(Prevention.com) -- We’re no strangers to all-or-nothing thinking; it can be comforting to commit to a plan because it makes you feel like you’ve got something (anything!) totally under control. But when it comes to your diet, research shows that the stricter you are, the more you’re setting yourself up to fail.
Are You A Diet Perfectionist?
“People who are trying to be perfect end up crashing and burning,” says Greg Hottinger, MPH, RD, co-author, with Michael Scholtz, of the health and weight loss book Coach Yourself Thin. Plus, when strict dieters don’t see fast results, he says, they’re likely to bail out altogether.
One solution: The 80/20 approach, which, as the name suggests, means that 80% of the time you should eat what you know is healthy, and the rest of the time, you should allow yourself a little leeway. “Everybody slips, but you shouldn’t think of it as a deal breaker,” says Hottinger. In other words, go easy on yourself already!
Here, three more tips from the pros:
Set goals you can keep. According to Hottinger and Scholtz, goals can bolster long-term success—but only if you keep them achievable and measurable. Swap water for soda six days a week, trade in your white bread for whole grain, and whatever you do, don’t crash-diet. Think about where you want to be in six weeks and six months—then up your standards as you progress.
Get off the scale. “Broaden how you define progress,” says Hottinger. “We put so much pressure on the scale that when we don’t see immediate results, we are more likely to binge.” To avoid this, focus more on unsung victories, like “I have more energy,” “I’m sleeping better than ever,” or “I don’t get stomach aches anymore.”
Pick foods you actually like. Keep in mind that there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to how to eat, says Scholtz. “The difference between one healthy diet and another is upstairs; it’s in how we think about weight loss and food.” So pick a plan you can live with and remember: There are no “good” or “bad” foods; a balanced intake of healthy foods and treats will keep you in check.