Why is it so hard to stick to a diet?

Why is it so hard to stick to a diet? I do well for three or four days and then my cravings get the best of me. I want to lose 15 lbs, but I just can't seem to stay on a diet.

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Gail Saltz, M.D.
ABOUT THE EXPERT

Gail Saltz, M.D.

Psychiatrist, columnist, bestselling author, and television commentator Gail Saltz, M.D., has been called "a voice of wisdom and... Read more

Much of dieting is an emotional task. Food means so many things to us--we eat food to sustain us, comfort us, entertain us, create a bond with others, feel loved, show love and deal with sadness, stress and boredom. You may not even be conscious of the particular reasons you eat, which makes it especially hard to deny ourselves food, known as dieting. It’s also hard to deny yourself something for a long period of time. Willpower is especially fleeting when you don’t feel good, so even if you are losing weight but feel deprived, your resolve drops and you cheat.

What you need is some insight into why you eat. What are your main triggers? Is it stress, sadness or boredom? Is it because you can’t celebrate without food, and life is too flat without these celebrations? Is it that you need food to remind you that you are loved? Figuring out what food really means to you will enable you to examine how logical that thought is and make you less susceptible to acting on it. Second is to build up some coping skills for mood states that trigger your eating. What else can you do to relax besides eat chocolate? How about a warm bath, a brisk walk or a listen to your iPod? What else might help you when you get bummed besides a bag of chips? Can you call a friend to discuss it or read a funny book that engages you and makes you laugh? New tools will help your resolve when it comes to sticking with the diet. It will also help you get back on the diet wagon if you fell off.

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