The mystery is solved! The secret is revealed! The secret to weight loss success is (drum roll please…) don’t go on a DIET! You read that right! Don’t go on a diet! You are setting yourself up to fail on so many levels when you go on a diet. Regardless of the kind of diet you go on, you will ultimately go off of it. There are diets that deliver the food you’re supposed to eat (Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig), diets that require you to track food (Weight Watcher’s), diets that require you to drink your meals (Slim Fast, Body by Vi, Advocare, Herbalife), and potentially dangerous diets (HCG drops, some cleanses). There are diets that focus on a particular food (grapefruit diet) or a particular macro nutrient (low-fat, high protein, low carb). All of these diets have several things in common, and they work against you for long term weight loss success.
One of the things each of these diets has in common is the mindset that you are either ON the diet or OFF the diet. Either you are succeeding or you are failing.
One of the things each of these diets has in common is the mindset that you are either ON the diet or OFF the diet. Either you are succeeding or you are failing. This mindset is all wrong for long-term success. Most people can’t stay on a diet forever. At some point, a person will feel deprived, feel like she is missing out on eating “real” food, or will get tired of having to always keep track of whatever is required. Often times deprivation (success) is followed by binging (failure). People like variety, like choices, like real food, and like dessert now and then. We don’t like the mindset of being restricted. The diet mindset will set you up for failure.
Another thing these plans have in common is marketing. A great deal of research, time, and money has gone into convincing you that you need a particular company or product to help you achieve success. The worst offenders are the multi-level marketing companies that sell weight loss products that make unrealistic and many times false claims. Often times people buy into these products to help a friend start a business and that business is all about making money under the guise of health and nutrition. The old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is hits the nail on the head. Be careful not to get pulled into these pyramids claiming quick results. You may get quick results if you follow the plan but you will not likely get long-lasting results, especially once you go off the plan.
Thirdly, many diets rely on you to purchase or eat diet food. Foods that have been modified and over processed to make them “healthier” by making them low-fat, low sugar, low-calorie, and honestly, low quality! These foods are loaded with artificial ingredients, flavors, and preservatives so they taste good and make you feel like you are being “good” and not blowing your diet. Again, that dangerous mindset of equating you being good when you eat good food and you being bad when eating bad food!
So, if being on a diet doesn’t work for long-term weight loss success, what does? In a word: lifestyle! The first thing you need to do is change your mindset. Food is not good or bad and you are not good or bad based on what you put in your mouth. Food is fuel and when you begin to look at food that way, you become empowered to make good fuel choices. You have the ability to decide that you want to be healthy and make better, healthier food choices. You can decided when you want a little treat, not as some kind of diet success reward, but just as a choice.
Ultimately, what works for long-term success is a lifestyle approach to food. Stocking your pantry and refrigerator with non processed, healthy foods and eating a combination of lean meats (or other protein sources), healthy fats, unprocessed complex (starchy) carbohydrates, and lots of fruits and vegetables in sensible portions will set you up for long-term success. Throw in a lot of spices for taste and flavor and you have a recipe for success. Sounds too simple, but it works. If you consistently eat like this most of the time and enjoy a special treat once in a while, you will find balance and success. No more deprivation; no more bingeing. No more guilt and not more “blowing it!”
If you are saying to yourself, “I’ve been on one of these diets you mentioned and had success,” let me ask you a question. Have you gone off the diet and continued success? If so, that’s awesome. You translated the plan into a lifestyle (which most people can not do) and that is what really determines success. I wasn’t able to do that when I was on Weight Watchers (which I think is the best of all the plans if I had to pick one). I lost nearly 40 pounds on Weight Watchers. I learned a lot about portion control and accountability but when I no longer counted points or went to meetings, I couldn’t translate my habits into my life. I also found myself eating a lot of “fake” food so I could stay in my points and still eat certain treats. When I went off the diet, I put back on the weight. Not until I started seeing food differently; taking the diet mentality out the equation did I start making real, lasting changes that translated into making a complete lifestyle change.
What about all the emotions tied to food? Entire books have been written on this subject and will be a topic for another day. If you are wondering where exercise fits into this equation, you’ll have to watch for the next blog about that! I will let you in on a little secret; you can not out exercise a bad diet!
Share your experiences about being on a diet. I always look forward to learning from you!