When to start

Plan to start your diet at a time when you have at least two weeks, ideally a month, of "normal life," what you do in a typical day, ahead of you. It's hard enough to make the initial adaptation to losing weight without trying to fit it around a vacation, the holidays, extensive travel, lots of entertaining, and the like. All of these events can be taken in stride once you're used to managing a diet, but it's best to hit your stride before dealing with the distractions, complications, and temptations they present. Starting a diet in a period that's representative of your normal life helps you adapt your diet to a typical day, not an odd special case.

Start your diet at the beginning of a work week: Monday for most of us. As your body initially reacts to reduced calories and makes the shift into burning fat to make up the deficit, you're going to feel hungry. If you're just sitting around with nothing else to think about, the hunger may dominate your thoughts to the extent you're tempted to give up the diet. But, if in stead you're busy, trying to get a lot of things done in a limited amount of time, your thoughts will be focused on the task at hand and hunger, while still present, will recede from the centre of your attention. In fact, keeping busy is one of the very best ways to get over the initial hump in dieting. If you anticipate a particularly difficult and stressful week coming up at work, that's an excellent time to plan to start your diet.

This is one of the ways stress actually helps you lose weight. Being on a diet doesn't help you handle stress; indeed, it reduces your energy somewhat and will probably make you more irritable than usual. (The latter isn't altogether a liability in high-stress environments. In P. G. Wodehouse's story "The Juice Of an Orange" the dieting hero tames a wild animal and gets the girl thanks to this very irascibility. My personal experience is less dramatic, but I have won some arguments I'd likely have lost otherwise.) However, stress and preoccupation with difficult and numerous tasks does help you diet. On many occasions you've probably become immersed in a thorny problem and worked right through your usual mealtime, noticing only hours later. The same thing happens when dieting. Not that you should delay or skip meals: a regular schedule is particularly important in the early days of a diet. But the same absorption that leads to skipping meals beforehand can keep you from counting the seconds until the next meal once a diet is underway.

Planning to start a diet on a quiet weekend at home is unwise, and scheduling it to begin during a restful vacation is an absolutely wretched idea. Not only will you manage to wreck what would otherwise be a blessed period of serene relaxation, you'll have to deal with the very worst part of dieting, the few days of hunger when you start, in an environment where the minutes pass ever... so... slowly, and the next meal seems something of legend, receding forever into the misty future. By getting the diet underway at the start of the work week, by the time the weekend arrives you'll be well adapted and, in all likelihood, the hunger you experience will be minor and readily tolerated.

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