How to Diet Without Being the Worst

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

The beginning of a new year means seemingly everyone tries to become a better person, and makes you feel guilty because you don't want to give up alcohol, sugar, gluten, processed meat, red meat, all meat, dairy, non-ozonated drinking water, and sex for the rest. Of. Your. Life.

Maybe some of you really do want to make positive changes, but are worried about what your friends and family will think about your newfound Puritanism. Welp, your friends and family don’t care, and you'll become annoying AF if you don't take active steps to prevent it. To avoid becoming that person those in your social circle refer to as “that Paleo guy we used to know,” follow these tips:


Don’t bite off more than you can chew

This has nothing to do with portion control (though that’s a good start). Setting lofty goals seems like a great idea in the beginning, especially as you get a workout boner at the outdoor-gear retailer imagining yourself using all that fancy equipment. But overeagerness is guaranteed to burn you out, get you frustrated, and ultimately lead you to failure. You’ll just end up being that dude throwing around a word like “belay” without actually knowing what it means. Now everyone hates you.

“Choose attainable goals that will set you up for success in the new year. If you aren't a runner and haven’t really run before, don’t sign up for a marathon this year... and definitely don't start bragging about how you're doing a marathon," advises Jennifer Christman, corporate dietitian at Medifast. "Instead, take small steps like the couch-to-5k program, or simply start with walking a few days a week. Making small changes will be more sustainable in the long run. As you celebrate these accomplishments and make them a habit, you can then introduce something more ambitious.”

Put down that South Beach Diet book

ESPECIALLY if you're on your morning commute -- conspicuousness is the hallmark of the asshole dieter, and the effect is magnified when the inherently annoying characteristics of fad diets are tacked on. “Extreme fad diets may give you fast results, but most of the time you do not feel that great and the results are not sustainable,” says Christman. “Focus on the process of living a healthy life and incorporating lifestyle changes. When goals are based on behaviors, the other benefits, like weight loss, will follow naturally. Instead of drastically changing your diet, try making a goal like incorporating at least five fruits and vegetables every day.”

Telling people you're trying to eat more vegetables isn't as exciting as letting everyone know you're on the latest trendy diet, but it's more likely to get you results... one of which is "not pestering your friends about their carb intake."

Other manageable tips Christman suggests are using smaller plates to trick yourself into smaller portions; using herbs and spices in place of salt and sugar; incorporating more beans into your diet, which will mean less snacking; adding whole grains to help reduce belly fat; and planning your meals ahead of time so that you stay on track.

In other words, your plan to go gluten-free isn't just going to fail, especially if you're addicted to pizza -- it's going to make life miserable for you. And probably everyone around you, as you berate them for their atrocities against gluten.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Track your progress (but do it privately)

Keeping a diary of your progress and goals is one way to see your success and also... to kind of keep it to yourself.

“After you have decided what your goals are, make your plan. Remember to be specific and put time frames around the goals. Maybe you keep track on your smartphone or simply write it down in a journal. Either way, self-monitoring is a powerful tool that can help keep you accountable for your goals, and if you want to keep it to yourself, that is OK too,” says Christman.

The key here is that you're holding yourself accountable, without putting the burden on anyone else. And while you might be tempted to tell your entire social media network via some sort of app every time you lose a pound or run a quarter-mile in 25 minutes, remember that you're doing this for yourself, not anyone else. Also, everyone has hidden you from their timeline.

Don’t freak out if you're not 100% on track all the time

There are going to be times when you want a little dessert, or a drink (fine, maybe a few drinks). Let yourself relax and enjoy it, because feeling like you're trapped in the chains of your diet will make life miserable for you and everyone around you. If you start calorie counting, you'll probably be asked to sit at the kids' table. Just remember that wine and cake won't undo your entire day -- provided that you don't have them for every meal every day. Plus, constantly denying yourself the food and drink you love will lead to things like bingeing later, and you’ll be even worse off than you were when you started.

To get yourself in better shape, you don't have to shift into overdrive, assures Christman. "Simply do something. Drink water, walk for 10 minutes, or eat an apple every day. I love the old saying that ‘something is better than nothing.' This is true. Once you take that first step, this can lead to other healthy behaviors.” Like keeping your friends!

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Meagan Drillinger is a contributing writer for Thrillist and is excited for April when she'll finally get her turn on the treadmill again. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.