First, let’s start by acknowledging the fact that changing your diet is no easy task. Developing a diet plan and sticking to it takes focus and dedication. Developing a diet plan that works for you starts with defining your goals. Do you need a diet plan to lose weight or gain muscle? Will you prep your own meals or invest in a meal prep service? Finding true success when changing your diet requires you to ask and truthfully answer a series of questions.

1. Why Is This Important to You?

As we said before, attempting a diet plan or adopting a more restrictive diet that doesn’t come naturally to you is no simple task.. You have to be crystal clear with yourself on why you should do this to begin with.  Are you looking to just fit into your clothes better for an upcoming event, or is this something you have desperately wanted for yourself for some time? Is this something you just want to try, or is there a health risk at stake? Being able to be very honest about your purpose and why you finally need to change your diet will allow you to stay more disciplined with your plan, even when things get challenging. Understanding the multitude of benefits a decision like this can make and its impact beyond even yourself. When kids are involved, it’s important to also remember that kids will do as you do,  you say. It’s fair to say that the impact of your decision to keep going can far outweigh the face value decision you made to start. Know your “why”!

2. Are You Looking for Short-Term or Long-Term Benefits 

Understanding if this will be a short term “fix” or a long-term benefit is extremely important, as it will determine your approach and success rate. If you’re looking to lose 3-4 pounds in the next 3 weeks to fit in a specific dress or jacket, you can get away with restricting carbohydrates or another food group until then, and you’ll have no problem sustaining it for a short period of time. But if you’re looking for more permanent change with a more distant goal, making sure you find a method of eating that you can sustain becomes drastically more important. For example, if restricting carbs indefinitely isn’t something you plan to do, it doesn’t make sense to get to your goal by removing them. Best case scenario if you do that is you get to your goal, but then you start introducing carbohydrates again and will likely begin to gain the weight back. You must get to your goal eating in a manner that you can live with if you plan to make a permanent change.

3. What Are You Willing to Give Up?

This is a hard one. Not many people put much thought into this question and in my experience, this  is one of the major reasons why they fail. There are a multitude of ways you can reach your  nutritional goals if weight loss or body fat reduction is among them. However, to effectively get there and maintain the goal you’ll have to define what amount of effort, or “inconvenience” to your natural choices or habits you’re willing to give up.  For example, if you’re not willing to count calories or measure your food, you will likely have to refrain from having anything other than “healthy” options. Unless you count calories and think about the intention behind your daily calorie consumption, you may not be able to enjoy your nightly bowl of ice cream or glass of wine without taking a step backwards on your weight loss journey. On the flip side, if you do track calories, you can enjoy some more diversity in your food choices.You’’ll understand your daily calorie intake and be able to eat what you’d like within your daily calorie allowance. So before making a “diet”, consider the foods and the style of eating you’re not willing to give up on and the effort you’re willing to sustain so you know what the best approach forward will be.

4. What Do You Enjoy?

Changing your eating habits shouldn’t be dreadful. Actually, the more dreadful you make it for yourself the less likely you are to get to your goal and certainly the less likely you are to keep any results you gain from it. If you absolutely hate the process, the method or food you’re eating, it’s very unlikely you’ll ever sustain the results you gained. The best results we’ve seen from the people we’ve helped come from the clients who are truthful with the foods they’re not willing to give up because they enjoy them. Once you know that, you can make small changes to a particular meal to make that “meal” healthier or lower calorie without actually even noticing or missing the substitutions. A good example of this is maybe you make yourself a 4-egg omelet in the morning with American cheese. Well, you might be just as happy if you used 1 whole egg and 3 or 4 egg whites to make the omelet and then added 1 oz of goat cheese or even a “laughing cow” wedge of cheese.  Doing so would successfully reduce 20-25g of fat and 225+ calories from your omelet but you might not even notice it.These small changes allow you to enjoy  meals without compromising your diet.

5. What Will your Meal Frequency Be? 

This is a commonly overlooked question when building a diet. Why? People tend to think that this answer is not open for debate or not an option. Either you feel intermittent fasting is better, or you feel like you need to eat 6 small meals a day and there’s usually not a whole lot in between. The truth is, how often you eat doesn’t matter when it comes to weight loss or weight gain. Only the amount of calories you take in vs the amount of calories you expend . But in reality, it can impact your ability to be successful with a program if you pick the frequency that is just not compatible with your schedule or lifestyle. Do you enjoy breakfast? Or do you only eat breakfast because that’s what you think you should do to be “healthy”? Do you like grazing on multiple meals and snacks throughout the day? Or does that cause you to overeat? Think about the pattern that suits you and then divide your calories accordingly to fit into the meal frequency you selected and you’ll be far more successful.

6. How Consistently Will You Be Exercising? 

As we now know, the only thing that matters when it comes to weight loss or weight gain is calories in versus calories out. So, an important element to selecting how many calories you “take in” with your new diet plan should be considered against how many calories you expend through exercising and your overall lifestyle. As there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, if your goal is to lose one pound of fat per week, you will have to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories a day to achieve that on a weekly basis. This can be done by reducing 250 calories from your diet, and increasing your daily exercise by 250 calories burned (or at least on average). Leverage both exercise and diet to achieve your desired results.

7. What Will Be Your Biggest Challenge 

This will certainly be an area where you’ll have to sit yourself down and be truthful with where on average you falter when it comes to your eating habits. Odds are good this is something you’ve attempted before, possibly with good results, but if we’re going down this road again. What happened? What made the journey difficult last time? Why did you “fall off” at the start, at the end, or even after you got your goals? What will be different this time? Understanding your challenges and obstacles and how to address them when they appear in real time will determine how successful you can be this time around.

8. Where Are You Getting Your Nutrition Plan From?

As you can see, there are quite a few things to consider when building an effective nutritional plan and unfortunately there is also a lot of misinformation on how you do it. Considering the source that you get your information from is extremely important. Not only so you’re safe, but so you can create sustainable habits that don’t cause unnecessary stress, anxiety or even depression. In the same token, there are a lot of professionals out there with “good” information and good intentions however, in their effort to “best” service you and give you the most “ideal” nutritionally effective plan, they may completely disregard your lifestyle, your interests, your goals and most the things we discussed above that make it all sustainable and worth your while. So, make sure you ask the hard questions above and cross examine any one’s recommendations to your purpose and the process and what that will ultimately mean to you, your lifestyle and even your family.

9. Who Will Hold You Accountable?

There will be a time when you’re faced with some of the challenges we spoke of above and your resolve will be tested. There will be other times when you slip and falter. It’s part of the process, expect it and don’t be too surprised or hard on yourself. Just have a plan in place for what will happen when that inevitably takes place. One of the best and most effective tools you could use to assure your success and to minimize the amount of time you spend “off the wagon” is to have a support or accountability partner. Do you have someone at home that is equally as committed to you achieving your goals as you are? Or are they actually one of the challenges and peer pressures you have to struggle through? Finding an unbiased party like a coach or group of trainers to keep you accountable with a weekly pep talk can be one of the best things you ever do for yourself especially in the opening months of starting a new program, as you will have someone that is understanding that you can vent to and troubleshoot new challenges as they present themselves. 

We hope these tips help you plan your perfect diet! The Catalyst Family also has plenty of other resources to help you along your fitness journey.  If you’re looking for diet tips for losing weight check out our latest eBook. We also have a collection of great exercises for building muscle and steps for developing your perfect workout routine.