What is Self-Discipline?
A lot of people are confused about the definition of self-discipline. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, though, self-discipline is all about correcting and/or regulating oneself in order to improve.
Basically, if you are a self-disciplined person, you have the ability to course-correct and regulate your behaviors so that you can accomplish a greater goal.
The Importance of Discipline When Dieting
There are lots of areas of life in which self-discipline comes in handy. It plays an especially important role when it comes to dieting and taking steps to improve your health, though.
Research has shown time and time again that, in order to stick to a diet and lose weight or experience other positive health changes, you need more than willpower.
You’re not going to be motivated all the time. Instead, you need to be disciplined and willing to regulate yourself when it comes to the type and amount of food you eat each day.
Without discipline, you’re going to find it harder to resist certain high-calorie, hyper-palatable foods that are designed to make you overeat. Your willpower alone may enable you to say “no” for a day or two, but if you haven’t also practiced self-discipline, you’re going to be much more likely to give in.
Tips for Developing Self-Discipline
Now that you have a clearer idea of what self-discipline is, let’s go over some strategies you can use to start developing it.
It’s true that some people may naturally be more disciplined than others. That doesn’t mean that you can’t improve your level of self-discipline, though.
Here are some tips to help you do just that:
Set Clear, Realistic Goals
Next, set some clear and realistic goals for yourself. Be specific about what you want. Don’t just say, “I want to lose weight.” Say, “I want to lose 10 pounds in the next three months.”
Make sure your goals are realistic, too. Losing 10 pounds in three months is totally doable for most people. Losing 10 pounds in a week is almost impossible unless you happen to develop a nasty stomach virus.
Create a Plan
After you know what you want to achieve, create a plan to help yourself achieve it. Write down the specific steps you’ll need to take to make your goal happen.
For example, how many calories do you need to eat per day? How many servings of vegetables do you want to consume? Which foods or beverages do you need to avoid?
The more detailed your plan is, the easier it’ll be for you to follow it.
Get rid of temptations that might derail your diet. If you know that you can’t be trusted with a carton of ice cream or a bag of chips, get them out of your house.
Make it inconvenient for yourself to have unhealthy food. This will decrease the chances that you’ll consume it and will make it easier for you to develop new habits in place of eating junk.
Take it One Day at a Time
Nobody becomes perfectly disciplined overnight. Self-discipline is a skill, and it takes practice for you to become better at it. Take your diet one day at a time or even one meal at a time.
Try not to get overwhelmed by what you’re going to do tomorrow or next week. Focus on being present and making good decisions with regard to your food in the moment.
Keep it Simple
When it comes to sticking to a diet and achieving long-term weight loss, most people do better when they start with small and simple changes.
This goes back to the idea of setting realistic goals. If you overhaul your entire diet overnight, it’s unlikely that you’re going to stick to it for very long. It’ll be too much of a shock to your system.
Instead, you might be better off making small changes in a more gradual way. This gives you more opportunities to practice and strengthen your self-discipline muscles, too.
Change the Way You Talk to Yourself
Some people end up sabotaging their dieting efforts because they speak to themselves in a negative way. They tell themselves that they’re undisciplined or that they don’t have any willpower. By doing this, they create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Focus on speaking to yourself in a more positive way. Tell yourself that you are strong, that you are disciplined, and that you can do whatever you set your mind to, including stick to this diet.
Always Have a Backup Plan
Part of being disciplined is being able to regulate yourself during stressful or difficult times. It might be easy for you to stick to your diet at home. What about when you’re at a party or in the middle of an office-catered lunch, though?
Create a backup plan ahead of time so it’s easier to practice discipline. Bring your own lunch from home or bring a healthy treat to the party to share. That way, there’s something for you to eat and you’re less tempted by the other options.
Celebrate Your Wins
Make sure you celebrate the small wins you experience along the way. You’ll find that it’s easier to stay disciplined if you’re taking time to focus on your victories and reward yourself.
When it comes to rewarding yourself, though, make sure the reward is something that won’t derail your progress.
Don’t celebrate losing five pounds with a gallon of ice cream or a junk food binge. Buy yourself a new piece of workout gear or treat yourself to a bubble bath or a movie instead.
Learn from Your Mistakes
Remember, too, that a mistake does not erase all of the progress you’ve made.
Disciplined people don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater because of one slip up. Instead, they figure out what went wrong, correct themselves, and continue moving forward.
You’re not a failure because of one unhealthy meal or even a day of unhealthy meals. You only fail if you stop trying to reach your goals.
Protecting Yourself from Dieting Pitfalls
Whenever you embark on any kind of new diet or weight loss plan, it’s likely that you’re going to encounter some pitfalls along the way. This seems to happen when you try to make any kind of lifestyle change.
There’s a lot you can do to safeguard yourself from these pitfalls, though. Here are some helpful tips and tools to have up your sleeve:
Write Things Down
For many people, writing down their goals and their plan to reach those goals is helpful. Write them down on a piece of paper and display that paper somewhere prominent.
Remember to be patient with yourself, too. It takes time to see results from any kind of diet or lifestyle change. Don’t be frustrated if you don’t look or feel differently right away. Stay the course and, eventually, you will see improvements.
Prepare for Setbacks
Have a plan in place for when setbacks occur. Have a set of affirmations that you repeat to yourself, for example, or have a friend or coach whom you can call for a pep talk.
If you know what you’re going to do in the event that you experience a setback, you’ll be less likely to give up altogether.
Become More Disciplined Today
It definitely takes work to become a more self-disciplined person. The good news, though, is that small, consistent efforts add up over time.
If you practice every day at being more disciplined, you’ll be amazed at how far you can come -- and how much easier it is for you to stick to your diet.
Keep these tips in mind as you embark on your diet journey and you’ll be much more likely to experience success and improved health.