There have only been two times in my life when I have stayed focused on my diet.
The first was in 2009.
It was the first time I decided I was going to lose weight. I wasn’t happy with what I saw in the mirror and one night, I was inspired after watching Cam Gigandet in the movie Never Back Down.
After watching that movie, I got serious about researching nutrition and training for fat loss. I came up with a diet plan to follow, and stuck with it for 6 months until I had lost about 30 pounds.
It sounds simple, but the reason I was able to stay focused on my diet back then was that I made a decision.
I was going to lose the weight and nothing was going to stand in my way.
There’s a big difference between telling yourself “I should do this,” or “I’ll try this and see what happens,” or “If everything goes according to plan” and actually deciding you’re going to do something.
The difference is that once you make up your mind, there is a stubbornness and a complete unwillingness to accept failure.
You can learn a lot about this kind of determination by observing kids when they REALLY want something.
There’s no analyzing the situation or waiting to see how things play out or half-ass going after it. When a little kid wants something, they will do everything in their power to get it. Yelling, screaming, crying. They leave it all out on the field.
Think back to the time when you were a kid and wanted a certain toy. Were you going to take no for an answer?
That’s the type of focus you bring to the table when you decide you really want something and I don’t think it’s a mentality you can learn to cultivate. It just happens with certain things at certain times.
The second time was this past year.
I had maintained my weight, plus or minus a few pounds, since I had lost the 30 pounds back in 2010. I did this mainly through intermittent fasting, counting calories and tracking everything I ate.
I maintained my weight despite occasionally eating pretty poorly. In fact, I prided myself in being able to stay lean while binging on all-you-can-eat buffets, never ending pasta, and double entree meals.
Then, something caught up with me.
I was on the tail end of a couple months of nonstop vacations and the quality of my diet was at an all-time low. The majority of my diet consisted of fast food or unhealthy restaurant meals.
I was in Washington DC on the seventh vacation in about 10 weeks when I felt this weird pain in my heart after eating (my second fast food dinner). It wasn’t bad enough for me to want to go to the ER, but it definitely wasn’t normal and it freaked me out.
I immediately decided to eat as clean as possible starting that moment during that trip. I eliminated all grains, dairy, sugar, and alcohol from my diet and basically ate a very strict version of Paleo for about two months.
The pain was never that bad again. A much duller version of it came and went for a few weeks, usually after eating, but it eventually subsided and then went away.
During those couple of months, I had a laser-like focus on my diet.
I decided I would do everything in my power to improve my health through my diet and if the problem still didn’t go away that I would see a doctor.
Ever since then, I have been much more conscious about what I eat. I stopped eating obscene quantities of food and started making better choices at restaurants. I eat a green smoothie or kale salad almost every day for lunch and cook a healthy meal for dinner a few times a week.
This time, the focus on my diet came with the same intensity as it did the first time, but for a different reason.
I had never experienced any health problems before and I really thought if I didn’t do something about my diet, something bad could happen. I decided I wasn’t going to let it. Or at least I was going to do everything in my power to prevent it.
I want to start a life and family with my wife. I want to live to have kids and see them grow up. If I’m going to drop dead in my 30’s it sure as hell won’t be because of something that I could have prevented.
So how do you stay focused on your diet?
I guess the common theme with these two examples is that you need to find some sort of internal motivation that is so strong that you don’t even need to ask this question.
Because if you’re motivated enough, you don’t ask how. You just find a way.
First published on Quora.
Featured image by Xochi Romero.