Anyone can start a diet. But as the days turn into weeks, cravings turn into full-blown obsessions. The next thing you know, you’ve torn through a bag of potato chips and eviscerated a sleeve of cookies—and that’s just while you were waiting for your takeout to arrive. Yes, it’s no secret that sticking to a diet is hard. In fact, according to research in the New England Journal of Medicine, the majority of dieters regain their lost weight within a year.
But one perusal down the #fitinspiration Instagram hashtag rabbit hole will tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. Staying course on your weight-loss journey doesn’t have to be a Sisyphean slog. In fact, by adopting a few tried-and-true techniques—like the 20 gathered here—you too can stick to your diet like glue. So read on, and become the body you want to see in the world.
1. They take a lot of selfies
Love it or hate it, the selfie is a proven method for promoting healthy living. According to a study out of the University of Alicante, maintaining a photo diary of your progress is certain to help keep you on track. Over the course of 16 weeks, researchers had nearly 300 participants take weekly photos of their bodies. By the end of the experiment, a staggering 71 percent met their weight-loss goals.
2. Every night, they get seven hours (or more) of sleep
Research in the International Journal of Obesity indicates that missing out on a good night’s sleep causes cortisol levels to spike. Cortisol is the hormone your body uses to store fat. You can do the math.
3. They step on the scale every morning
According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, folks who weigh-in every day are more likely to lose weight—and keep it off. Regularly seeing the number functions as a motivation. For best results, step on the scale in the morning. You’ll weigh less in the morning (even if only a pound or two) than you will later in the day.
4. They treat soda as poison
You may love a Pepsi at lunch or a whiskey-ginger at happy hour, but soda is one of the more insidious culprits when it comes to weight gain. Think of it in terms of a math. Your average 12-ounce can has about 150 calories. So, if you have just one soda every single day, you’re consuming 1,050 extra (empty, nutritionally useless) calories each week. Or let’s put it another way: Every month, you’re tacking on two entire days of calorie intake to your diet.
5. Even the diet stuff
And if you think diet sodas are any better for you, think again. According to research published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas have been linked to sudden spikes in sugar cravings. As a result, folks who regularly drink diet sodas end up consuming more sugar and even end up gaining weight.
6. They trick their brain
Losing, say, 25 pounds over the course of three months seems like a tall order. But losing two pounds a week for twelve weeks doesn’t sound so bad, right? By altering the language of your diet goals, you can make the target seem that much more attainable.
7. Fat is not forbidden
Seriously. In fact, according to research in The Lancet, people who slate fats into their diets are more likely to keep lost weight off. So follow suit—just make sure you’re eating the “right” fats, like avocados, nuts, and salmon. These foods are known to sate appetites and will have you feeling fuller, longer, even if you cut down on calorie intake.
8. Carbs aren’t forbidden either
Despite their reputation as belt-tighteners, carbs are an essential part of any effective diet. By eating the right carbs, you get a healthy load of appetite-sating fiber and insulin-incinerating carotenoids. So stay away from potatoes, white bread, semolina pasta, and rice. Instead, start eating sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, and quinoa.
9. They follow the 80 percent rule
This rule is a common mandate of most diets. It goes like this: Eat 80 percent of what you normally would, wait 20 minutes, and see if you’re still hungry. Chances are, you won’t be. And just like that, you’ve slashed your total calorie intake by 20 percent.
10. They use smaller plates
By physically limiting how much food you can have at any given time, you’re bound to eat less. If you’re having trouble sticking to the 80 percent rule at home, consider putting all of your flatware in storage and purchasing a newer, smaller (shinier) set.
11. They take their coffee black
One cup of black coffee has about 5 calories. Load it up with cream and sugar, however, and that single cup is now 100 calories. If you can’t stand the bitter taste of black coffee, try switching to a lighter roast (like the Veranda blend at Starbucks). Light roast coffee is naturally sweeter—and more caffeinated.
12. They rarely drink
For the same reason that soda is bad (a lot of calories), alcohol is too. One beer has 150 calories. One glass of wine has 123 calories. An ounce-and-a-half of liquor (the amount in a typical cocktail) has 105 calories. Those add up.
13. They avoid veggie burgers
It’s true: Veggie burgers don’t have as much as your typical beef patty. But by swapping out meat for chickpeas, you’re missing out on omega-3s, which are known to speed up weight loss. However, good dieters do stick to one rule: They only eat grass-fed beef. This higher-quality meat contains nearly double the omega-3s than “normal” beef.
14. They lift
Just the like rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the fit get fitter. See, every pound of muscle on your body burns about six calories an hour. So, if you’re positively jacked, you can torch calories just by sitting around and doing absolutely nothing. And isn’t that the dream?
15. They drink loads of water
If you’ve been searching for a magical weight-loss elixir, stop: It’s been in front of you all along. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, drinking 17 ounces of water (that’s about two cups) can increase metabolic rates up to 30 percent. Plus, water is a known appetite suppressant.
16. Their biggest meal is lunch
Most people consume the majority of their daily calories in the evening. But successful dieters consume the lion’s share at lunch. It’s not rocket science: By consuming the bulk of your calories earlier in the day, you have more time throughout the day to burn those calories off.
17. They cook often
When you eat out, you have no idea what’s going into your food. By cooking at home, you know exactly what’s going into your meals—and into your body. This is an easy way to steer clear of unwanted belly-building oils, salts, and sugars.
18. They use olive oil
Whenever possible, cook with olive oil instead of butter. Butter is loaded with saturated fats (those are the bad ones) while olive oil is high in unsaturated fat, which can help you feeling fuller, longer.
19. They always have a buddy
Embarking on a weight-loss journey with a buddy works twofold. First, having a partner will motivate you to get started. And second, your buddy will help keep you on track. After all, if you fail in this situation, you’re letting down more than just yourself.