The Real Reason You Don’t Stick to A Diet

The real reason you cant quite diet coke or stick to a dieet

Note From Katie: Many people have trouble trying to stick to a diet or changing bad habits. I’ve asked my friend Anne from to write about how to stay on track. I met Anne at a blogging conference and am so excited to get to introduce you to her today. Enter Anne

Have you ever resolved to drop a bad habit, yet failed? I have. And I’m not alone.

You may decide you need to get rid of a bad habit, but it’s hard to just QUIT doing something. You may be committed to change, and have fabulous intentions–but you still struggle to follow through. Why?

It’s because people typically set themselves up to lose.

To be successful, you have to replace a negative habit with a positive one. So instead of resolving to “stop eating junk” you have to “choose healthy snacks” instead. This isn’t just a question of semantics: it’s a powerful, and often overlooked, difference.

To simply STOP doing something, your only real plan is to use your willpower, and that’s a limited resource. You know what this looks like: the first time the craving strikes you brush it off, 30 minutes later you do something intentional to distract yourself, and an hour after that you’re pacing in front of your refrigerator (or office vending machine) telling yourself not to grab a Diet Coke. If you’re like me, that’s when you give in.

But to be successful at making changes, you have to do more than decide to give up the bad habits: you have to plan what you’re going to do instead.

So let’s make a plan. Here’s how to trade in 3 common bad habits for good ones.

Quit Diet Coke

I’m sorry to say that I have tons of experience with quitting Diet Coke. That stuff is addictive! I have a long history of giving it up, only to relapse a few months later.

I’ve learned that to successfully quit Diet Coke, you have to do more than just decide to quit: you must decide in advance what you’re going to drink instead.

Drinking plain water instead of diet soda sounds noble and all, but it doesn’t satisfy a Diet Coke craving on a hot summer day. My substitute of choice is sparkling seltzer water, served with a wedge of lime, lemon, or if I’m feeling really exotic, grapefruit.

I keep my fridge stocked with cans of seltzer water from the grocery, and I also brew iced coffee and iced tea in the summertime. There are plenty of cold drinks for hot summer days besides Diet Coke! On cooler days, hot herbal tea is my beverage of choice.

If I’m out and about and seltzer water isn’t on the menu, I’ll order iced tea, coffee, or even red wine. Just not soda!

Stop Eating Junk Food

Resolving to get off the junk is an important first step. But if you don’t make a plan, you’re setting yourself up for a massive battle based on willpower alone–and by the end of the day you’re going to lose (or be really cranky).

To be successful, make sure you know what exactly you’re giving up. Is it chips? Cookies? Easy Cheese? And then decide what you’re going to eat instead.

Stock your pantry with healthy snacks so you have something to eat when the munchies strike. If you need ideas, check out this excellent list of easy & healthy snack ideas. (The almond crackers are a family favorite at my house.)

As for me, I get into trouble when I want something crunchy. It’s not glamorous, but baby carrots and sugar snap peas provide some crunch. I prevent a lot of dietary problems before they get started by keeping these veggies in my fridge at all times.

Of course, if you’re staying up late eating bags of chips, you may be able to fix the problem by just going to bed. Which leads us to…

Staying up Until Midnight (or Later!)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve resolved to “go to bed early” and then gotten in bed even later than I did the night before!

If your goal is to get to bed at a decent hour, you’ve got to do better than deciding to go to bed “not too late.” (It’s hard to just stop doing something.)

Decide what you ARE going to do. Set a time, and then plan ahead so you can stick to it.

At my house, I used to set an alarm on my phone that went off at 9:20, when I was supposed to be brushing my teeth and heading off to bed. This technique didn’t work at all. When the alarm went off it just made me mad, because without fail I’d be right in the middle of a project I didn’t want to wrap up.

So I changed the alarm. Now it goes off 30 minutes before teeth brushing time, and it means “wrap up your projects so you can get to bed on time!” It’s a subtle change, but it works.

Sometimes I still stay up too late working on a deadline, but that repeating alarm makes it much easier to hop back on the bedtime wagon.

If you find yourself chronically staying up way too late, take a hard look at how you use your time the rest of the day, especially your mornings. If you can’t get your work done in the evenings, it’s likely that trouble started way earlier in the day.

To Change Habits, You Have to Make a Plan

Nature abhors a vacuum. You can’t just drop a bad habit: you have to replace it with a good one or you’re doomed to failure. If you want to succeed, you have to make a plan.

About the author: Anne Bogle is a hobby nutritionist, fitness enthusiast, and certified bookworm. She’s a homeschooling mom of four who loves strong coffee, long books, the social graces, and social media. She’s also the author of the free ebook Ultimate Beach Reading: A Summer Reading Guide from Modern Mrs Darcy. You can find her on her blog Modern Mrs Darcy, and on twitter, which she adores.

What positive change are you planning to make this month? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. If you want to drop junk food, try replacing it with a fatty snack, not vegetables. As someone who has eaten junk food literally her entire life, trying to eat a carrot stick when you want a deep fried potato chip isn’t going to cut it, no matter how many carrots you shove in your face. Your body is craving that junk food for a reason and it’s not out of pure habit. You’re hungry, you want something carby or sugary for energy, and your body has been fine tuned to instantly crave the hyper-palatable additives found in junk food. The only way you’re going to kick that habit is by filling up with fats and proteins at all of your meals and keeping *filling* snacks on hand. Instead carrots, eat a couple bites of egg salad or a homemade version of the junk item – nothing wrong with some vegetable chips fried in quality lard. Do this long enough and the next time you do slip up and give in to that bag of doritos, you’ll find yourself with a horrific stomach ache, further breaking the habit. Yeah, it’s high calorie, but you’ll be getting nutrient dense food, allowing you to heal your body at the same time as breaking the habit, and you’ll never forget how awful the junk food makes you feel after eating nutrient dense food. Carrots, celery and nuts never did any of that for me.

    • I have to disagree a little bit, but only a touch.  It’s true that if you’re craving something fatty, focusing on crunchy isn’t going to cut it.  But like WM said, if you’re craving cruchy, replace it with crunchy.  If you’re craving fat or salt, a healthy(ier) alternative might be a good choice.  If veggie chips is a good enough substitution for your diet, perfect.  For me, nuts work really well to replace chips, as do various baked veggie chips (kale chips, eggplant chips, etc).  It’s all about identifying the quality you’re craving in the food and focusing on just replacing that.  Because you’re right, if you’re craving fat a carrot won’t cut it, but if you want crunchy, it just might.  I’d also like to add that fat is literally an addictive substance – craving it does NOT mean you need it.  Sometimes, maybe, but a person who eats a lot of fat and craves fat is responding to addiction not nutritional need.

      I loved this post.  I gave up pop while I was pregnant, and discovered flavored selters for the first time.  I love them and am so glad I made the switch.  It was hard for quite a while, but being pregnant and knowing that it wasn’t just my health at stake helped 😉

      • You’re missing the point. People don’t crave fat unless their body is used to the fat in hyper-palatable junk food items or items fried in canola oil. Good fat has leptin in it that creates satiety. Hunger leads to cravings for fast calories, not nutrients. This has nothing to do with “crunchy” or “salty” and everything to do with keeping your body filled with nutrient dense, truly satisfying foods (fat and protein) instead of hyper-palatable junk food items.

        • Fat that you eat does not provide leptin. Leptin is an “adiposity hormone” that is produced by fat cells within living tissue. It is destroyed when living cells die (as in meat, unless you eat it straight from the slaughter), and also destroyed by your own digestive enzymes when you eat the meat/fat.

        • Thank you for your comment, Cassandra Roy, I think you’re spot-on. I agree with everything you said, and way to go for telling it like it is!

          When I first started eating nutrient dense, and giving up processed sugar (which I didn’t think I ate a ton of–until I started giving it up!) among other things, I was a little stumped at what to eat, and you’re right….carrot sticks do not cut the cravings! I find, since eating better, I don’t crave any food anymore at all….I used to get intense cravings for certain things at different times, but now I don’t crave anything. Also, you are so right when you said when you do cheat from eating nutrient dense, it makes me feel so bad that it resolves your mind to never do it again! I’ve yo-yoed back and forth a lot this year, but have only just begun this year, and am still learning new things to contribute to my resolve to NEVER go back to how I ate before…….

          I love hearing about others who know about REAL food, nutrient dense, and truly nourishing food (it validates what I’ve learned, and makes me feel like I know what I’m talking about). These blogs are awesome, because it helps connect people that way, and we need all the help and support we can get!

          • Interesting comment. Out of curiosity what are you eating instead. It’s so confusing as to what to eat and is actually considered healthy. There’s so much conflicting advice and pseudo science being bounded around. I don’t know where to start!

  2. I wonder what that seltzer water and all those bubbles are doing down there in your stomach. I think they must be distroying anything healthy because how could something healthy survive those gases? Just a thought! I quit soda years ago but water is my first replacement choice and only spring water or reverse osmosis.
    I do enjoy tea and coffee but my food cost enough money so distroying it with something unnatural doesn’t work for me.

    • Our family had a Reverse Osmosis system for 20 plus years before the damage set in. For many years alternative health advice was given to me that Reverse Osmosis water will strip your body of minerals. Well it finally did, in the form or leg cramps. My MD did Ultrasound and Cat Scans and finally tried to tell me that everyone gets them. But I felt there was a more logical reason than “everyone gets them” I could not sprint across the street without gettting a cramp in my calf. After peeling back several layers, my AK Chiropractor found my mineral levels were too low and suggested a regiment of minerals and drinking Fiji water. It worked? After 2-3 years of pain in my legs and calves, the problem was solved! I now not only do not drink RO water, I recently began drinking Kangen water. It alkalinzes your body, because our environment and the foods we eat are too acidic, which cause inflammation in our body, leading to weakened immune systems.

  3. Hum….good the ideas, i just need to apply them. – i hate diet Anything, so that’s not a problem for me, – i adore seltzer so that’s what i  indulge in for healthy drink, but the munchies…well they tend to strike a bit more often and with more force than i can always handle….i DO love carrots- so that’s a plus, but always having them ready and on hand can be the problem. …i think i shall give it a try though! 🙂

  4. Okay, everyone’s talking about salty and crunchy … what about cutting that sweet tooth?  It’s summer and I have 4 kids …. always ice cream in the house.  I can’t eat gluten so I am careful about that, but I CRAVE the sweets.  Ice cream, chocolate, tapioca, rice pudding, any pudding!  It’s not just the ‘sugar’ or I’d be happy with fruit.  It’s the sugar and fat together that I think I crave.  It is absolutely an addiction.  I told my doctors 10 yrs ago that this sweet tooth thing was an ADDICTION for people and they disagreed.  I’m so happy to see that they’ve changed their tune but I still can’t repair my addiction.  Like the article says, I can cut it for a certain amount of time … almost going through DT’s but eventually something gets triggered again and the problem comes back.  Having a truly acceptable and satiable alternative is a great idea but I don’t see that in the list of snack alternatives. 


    • Be creative – find ways to combine raw fruit with fat. Cheese and fruit. Peanut butter and apples. Also, I found that my sugar cravings were related to my energy level. Anemia, blood sugar lows, and just plain being tired made me crave sweets. When I started attacking my energy level problems, the cravings disappeared. Pay attention to when the cravings happen, and see if there is a pattern to them.

      • I have a Vitamix and because it blends and freezes so well I can make a good substitute for ice cream and still have it healthy. It takes a little experimenting but basically I pack a couple handfuls of baby kale (yes it makes green ice cream-so?) your choice of frozen fruits; I like pineapple, green grapes, granny smith apple, some lemon juice and a bit of mint leaves. I also add a couple teaspoons of coconut oil , the solid oil never liquify’s and it blends all together nicely, plus it’s good for you. The kale needs to go on the bottom or the frozen fruit will freeze up and the kale won’t be blended. Add enough water or fruit juice 1/2 cup give or take and set it on high. I found out quite by accident that it freezes. Maybe not rock hard, more like a home made sorbet but if you have patience you can stick it in the freezer. It got me passed ice cream and the horrible stomach cramps it gave me.

    • Don’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners.

      Research and understand how artificial sweeteners cause weight gain.

      A craving is a chemical reaction.

      Try a low carb induction style diet to break your sugar craving. Step down easy if you need to (100 carbs, 40, 20), then switch to a whatever diet if low carb isn’t for you.

      Be wary of high fructose corn syrup. While aspartame makes me “quietly” crave more aspartame, I’ve found HFCS triggers severe sugar cravings and for 18 hours plus.

      After you have cleared sweeteners/sugar from your diet, note how you respond to high carb/high starch foods. This is a key step to avoiding a runaway re-addiction.

      Remember, EVERYONE is on a diet. Some are better than others. Eliminating artificial sweeteners and understanding and controlling sugar intake will change your diet for the better.

  5. I love it! “Nature abhors a vacuum”  So true! What a great reminder 🙂

  6. I love this post! I have kicked a serious food addiction and lost 160 pounds in the process. I recently led a weight loss program in my church. One problem I noticed was some people were so negative, always lamenting about everything they were giving up. I was costantly telling people, you have to have a plan, and you have to focus on what you can eat and activites you can do rather than what you think you’re missing out on. And beyond that, it really helps if you have specific goals outside of just giving up a bad habit. Nobody gives up junk food just for the fun of it, but you may realize you need to do it to be healthier – and then you then have a new bunch of positive things to focus on, like losing weight, feeling better, having more energy, looking better ect. It makes a world of difference in being committed enough to reach your goals.

  7. my issue is that i drink prolly 2 to 4 24 packs of reg mountain dew. or even more. i eat 1 small meal a day. and thats usually pasta with a tony bit of butter. i cant get out of this habit no matter what i do. i even tried a different sauce.. and cut back to 2 cans a day and i get horribly sick. sounds silly but im sooooo addicted to soda its bad but weird thing im losing alot of weight. even drinking tons of soda. I cant stand coffee, teas, or bubbly water.. or even water alone… ive tried so hard to find a different drink.. but they are sooooo disgusting i gag… i dont touch nuts, almonds, or any type of health food. i cant stand them… i feel like a rabbit… its gross. but the same time if i dont figure out what works for me ill have really bad kidney stones. HELP!!! but also my sleeping pattern is basically i sleep 6 hours every 4 days. been doing that for yearrrssss… If anyone can help me.

    • Sarah – I love Coke and Pepsi, but do not consume at the rate you are. I’m wondering if you should check this out with a doc. Maybe he/she can suggest alternatives to substitute that are palatable. It sounds like you have been way out of balance in a potentially dangerous way. The symptoms you have when cutting way down might be withdrawal. You need to learn to love the healthier foods and it may take some professionals to get you on track. I hope you kick this! For me, I can enjoy salads, steamed vegetables, fruit smoothies, poultry. I still eat junk food every day – hamburgers and hot dogs, and maybe 2 servings of soda per day. No fries or onion rings, but I do go on binges. I’m worried about you because it sounds like you don’t like very many foods at all. That will make it harder.

    • I agree. I don’t know if you’re still having the same problems, but seeing a doctor might be your best bet. They may be able to get you paired with a dietitian who can help with the texture sensitivities. You’re probably not sleeping well due to the amount of caffeine you’re drinking. And you’re probably feeling sick from the sugar withdrawal after cutting back the sugar amount in all the soda.

      I’ve drank soda for years. Not at the same rate, but until now I’ve never found a good substitute. It’s a Chai tea. Not the full fat authentic stuff, but just the Celestial Seasonings kind. After it’s done steeping I add 1 serving of the coffee mate French Vanilla creamer in and then ice the whole thing. It gives me the sweetness I’m craving and the cardamom and other spices make me feel full. It’s been a Godsend. It doesn’t even really taste like tea either.

      The thing that has helped me the most, besides the tea, is thinking about the damage I’m doing to my internal organs with all the unhealthy food and drinks I consume. You can still treat yourself and indulge once in awhile. I think it would be unhealthy not to. But it’s about moderation. Please go visit a doctor to help you feel better for you.

  8. Every person has beliefs about food and how it affects them, and how their body should respond to the foods they eat. Some of these beliefs come in from our ancestors. These are beliefs that help us survive. Examples of these are “I need to eat more now, because there may be none later.” “I need to store as much fat as possible in case there is a shortage.” “My body will always be fat.”
    Sometimes these beliefs are buried deep in the subconscious, and the person is unaware that they are there. So when the person begins to lose weight, the subconscious belief kicks in, and the person suddenly develops an insatiable appetite, or maybe they just can’t motivate themselves to go to the gym.
    Suddenly the person has gained more weight that the original amount that they lost. Thetahealing is a way to find these beliefs and change them to something beneficial like, “There is always plenty.” “Eating less is better.” “I enjoy eating healthy foods.” The process of finding the beliefs is fast, and the beliefs are changed instantly. Sessions can be done over the phone!
    You can go to “Ingrid Muller Dobbins-Thetahealer” on Facebook, or to and search for certified practitioner Ingrid Dobbins for more information.

  9. I also want to add–though I realize it’s not what the author is addressing here–that sometimes the reason we don’t “stick to” a diet, new habit, or other long-term change is that it turns out not to work for us.

    It can be very hard to intuit the difference between resisting change despite its potential gains, and resisting change because of its harmful effects…both situations tend to announce themselves with the overall feeling of “This Sucks!” But fighting that feeling when it’s telling you something important can be WAY more harmful than whatever you were trying to correct.

    TL/DR: Some diets (and resolutions, and situations, and relationships) don’t actually deserve to be stuck to. It’s really important to be able to tell the difference.

  10. I am a 44 year old woman that has struggled with her weight since forever. I have lost dramatically and then gain double. I am very happy when I am at a healthy weight but for some reason and no particular day I just give up . I am not a fan of junk bagged food , my problem is the amount of food I eat in one sitting. If I am eating rice or a pot roast I have to eat twice , or worse until there is nothing inside the whole pot. The worse is that I am not satisfied until my stomach feels that it is about to explode . I did a basal metabolism check up and the doctors didn’t find any hormonal problem. I feel like a child without any control, I feel weird because here I am a grown woman spoiling my health and happiness for an unknown reason and without control. Can somebody give me any advice I would appreciate it

  11. I’ve been addicted to Diet Pepsi for years. Last year around this time I quit cold turkey and started doing P90X every single day. I noticed that after I quit Diet Pepsi I was able to focus clearly on weight loss and fitness. I was sticking to the schedule religiously and lost 5 pounds within the first few weeks. I found that drinking Diet Pepsi made my thinking cloudy and my energy levels low. For whatever reason, I ended up getting back on the sauce (Diet Pepsi) after making some great progress, only to get into worse eating habits then I had before. I didn’t gain 10 pounds or anything, but after starting Diet Pepsi up again I felt terrible again…low energy levels, no focus and lousy nights rest. I’m determined now to get off of this soda once and for all and stick to my exercise regime.

    What did I replace my soda with? Graham Cracker Muscle Milk Protein shakes (2 a day) and water.

  12. The importance of sleep, or the certain times to sleep,is discussed often on this site and I am not sure of the reasons. What I do know is no matter what, I won’t even bother to say “how hard I try” because I don’t, I just do not sleep like a “normal person” should. It’s 9:34p.m. I’m just getting started. Started doing what? Work? Making a present for someone? Making a beautiful oven dinner?
    None of the above. I haven’t even had dinner. I did make a list and I filled up the paper. There is a few things, like laundry, but will I do it? More than likely I will find something interesting on the internet that has nothing to do with anything in my life. I will become more and more fascinated with every page I read about it. Note taking will begin, I will see that it is 3am, realize I have not grocery shopped in a year or so, slap that on the list. Feel somewhat accomplished.
    The the next thing I know its 6 or 7 am. But if I don’t have an appointment the next day I could care less. As long as I get 7 to 8 hours, I don’t care when I go to bed. I don’t get tired.
    As long as I am making it to appointments, prepared and clean, rested and the cat is fed, why does it matter when I go to sleep?
    When I was 3 or 4? My bed was loaded up with toys. This was a desperate attempt by my mother to keep me occupied and in my bed and not downstairs bothering her. As long as I stayed in bed ( except the bathroom) and was quiet ( My mom’s version of me resting I guess) then I was fine. I remember playing all kinds of make believe games, staying on my bed mind you, and being awake even when she came up to bed.
    I guess I am not hardwired to sleep at night. It is nice and quiet and you can get things done. Easy to think and stay focused.
    HOWEVER=If someone were willing to give me some really earth shattering reasons why sleeping at night was good for you, I might consider it. However, keep in mind, I sleep from 7am to 1, or 6-3, etc. I do sleep, I do get the R.E.M.
    Speaking of, I have Restless Leg Syndrome. Besides the obvious, you are not supposed to get your R.E.M at all without medication. I am lucky enough that I started having dreams again without the medication, but no dreaming is really bad for you I think. Your dreams are how you work out things in your life, replay events you didn’t realize effected you, etc. They are in no way random and they are VERY important.
    Like I said, I just recently started having dreams again. I missed them. If I am dreaming, I am getting R.E.M. This was the problem when I worked as well. The problem is that the sleep cycle that brings the dreaming doesn’t come till the very, very end of the hours you chose to sleep. You do not hear alarms, they are faint in the background of the dream, people calling to try and wake you up is an annoying sound, etc. I am not sure if this has anything to do with the days I sleep for many hours. All I know is that I will not complain. I take several medicines and for years they wiped out my creativity and my dreams. I did not add or drop any medicines except maybe adderal and suddenly I am not a robot anymore. I am a real live girl. If I have dreams if I were to sleep at night, provided I get Earth shattering reasons why just because the moon is down its better to sleep then. Then maybe I will give it whirl for a month or so.
    But, I eat ( poorly) take my supplements, vitamins and medicines. I feed the cat. Take care of things around the house that I remember. Its just like a day but switched. Please Enlighten me.
    Thank you,