruits, veggies, eggs. On anything with an ingredient list, make sure you know what all those ingredients are and try to keep the ingredients to less than 5. This will increase the prep time on all your meals, but your body will thank you in big way.
3. Eating Stops at 7pm. After 7 pm is when people are trolling their kitchen for the good stuff. Anything that will stop the cravings that plague people at that time of night. Drink a few cups of water and wait 15 minutes. Those cravings will usually go away.
4. No technology while eating. When do we love to eat? While at the computer, watching TV, playing xbox, and the list goes on. Be more in the moment when you eat. Even try turning off the radio or music while eating. It helps you become more aware of how much you are enjoying the food you are eating and when you are full.
5. Treat yourself every once in a while, but keep it within these rules. Make sure it has texture, is a whole food, its not after 7pm at night and you are not eating it while interacting with any type of technology. Dark Chocolate shavings on top of strawberries and full cream sound good? How about some homemade kettle corn? It is not as hard as it seems to stay within these rules, but the outcomes are so worth it.
On a personal level there are many more rules that can be put into place to help a person reach their ultimate goal, but for now, try putting any one of these guidelines into you life and see how well you stay within your limits.