That dirty four letter word. You know the one we all love to hate…Diet. When you think of the diet what comes to mind? Hunger, restriction, boring, limitations, deprivation, and “missing out” on all of your “favorite foods”. With a growing obesity epidemic in our nation, we must take action to reach an ideal weight and become healthier and fitter.
Most likely YOU have been on some sort of diet before. It is the most common, almost automatic thought when trying to lose weight. Yes it is a true statement that a diet CAN aid in weight loss, and it DOES requires hard work. However, most people that go on a diet will end up gaining back the weight they lost…even worse, gaining back more…
So, WHY do we continue to go on diets?
And WHY do they fail to provide long term weight loss?!
Why Diets DON’T work:
1. Diets create unrealistic & generalized expectations
Every person is created unique. Every BODY has different physiological needs, wants and has certain reactions or responses to specific foods or ingredients. Furthermore, each person has their own individual relationship and history with food. We have allowed certain habits to form, prefer certain foods, and taste palettes are all different.
Diets do not provide a unique or individualized approach. Most follow a “one size fits all” plan. It provides a general guideline that doesn’t factor in YOUR needs, lifestyle & habits. It is difficult to create permanent change when a plan is so generalized and doesn’t factor in the most important element: YOU!
2. Diets = Restriction & Deprivation = Rebellion
Diets encourage an All or Nothing attitude in regards to food. Think back about what your first responses where when you thought about diets; most people automatically assume they need to take drastic measures of limiting foods, portion sizes, the meal timing, even cutting out whole food groups! This mentality wrecks havoc on you physically & mentally.
When you flip the diet switch “ON” and rapidly cut back on calories, your body sees this as a threat. It wants to stay nice and happy and full all the time. Very low calorie diets push the body into “starvation” mode, because essentially that is what’s happening…you are starving yourself! Your body is a very smart machine. It will then resist weight loss even more! Not the end result you were going for.
Diets also create a unhealthy balance with food and leads to a Binge and Purge cycle. Too low calorie intake combined with limitations of food variety and choices leads to:
Hunger, fatigue, poor energy levels, cravings, moodiness –>
Negative relationship with food, more intense cravings, and ultimately bingeing –>
Feelings of guilt, regret, embarrassment, failure –>
You either give up completely or “vow” to be “perfect” next time…and the cycle continues
3. Diets values Quantity over Quality
Food is more than just number of calories that it contains or what it tastes like. Food is the most important resource when it comes to our health and wellness. We eat to live, not live to eat! It provides nutrients, fuel and energy for mental & physical functioning, daily activities, and exercise. Not to mention it is the body’s resource for maintaining proper brain function, immune system, hormone levels, organ efficiency, muscle and bone strength, etc. You are what you EAT!
Less food is NOT always the best route. A calorie is not “just a calorie”. Compare 100 calories of a candy bar to 100 calories of chicken. Same caloric intake, but two completely different amounts of nutrients, fuel, benefits and portions.
WHAT you eat affects your results just as much as the PORTIONS. Low calorie diets not only cause us to feel miserable, it also limits the amount of nutrients you are intaking. Another downside to add to the list…
4. Diets do not teach Lifestyle & BEHAVIOR changes
Packaged diet foods, eating “points”, pre-made meals, calorie cutting and counting, food elimination…so many diets yet they all lack the key element in sustaining weight loss: Behavior change. Permanent weight loss is not about who has the most willpower or the most free time. Living healthy and weight maintenance takes diligence and consistency and learning how to make the right CHOICES.
Diets take learning OUT of the equation. Come on, who isn’t looking for the most results with the least amount of work? It’s in our nature.
Yes, having a specific plan without any guesswork will definitely keep you on track and accountable to eating the right foods.
Yes, it is very convenient to have the answers for you.
Yes, the plan that is spoon-fed to you (pun intended) might work temporarily and provide short term results, but that is only half of the puzzle.
A LIFESTYLE CHANGE must be made in order to see LONG-TERM results.
Ask yourself these questions:
If I was not on this diet plan, would I know which choices are right for me?
Do I know why I am eating this?
What is it’s benefit?
Could I maintain this way of eating for the rest of my life…?
Does this diet plan teach me the importance of nutrition, how to cook healthy, prepare meals, and how to maintain in the future?
Understanding proper food choices, nutrition, and WHY will lead to conscious positive choices! It is crucial to create new behavioral changes in order to sustain the healthy habits.
5. Diets are STRESSFUL
Just thinking about diets can put you in a frenzy! Too many “cants and nos” is complicated & restrictive and puts your body & mind into a state of stress. We put too much pressure on how much, what, when, and details that lead us to be unhappy and unhealthy, the opposite of our goal!
Not only is our body in a state of stress by being put into starvation mode (due to lack of calories) but our brain and hormones are also negatively affected. Extreme and/or prolonged diets will increase our cortisol levels.
Cortisol is an important hormone as it regulates glucose metabolism, blood pressure, immune system response, insulin regulation, etc. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone”, because when mental & physical stress increases, our cortisol levels increase.
A healthy balance of cortisol is important to maintain homeostasis in our body. However, chronic or prolonged elevated cortisol levels can lead to: suppressed immune function, metabolic rate, increased insulin resistance/blood glucose levels, and increased rate for weight gain/type II diabetes etc…making it even harder to lose weight.
Diets wreck havoc on our mental health and emotions as well. On top of putting physical stress on ourselves, there is a constant worry about being “on” the diet and following the “PLAN”. This can lead to a negative relationship with food, a depressed state of mind, and the unhealthy cycle discussed above in Point 2.
TOP TIPS for permanent weight loss and healthy lifestyle:
1. Ditch the “All or Nothing” Principle
-We are not robots! Life is crazy, plain and simple. We can prepare as much as we can, but as my mom says, “Life is in pencil!” Acknowledge and accept that life is not be perfect and we should not strive to be. Even the most diligent and dedicated fitness icons have ups and downs and “off days”.
Fitness is a journey; it does not happen overnight and is the sum of daily activities that lead to your overall success. One bad meal will not make you gain weight, just as one workout will not make you fit. The key is to after we are knocked down, we get right be in the game and back to it! 🙂
2. Avoid the slippery slope of negative thinking
With life throwing us curveballs, it is crucial to stay positive and adopt a healthy mental view in your new lifestyle and changes. Change starts with belief…a belief develops into a plan…a plan becomes action, and the plan sticks when we learn the ENJOY IT.
A popular (and true) saying is “Fall in love with the process, and the results will follow”. Ditch “trash talk” about yourself and your past, and also healthy eating & exercise. Find what works for you! There are so many forms of exercises and delicious foods out there!!
Instead of statements like:
“I’m missing out on all my favorite foods”
“Exercise is hard and I’m terrible at it”
“I’ve failed so many times in the past”
Focus on positive and motivating statements like:
“There are so many healthy options that are tasty and nutritious”
“Exercise is making me stronger and bringing me closer to my goals”
“I will not let my past or excuses hold me back from my goals”
Once you think and talk positive about the new changes, the more likely you are to enjoy them AND stick with it 🙂
3. Make small, short term goals to support the end result
Again…permanent weight loss is about creating a LIFESTYLE. It takes time, patience and hard work! Small and steady steps help lead to permanent change. Too many and too long term goals can be overwhelming, stressful and discouraging. If you focus on changes that are maintainable and realistic, it will help to break bad habits & make new positive ones.
Do make long term goals, but set some attainable short term ones as well. Start with daily and weekly (baby) steps. It can start with drinking more water, taking the stairs whenever possible, eating breakfast every morning; it all adds up!
It is important to acknowledge our setbacks and weaknesses. Be honest and specific. What has been holding you back from your goals? What about the diets you have been on in the past have you struggled with the most? Once you realize what you are struggling with, it is easier to determine resolutions and create success!
4. Commit to Preparation & Consistency
These see the two most crucial parts of long term success! Consistency in habits means a maintainable lifestyle! It is great to have motivation and desire for change, but what good is it without a plan?
Exercising and eating healthy for one week and expecting to achieve your dream body will not happen. Going full force and then burning out shortly after will discourage you and derail your success. Deciding to go on a liquid cleanse for a week then binging the following will produce short lived success (and a very long moody week!) Planning to work out 6 days a week when you know you can only fit in 3 will only get you discouraged.
Set up a plan that you can stay regular with will keep you motivated and accountable.
Over time, you will have created a specific & individualized plan for your lifestyle. The (challenging) choices that you made are now formed habits and now part of your routine!
Create consistency by PLANNING AHEAD. Physically preparing by stocking your house with healthy options, prepping food, packing meals ahead of time, writing out an exercise calendar etc. Arm yourself with all of the positive & beneficial tools to make the lifestyle change smoother and more manageable!
5. Understanding how Food is our FRIEND
Food NOT our enemy! As we discussed earlier, food is our first and main resource when it comes to fueling our body and living life to our full potential! Foods are not “bad or good” or “off limits” or “cheat foods”. All of these beliefs can create a negative relationship with food, disordered eating and an unhealthy and unhappy life. Food is fun! It is delicious! We should enjoy it! It does NOT need to be something to be scared of or stressed about.
Over time when you start to only eat whole, unprocessed, nutritious meals, you will experience and realize how GOOD we can feel. GOOD food will give you more energy without a crash, better every day functioning, less aches and pains, improved sleep, lower risk of sickness, not to mention an extra bonus… weight/fat loss and looking better!
Share your goals and get others on your FIT TEAM
Sharing your fitness goals and new schedule with others will help them help you! When you tell others about your plan, you will be more likely to stick with it…especially when they will ask you about your progress. Family, friends, your spouse, co-workers, etc. can all HELP! They can also be a positive support system for you when you are feeling discouraged or lacking motivation. This also helps stay consistent with your plan and goals 🙂
For more health and fitness tips, visit my other articles:
Good luck and remember it’s not a diet…it’s your new lifestyle!