The Best Way To Start A Diet To Ensure You Keep The Weight Off For Good!


The best way to start a diet is to not start a diet. I’m not trying to be facetious. A critical mistake I’ve observed many of my clients make is starting a diet before they’re ready. This leads to short-term success, and long-term heartache and headache. The best way to start a diet actually has little to do with your nutrition habits. The best way to start is rooted in a few key mindset shifts to ensure your approach (and results!) are sustainable. This article will detail a handful of key mindset shifts to make so you can successfully lose weight and keep it off for good. It will also discuss how to make an adjustment to your diet when the time comes to begin. 

Change Your Definition of the Word “Diet”

Did you know the word “diet” actually has TWO definitions?

The first, which you’re most familiar with, is “intentionally eating in a calorie deficit to lose weight.

The second: “a habitual way of eating.

To illustrate the second version in action, think about it like this: when someone tells you that they follow a plant-based diet, do you automatically assume they’re trying to lose weight?

Likely not.

What you glean is that they consistently (or habitually) prioritized plant-based food choices.

There’s NO mention or assumption about weight loss whatsoever! 

The best way to start a diet is to first change your definition of the word diet to focus on building a foundation of healthy, habitual eating habits. This is important because if this rock-solid foundation is not in place before you start a diet, then you’re far more likely to revert to past behaviors, which led to you desiring to diet in the first place!

Gain Clarity on Why You Want to Diet

The most common answer I receive to the question “why do you want to diet” is simply “to lose weight.


This is so surface-level and unhelpful! Is this “why” going to be what carries you through the inevitable challenges you’ll face trying to transform yourself and keep the weight off for good?

Doubtful, considering 95% of people who start a diet regain the weight they lost (and then some!) within three years…

Everything we do at The 5% way is dedicated to helping you become one of the five percent – the five percent of people who achieve truly sustainable weight loss and truly feel their best! If you want to reclaim your confidence, control, and sense of inner calm around food and keep the weight off for good, click here to learn how we can help you. 

For every one-on-one client or member of The 5% Community we work with, we have them prioritize completion of what we call our “7 Layers of Why” exercise, which brings about immense clarity of an emotionally-charged, powerful “why” behind wanting to lose weight.

The outcome of such a deep exercise is immense clarity on why they want to achieve their goal, which becomes their support rock to fall back on when they encounter challenges on their journey.

If you’d like a copy of the video and exercise we specifically use, send me a DM on Instagram with the word “why” and I will send it your way! 

Understand What Diet Success Looks Like

The best way to start a diet is with clarity on what success looks like.

And I am talking about success unrelated to the scale – this is important because, despite strong consistency and your best effort, you will NEVER have 100% control over what the scale does or does not do, which is why it’s important to focus on the variables of success you do have control over.

Does success look like…

  • Averaging four workouts per week?
  • Averaging 95 percent nutrition blueprint compliance?
  • Averaging 70 percent of your body weight in fluid (ounces) per day?*
  • Abstaining from alcohol during the duration of your diet?**

I don’t know.

But YOU need to know. When you gain clarity on what success looks like ahead of time, you can better align the appropriate, effective actions to achieve it, and be incredibly clear on what you should not be doing to ensure success happens. 

*For more information on how you can lose weight by drinking water (and how much to drink per day to do so), click here.

**And for more information on how alcohol impacts fat loss during a diet, click here

Best Way To Start A Diet: Begin with a Pre-Diet Maintenance Phase

The best way to start a diet is to not actively seek weight loss at all.

We want to shift our focus to the second definition of the word diet: a habitual way of eating.

Once you determine you want to set a weight-loss goal, and you’ve begun to mentally digest this second definition of the word diet, the best way to start a diet is by spending time in what I refer to as a pre-diet maintenance phase.

A pre-diet maintenance phase is a four to six-week period of time where you do NOT actively seek weight loss and instead focus on building a foundation of healthy eating habits and a positive relationship with food. Think of this period as laying the groundwork for a successful diet.

A major mistake I see so many people make once they decide they want to lose weight is they rush into a diet. This has failure written all over it from the beginning because of the overwhelming amount of stress created.

Allow me to clarify…

Crucial Dieting Foundations

When you dive headfirst into a diet, it can be stressful attempting to completely change your grocery list and routine, meal prep and exercise habits, and overall lifestyle. Furthermore, dieting – a calorie deficit – is a significant emotional, mental, and physiological stressor.

The result of diving into a diet without a foundation of healthy eating habits is an incredible amount of stress!

Does that seem like a recipe for significant, sustainable success?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

The best way to start a diet is with the pre-diet maintenance phase. By learning some of the skills essential to consistent healthy eating, it brings about some stress. But by removing an immediate weight-loss goal, the amount of stress will be minimal and manageable. This increases the likelihood of building lasting habits.

Doing this first will make your ability to remain strong in nutrition blueprint adherence once you do begin dieting significantly easier; therefore, likely yielding significant, sustainable progress!

Best Way To Start A Diet: Take A Fat-First Approach

After you’ve implemented all the action steps I shared above, it’s time to actually start your diet. The best way to start a diet is to prioritize reducing your calorie from dietary fat. 

The mistake most people make is prioritizing a reduction in carbohydrates.

Why is a fat-first approach best and a carbohydrate-first approach a mistake?

Carbs are the primary and preferred fuel source for your muscles, brain, heart, and nervous system. Cutting carbohydrates early leads to early-onset fatigue during a diet. This eventually bleeds into affecting your workout performance and recovery, appetite, cravings, and overall wellbeing.

This is not a recipe for strong adherence! 

What I do with my coaching clients and what we teach to members of The 5% Community is a fat-first approach. It has them reducing their fat intake by two servings (30 grams) per day and their carbohydrates by only 10 grams per day. This keeps energy (and excitement because carbs are life) high. It is also creating a significant enough deficit to begin driving weight loss. 

This is something I teach in detail in The 5% Fundamentals of Sustainable Weight Loss Course, here

In Conclusion

The best way to start a diet is to take a patient, lifestyle transformation-first approach. Slowly work to instill a foundation of healthy eating habits alongside a positive relationship with food. 

Doing this work before actively seeking weight loss will yield greater, lasting results versus diving head-first into a diet. 

If you need support during rebuilding your relationship with food, click here to join The 5% Community. Join women just like you who are working to feel, look, and be their best!

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Paul Salter

Paul Salter is a Registered Dietitian and Founder of The 5% Way. Since 2013, Paul has worked one-on-one with nearly 1,500 men and women, helping them to collectively lose tens of thousands of pounds of body fat and keep it off for good. He’s also published nearly 1,000 articles, two books, and 175 podcast episodes (and counting) on all things related to our five core elements of sustainable weight loss.

The Maintain My Weight Loss After A Diet Blueprint

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