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  • Writer's pictureScott Pettey

Sticking to Your Diet: Part 1

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

Dietary adherence is the degree to which an individual sticks to a diet. Adherence is the most powerful tool you have in the dieting toolbox. Every successful diet is built on a strong backbone of adherence. Tons of people have gotten great results not because they chose the most optimal diet, but because they chose a diet and stuck to it long enough to see results.

This concept may seem simple and straightforward, because it is. It’s so simple and straightforward that most dieters completely overlook its power. Let’s look at a classic scenario most people familiar with dieting can relate to. I call this the “spinning your wheels” diet.

Sarah, a 31-year-old data analyst, is looking to shed some body fat she gained while stuck at home during the pandemic. Sarah is married with no kids. Her and her husband have a much needed, tropical vacation planned two months from now in Aruba. The same place they spent their honeymoon together four years earlier. Sarah exercises on and off and has tried to “clean up” her diet over the past year with little success. She really wants to get back into the shape she was in last time they were in Aruba, so she decides to get serious.

Sarah hires a coach to help her with a fat-loss diet. Sarah’s coach uses all the science-based best practices to come up with the most optimal diet for her. Together they identify that Sarah consumes roughly 2,300 calories per day. To achieve a calorie deficit they set a target of 1,800 calories per day for her diet. They even lay out how many meals she’ll eat per day, when to eat them, and what foods to eat in what amounts. It’s the perfect plan.

During the week Sarah crushes her plan and even exercises Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Then Friday rolls around. It’s been a long week and damn it, Sarah worked hard this week. She joins a few colleagues after work for a cocktail (or three). Everyone else is getting pizza so she figures, maybe just a slice or two.

Saturday morning comes along and Sarah is back on plan for the day, but Saturday night is date night with her husband. Sarah and her husband go to their favorite Italian restaurant, and you can’t get the big chicken parm pasta dish without enjoying extra garlic bread, right? And, is it really date night without wine?

By Sunday Sarah’s back on her plan and ready for another week of a calorie deficit. This is Sarah’s weekly routine. After a few weeks Sarah realizes she’s not seeing any results. What gives? Frustration sets in because she feels she’s working really hard—and she is! Sarah spends almost the entire week in a calorie deficit—but on Friday and Saturday she ends up taking in 3,500 calories each night. Despite her hard work all week, the two days of 3,500 calories plus her five days of 1,800 deficit lands her with a daily average of about 2,300. Right back to her daily average before the diet—and with no results.

Even with the most optimal, well-thought-out diet plan, Sarah is stuck spinning her wheels on the treadmill to nowhere—a really frustrating place to be. The plan was perfect, but the execution wasn’t.

Now you’re thinking, “so, if I want to diet I can never enjoy a night out or pizza again”? Of course not! It’s important to realize that dieting is not a lifestyle. You can’t just diet forever until you weigh zero pounds. A diet is a short-term strategy to accomplish a specific goal—meaning it has a definitive start and end point.

Reaching a goal you set will be challenging and you have to stick with it relentlessly. But once you achieve that goal, it’s much easier and less restrictive to maintain the results. So pick a diet, as long as it doesn’t violate the fundamental priorities like calorie amounts, you’ll get great results if you stick to it.

In part two I’ll discuss how you can better stick to your diet and increase your chances of success. Stay tuned!

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