Many thousands of entries pop up when you enter “diet” on or any search engine.    At the very least, this confirms the fact that what works for one person may not work for the next.  But if you’re asking yourself how to manage weight and eat more sanely, you can come up with a few rules of thumb to follow, no matter who you are.

To start with, keep in mind that any eating issues exist in a complicated social, biological, and psychological environment.  If you’ve reached a point of discouragement because of repeated weight loss failures, this will hopefully feel at least a little freeing to you.  It’s not your fault, and you can learn some new ways.

So, first, you must figure out what is the best way for you to eat.  Many healthy diets exist (and of course the books to explain them).  Each and every one of us must learn what foods, in what quantities, contribute to our maintaining a healthy weight.  This must be a pattern of eating and food choice that you can live with forever, period.  Anything that is short-term will likely lead to regain and a return to diet craziness.  Furthermore, diets that require special foodstuffs and odd concoctions won’t last for the long run.

Finding a diet pattern you can live with usually takes some trial-and-error, paying attention to how you feel physically, whether or not you feel satisfied, how the plan fits with your lifestyle and preferences.  Many people need help with this part of their plan—for example, from a coach, nutritionist, or doctor.  On the other hand, many, maybe most, former dieters know what works for them and feel that what they really need are better skills for sticking with it. 

Then, you get started, with the intention of creating a path and a chain of habits that can survive a lifetime.  How do you prepare yourself to get started?  Do you start all-at-once or in baby steps?   Understanding how change happens, and what helps you to change, can help.

Next, anyone who’s ever struggled with eating can tell you—there are obstacles on the path.  Of course, if obstacles didn’t block our way, we’d all be happily slim and the diet market would crash.  Making lasting changes can be very, very hard.  You’ll need to address practical obstacles—planning, shopping, dealing with family and budget, and other matters that can impede dietary overhauls.  Other obstacles live in our thoughts.    Thinking patterns can keep our eating disordered.  From “I have bad genes” to “I deserve to have that sundae” to “I already blew it, so why bother”—thoughts often sabotage and can completely undo our efforts.  Emotional obstacles occur when we use food to soothe ourselves, to “stuff” anger, or to manage stress. Lifetime peace with food can require major adjustments in how we modulate and care for our emotions.  Failing to do this will almost always sabotage attempts to change.

In any attempt to keep weight and eating habits healthy, most of us know that we must move to succeed.  Lasting change is simply not possible without exercise.   A healthy body moves, a lot, keeping all of its parts strong.  Heavy-duty exercise, light exercise, and movement in daily life can play an important part in any “forever” plan.  Much of what you learn about keeping up with diet changes can help you stick with a healthy exercise regime, too.

Getting help can make the difference between success for a lifetime and another demoralizing diet.  That’s often part of figuring out how to keep it up, which can involve arranging a supportive network for yourself and keeping helpful activities in place long after you’ve reached your initial goals.

So, the map looks something like this:

  1. Know the Problem is Not All Your Fault
  2. Start With an Understanding of How You Change
  3. Know What Kind of Eating Plan Works for You
  4. Obstacles Will Occur and Must be Understood and Resolved
  5. Movement Has to Happen
  6. Keep it Up and Get Help Where Needed

    All of this is…..easier said than done!   But with a map you can set out toward your destination.

(The Eat Sanely  workbook covers all of the items in depth)