9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Diet Plan

Among people who want to lose weight, two questions seem to come up over and over again. The first is, ''Will you give me a specific diet to follow?''
But instead of focusing on a diet, it's more important to learn the principles of eating for optimal health, well-being and weight loss, and to create a plan that will work for your body, preferences and lifestyle. The best diet is the one you will follow and stick to.
Ultimately, we are all ''on a diet.'' The word ''diet'' simply means the foods and drinks you consume on a regular basis. Depending on how you choose to eat, your diet will either support weight loss, contribute to weight gain or maintain your current weight. Your food plan needs to be one you can live with in the real world for the long haul. It needs to fit your particular tastes, preferences and lifestyle, and it has to agree with your body.
The act of ''going on a diet" often has many connotations and beliefs attached. In our society, this ''diet" generally means a plan with a beginning and an end. For some, it is a form of punishment and deprivation. Still others think of it as a road leading up to a big event, such as a wedding or a high school reunion. And for most, it is anticipated as a time that will be difficult, requiring extreme discipline and sacrifice.

The truth is, after all the hard work and restrictions, most diets fail miserably. If a diet is too restrictive (which they often are), people tend to fall off the wagon and never get back on, putting back on every pound they lost (and then some!).
So, should you just toss out all the plans, never go on a diet again and throw your hands up in defeat? Not necessarily. Although it's best for individuals to learn small, manageable lifestyle changes for slow but steady weight loss, there is a time and place for choosing and following a structured diet plan.
A diet plan based on sound science and research by qualified professionals such as doctors, dietitians, metabolic specialists and/or nutrition educators can be very successful at helping certain people succeed at their weight-loss goals. A sensible plan can help teach the basics of healthy food choices, portion control, menu planning and more. It can also provide structure, support and motivation for those who feel lost or disorganized. Some diets will even eliminate guesswork and confusion by supplying daily meal plans, recipes and shopping lists.
The key to all weight loss is cutting calories, but many people like having "rules" to follow to help keep them on track, which is what makes specific weight-loss plans so appealing. Whether you choose to lose weight by following a low-fat plan, a low-carb plan, or by eating all foods in moderation, the plan you choose is all about your individual preference and how your body responds. The ultimate success is not how much or how fast you take off the weight, but whether or not you are able to maintain the loss.
If you decide that going on a specific diet plan is your next best move to get you closer to your ideal body weight, how will you choose which plan to follow? Here are nine questions to ask yourself when evaluating a plan to determine if it is the right one for you.
1. Is the diet based on scientific, sound and proven nutritional principles? Should you expect weight loss at a reasonable rate of .5 to 2 pounds a week, or is it promising a quick fix? If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

2. Do the foods on this plan sound appealing to you? When looking at the list of permissible foods or meal plans, they should be pleasing and varied enough that you will look forward to your meals and snacks. If there is a big ''yuck'' factor, the chance that you’ll stick to the plan is slim to none.

3. Will this plan fit easily into your lifestyle? If you don't have time in your schedule to shop for exotic ingredients and cook complicated dishes, a plan that requires a lot of food preparation will likely frustrate you. You'd be better off with a plan where the food choices are more basic and quick to prepare, or you might even try a diet service that offers pre-made, portion-controlled foods and drinks.

4. Do you like choices, or do you prefer more structure? Do you want your diet plan to allow room for creativity, or do you like the structure of being told what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day?

5. Will your family eat the same foods, or will you (or your partner) need to prepare separate meals for other family members? If you don’t live alone, it might be best to choose a plan that the entire family can follow--or accept that you might have to prepare separate meals to meet everyone's needs.

6. Could you stay on this plan for an extended period of time without getting bored or feeling deprived? Make sure there is enough variety and choice. Diet plans that eliminate entire food groups, never allow for an occasional treat or require the same few choices each day will usually fail, even for the most motivated and disciplined dieters.

7. Does the diet include group support through in-person meetings, online forums or call-in counselors? If you are the type of individual who needs and wants support, make sure it is available. Aside from having a place to go to with questions or for encouragement when commitment falters, being part of a group can make dieting a lot more fun.

8. Is this a plan you can follow as long as you like, or is there a specific beginning and end point? If there is an end point, do you have a strategy in place that will allow you to ease into a lifelong plan? Ultimately, you want your diet to be a pathway to a sustainable way of eating that will nourish you properly and keep you at your healthy weight for years to come.

9. When you read over your plan and imagine yourself following it, do you feel optimism and excitement--or dread? Listen to your gut! If the plan doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right for you.
If one road doesn’t get you where you want to go, recalculate and choose another. Consult with your doctor before beginning a new diet plan, and reach out to a registered dietitian or wellness coach if you feel you need more guidance.
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Member Comments

thank you Report
Great tips for us all Report
Being an emotional eater, I am not sure what works long term Report
Good advice, thanks. Report
You are right on! Report
Most diets that get presented to me fail question #2. They have a preponderance of cold lettuces and liver and severely restrict starches and pasta. I really hate salad dressing and hot sauces. Grapefruit and drugs I take for my heart are enemies. Report
Thanks. Report
Good article Report
Let me say that I appreciate the advice. However, I have followed a number of eating plans, including those I found on my own and those provided to me by nutrition/diet coaches. All of them have worked for the first five or ten pounds, but none of them dropped me further and none of the weight loss lasted. This wasn't due to an inability to stick with it or be strict, as my excitement about the end results was what drove me. Therefore, I am concerned about your comment that it is about calories. That wasn't true for me and I have only had success with Ketogenic. Even that was a struggle, at first, because I don't eat much and still considered calories which stalled my Keto diet benefits. Another example is when my doctor used her nutritionisht, since I tested pre-diabetic, I was also coached by my doctor's nutritionist to eat a Diabetic diet, which, at the time, included oatmeal, and that eating plan included oatmeal, wheat bread, etc. This made my test results worse and I gained weight. To summarize, I think the article is solid, but the comment about calories taken in doesn't apply to 100% of people. Report
I still go WW old exchange plan. It is flexible and gives me a framework to think it all through. Report
Thanks-I needed this. Report
Practical suggestions Report
Sound advice and all things I, finally, considered before starting this my latest and hopefully last journey. Report
Good advice to keep in mind. Report
Good info...Thx! Report


About The Author

Ellen G. Goldman
Ellen G. Goldman
Ellen G. Goldman founded EllenG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management and work-life balance. As a national board-certified health and wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a B.S. and Masters in physical education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA and Wellcoaches Corporation. She is also the author of "Mastering the Inner Game of Weight Loss." and You can visit her at her website, Ellen G. Coaching, and pick up a copy of the "Busy Person's Guide to Healthy Eating on the Go."