-> Have you ever started a new diet just to quit a few days or weeks afterward?
-> Have you done this even if that diet seemed to work?
Then this post is exactly for you. Here you are going to learn about the basic tools and mindsets that can help you stay committed at your new diet.
Even though this post is focused on diet, you can implement the same principles is every area of your life.
The 4 Pillars of Consistency
There are 4 basic principles that can help you stay consistent. Knowing how to take care each and every one of these principles will help you stay committed to your diet a lot easier and make the whole process more enjoyable. If you ignore even one of these principles, you will have a more difficult time staying consistent.
Knowing how to take care each and every one of these principles will help you stay committed to your diet a lot easier and make the whole process more enjoyable. If you ignore even one of these principles, you will have a more difficult time staying consistent.
The 4 pillars are:
- Your will power
- Your motivation
#1 – Will Power
The first pillar is your will power.
This is the most important pillar of all. So, you will have to use it wisely. When everything else seems to fall apart (no motivation, high temptation, no support, etc), only your will power is going to help you stay on track.
Your will power depends on many things. The most important of them is your energy level. If your energy level is low, then your will power is going to be low and it will be more difficult to resist any strong temptation. Contrariwise, when your energy level is high, you can resist more easily.
Since you don’t have direct control of your willpower you will have to become aware of your energy levels during the day. Usually, we are more energized during the morning hours, but for you, it can be different.
During the high energy times, is when you are going to take proactive action (covered below) and implement the most important aspects of your diet (eg. cooking healthy food and preparing your meals).
How to increase your will power
There are 2 ways, that I am aware of, to develop your will power.
The first one is to build and develop your will power through practice. The more you practice staying disciplined the easier it becomes the next time.
In addition, your willpower is closely related to the concept of mental toughness. Building mental toughness through training can help you (indirectly) to stay disciplined during the high temptation times.
#2 – Motivation
Motivation helps you take action and go through the temptations without having to use your will power. For this reason, if you know how to motivate yourself effectively you will be able to rely less on your will power and have more chances of being true to your commitment.
There are two basic motivators for every human:
Everything you are currently doing is giving you some kind of pleasure or helps you avoid some kind of pain or both.
There is always a payoff. The bigger the perceived value of the payoff is, the more likely you are going to act on it.
In addition, the human mind is wired for instant gratification. For this reason, the payoff you are going to receive for staying consistent in your diet may not be enough when you are tempted by a sugary treat, which can give you a lot of instant gratification.
Based on these understandings, the best thing you can do is to increase both the short and long term value of the payoff of following your diet.
You can do this by rewarding yourself every time you manage to stay consistent.
This can be every day/week/month. And then “punish” yourself, if you get off track. This way you are utilizing both the pain and pleasure motivators as well.
Ultimately, following your diet should have a bigger payoff both in the short and long term, than not following your diet.
Furthermore, your level of motivation is also closely related to the level of your commitment. You can increase your level of commitment by having a strong “why” behind your wants. 
#3 – Homeostasis
Homeostasis can be a pain in the ass if you are ignorant and don’t know what you are dealing with.
On the other hand, understanding homeostasis is going to give you more confidence in your ability to stay committed to your decisions.
After reading this, I hope you will be able to take advantage of this mechanism.
Homeostasis is defined as your body’s way of maintaining balance. Every time you are trying to break this balance you are going to meet resistance. This resistance is dependent on how “out of balance” your new actions are. To meet lower resistance, you will have to practice less “out of balance” actions.
In this regard, the best approach is the gradual approach.
Example: Let’s say that you want to follow the paleo diet, but currently your diet is completely unhealthy.
If you try to go full paleo immediately, you will meet a lot of resistance.
With the gradual approach, you are going to start implementing things incrementally by removing the unhealthy foods and adding the healthy ones in a longer period of time.
Habits and Homeostasis
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle
A concept to help you understand homeostasis better is the concept of habits. We (humans) are creatures of habit.
Most of the things we are doing, we are doing them habitually.
Building a new habit requires approximately 30 days (depending on the habit). After these 30 days of successful implementation, homeostasis is going to work for you. Now your new habit will require little to no effort for maintenance. As a result then, you can use your will power and the motivation to establish a new habit or to improve the habit you have just implemented.
Example: Continuing from the paleo example, you can remove all artificial sugar and junk foods from your diet as your first new habit.
Then you can replace wheat products with more vegetables and maybe potatoes.
Lastly, you can remove all the dairy and add some fruits and even more vegetables to your diet.
As a result, you would have successfully implemented the paleo diet in 12 weeks and now it would be very easy to maintain.
#4 – Environment
Last but not least comes the environment.
The environment you live in is either supportive of your new habits or not.
Your environment consists of:
- The physical place you live
- The people you relate to
- The sum of the temptations
How to be proactive
With proactive action, you can take control of your environment and make it supportive of your goals.
With a supportive environment, you will be able to stay consistent even if you have limited willpower and don’t know how to motivate yourself effectively.
For example, if there is no unhealthy food in your house when you are hungry, you will be able to stay on track a lot easier.
Proactivity is an ongoing process. You should reflect frequently on what things are tempting in your environment and remove them immediately. If you fall out of your desired habit, you should reflect and identify the cause of that incident. Then deal with the cause and get back to your habit.
You can practice this right now if you have quit a diet before.
- What was the reason you weren’t able to stay committed?
- What can you do about it?
This is one of the most important aspects of a supportive environment. Talk to your friends and family of what you are trying to do and ask them to keep you accountable. Even better you can find a partner/ team and assist each other during the whole process.
Talk to your friends and family of what you are trying to do and ask them to keep you accountable. Even better you can find a partner/ team and assist each other during the whole process.
Putting Everything Together
So how can you put all these info into a coherent action plan?
Step #1: Identify and deal with the cause of your previous failed attempts.
You can do this by asking the questions from the proactivity sub-chapter. Some common reasons are:
- Very big commitment. Remember the gradual approach.
- Not supportive environment.
- Not very motivational payoff.
Look carefully at the 4 pillars and see which one needs the most attention.
If this is the first time you are trying to establish a new diet, then as a first step take proactive action to make your environment more supportive.
Step #2: Break down your diet
Here you are going to break down your diet into gradual habits, like the examples in the homeostasis category.
I recommend you to break your diet into 12 weeks.
The paleo example could look like this:
- 1-4th week: Remove the unhealthy foods.
- 5-8th week: Remove a category that is not allowed by your diet (eg. wheat in paleo) and add something that is recommended by your diet.
- 9-12th week: Remove the remaining categories (dairy, legumes) that are not allowed in your diet.
Step #3: Establish a reward/punishment system
The more frequent the rewards the easier it is going to be to stay consistent.
You can have a small reward for a successful day, one bigger for a successful week and the biggest one for the successful habit (4 weeks). This way the whole process is going to be very enjoyable.
- Buying a gift to yourself (clothes, books, training equipment, etc)
- Having a massage
- Spending time listening to music
I have been able to establish a lot of habits without using punishments. The idea is to make it “painfull” to be inconsistent.
Example: you can give your accountability partner 5$ everytime you get off track.
Step #4: Take action immediately
Take action right now based on the 2 previous steps.
Find a small act and accomplish it.
Begin your new habit right now.
Some more thoughts
There are of course a lot more things that can help you stay consistent, but this is what I consider the foundation.
Obviously, you can implement these principles in all areas of your life.
- starting to train everyday morning
- adding a second training session to your day
- sleeping earlier
Lastly, staying committed to your diet does not mean that you will be able to achieve the results that you want because the diet you have chosen might be inefficient. However, after your first successful implementations, you will be able to improve your diet a lot easier than it was the first time.
Do you have any questions or recommendations according to this post?
Feel free to post them below.
 Develop mental toughtness: Train The Body – The Mind Will Follow
 Great resource on building habits: The One Trick I Use To Build Every Habit