Dieting doesn’t work.
If it did, fad diets wouldn’t be a thing. Folks looking to lose weight would be successful and further dieting would be unnecessary.
Diet. Binge. Guilt. Diet. Repeat.
Sound familiar? Anyone who has been unsuccessful at losing weight will recognize this pattern and knows that it only results in ever-increasing frustration and hopelessness. The typical reaction to this cycle is as follows:
“THIS time I’ll do it right. THIS time I’m going to try harder and be completely perfect. This is going to be the one!”
The thing about patterns is that they repeat themselves. This burst of determination happens at the beginning of every single cycle. So has anything really changed?
More needs to change than the specifics of the diet. Actions are a reflection of our thoughts, so to change actions, perspective and attitude MUST change.
Losing weight doesn’t have to be, and SHOULDN’T be, difficult.
In fact, the harder and more strict the diet, the more likely it is to be unsuccessful. The best diet in the world is useless if it isn’t reasonable, realistic, and DOABLE. We are more inclined to do things when they are easy. So why not make weight loss easy?
The way to do this is by making healthy eating habitual.
Why a habit–based approach?
The way you eat at this moment, is more or less automatic. Certain decisions are easier for you and the underlying complexities behind each reflex are subconscious, and therefore go unnoticed. If you eat a lot of junky, processed foods, chances are you don’t make an effort to eat those things, it just happens naturally.
To become healthier you need to shift your reflexes towards healthier options. If you want making healthy decisions to be easy (hint: you do) it needs to become a knee-jerk reaction to food. Instead of instinctively gravitating towards pizza, you want to gravitate towards veggies and lean proteins (most of the time at least).
Notice the goal here isn’t to simply “eat healthier”, the goal is to change your relationship with food so that you can eat healthy without even THINKING about it. I don’t care how well someone eats if they are wasting a ton of precious willpower to do so; this only leads to inconsistency and a whole host of other problems that ultimately don’t foster success. The objective is to make healthy eating automatic.
So how do you change your reflexes and make losing weight easy and enjoyable?
Forming habits takes time and patience. Your current habits did not develop in a week and they certainly won’t go away in a week. They have developed and been reinforced each time the habit has been acted on. Because of the deeply embedded nature of habits, they must be attacked with wee little baby steps to keep the process easy and consistent. It goes like this:
- Make a food log
- Look over food log, noting trends and patterns that are preventing weight loss.
- Pick one new habit to work on that is both:
- a step towards your goal
- something you are 100% sure you can do for two weeks easily and enjoyably with 90-100% adherence
- After two weeks, repeat this process.
The habit you pick should be pretty small. The idea isn’t to change everything in one fell swoop, but to change it seamlessly, so you don’t even feel any difference in lifestyle.
You can probably see why this approach requires a bit of patience as it takes an undefined amount of time to see the first physiological changes. However, people rarely see results from dieting anyways so it doesn’t make sense to hold on to rapid fat loss standards. Losing weight slowly is certainly better than not losing weight at all.
It is important to realize this approach runs opposite to the dieter’s mindset, but that’s why it works.
Engineering your destiny
In the pursuit of making things as easy as possible, effort should be minimal and will not be directed at making dietary decisions. The effort will be to control your surroundings, to the best of your ability, so that making good decisions is as easy as possible. For example, if my new habit is to eat veggies at every meal, I am going to stock my fridge with tons of veggies and not buy foods that I am inclined to replace veggies for. This means I have effectively engineered an environment conducive to making good decisions with minimal thought, effort, and willpower.
Prerequisites: Positivity and honesty
For this approach to work you must stay positive and trust in the process. Know that with consistency and focus, you will eventually reach the tipping point where the weight starts to fly off. Just because you haven’t lost any weight yet doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress. If you’re nutrition has improved, you ARE moving forward. Staying positive and not guilting yourself for slipping up are essential in fostering a healthy relationship with food and fitness.
Another requirement is honesty. To discover why you make decisions you need to be brutally honest with yourself. Now, this doesn’t mean beat up yourself after eating too much cake. What it does mean is acknowledging that eating too much cake was a slip up and delving deep to find out why you made that decision. Sometimes this can be very hard to do as most of us hate admitting our mistakes. I’m here to tell you that it is ok to make mistakes. No one likes being told that it’s their fault, but if you truly want a better physique you have to acknowledge it is your responsibility to change.
Consistency trumps intensity.
Every. Single. Time.
While a consistent/habit based approach takes longer, (so long instant gratification!) it is sustainable and it works! So if your goal is to change your physique rather than spin your wheels, start working on your habits.