The New Year has finally arrived; we made it through another glorious holiday season. With the food, drink, parties and spending behind us, we now have the arduous task of living up to the ideals we envisioned when declaring our New Year’s resolutions.
Millions of people have resolved to lose weight this year. And most of those people have also resolved to lose weight in years prior. Failing to meet our goals is not always a matter of failing to try, but more a matter of what has been tried. In this case, it’s because the goal of losing weight has meant going on a diet.
I am not a doctor, a dietician, a nutritionist or a personal trainer but I am going to give you 3 reasons to never, ever go on another diet again. Intrigued?
I am a licensed therapist and relationship expert, so my work is all about the relationships we have in our lives. We have relationship with our significant others, our friends, colleagues and family members, but we also have relationship with food, sleep, our bodies and most importantly with our Self.
If you have made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight more than one time in your life, then it is your relationship with food that needs a fine-tuning. Instead of focusing all of your effort and energy in counting calories and weighing the ounces of chicken breast for dinner, try something different this time.
Here are my 3 compelling reasons to never go on a diet again!
#3 Diets are rigid and rules-based
I don’t know about you, but if you give me a list of rules, I am going to start looking for which ones I have to follow and which ones I can bend—or even break. Rebellious by nature, I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and cannot do—especially when it’s something I want, need or feel. I want to live life on my own terms!
Just by signing up, you are already setting yourself up to fail. It’s only a matter of time before you inadvertently or intentionally cross over the line and end up out of bounds.
The rigidity found in most diet plans makes it nearly impossible to sustain over long periods of time. How realistic is it to keep track of your caloric intake forevermore? I can’t even do it for one day. The inconvenience of tracking meals I have at a restaurant doesn’t mean I eat at home—it means I don’t track the calories I eat at a restaurant.
Eat this, and not that. Simple and clear is nice but it is also very black and white. How long can you stay away from “that” before you give in, and end up feeling bad about yourself? Which leads me to the next point.
#2 Diets are temporary
Diets are a temporary fix to a long-term problem and issue. Most people who struggle with food and weight issues have struggled for a long time. Taking care of your health is a lifelong commitment. So why enroll in something that has an end date?
Examples of this are “6 weeks to a better body” or “21 day detox.” However well intentioned the program may be, what happens at the end of the 6 weeks or 21 days? You go right back to your regular routine or habits. Perhaps you keep those lessons in mind but you are not likely to sustain the practice with the same fidelity.
Anything in your life worthwhile, takes effort. We spend time everyday taking care of our hygiene, our homes and our finances, so why would we not take time everyday to care for our health? If something is a priority for you, then it makes sense that you focus your attention on that priority.
The great news is that if you spend a little time each day taking care of your health; being mindful of what you put in your mouth, how much water you drink, how much sleep you get and how much activity you engage in, you won’t find yourself in need of a quick fix. You won’t have to sign up for a “plan” that contains all manner of rules and activity that you can’t possibly keep up for the long run.
And where your focus goes, grows. When you focus your energy, time, effort and money in that area, you WILL see results. Small and meaningful effort everyday will yield large results. And just as an interesting side note—this is the same advice I give for anyone needing to improve the state of their romantic relationship.
#1 Diets are about deprivation
Diets by definition are a limitation or reduction in consumption for reducing weight. I get hungry just hearing the word ‘diet,’ and I begin to think about all the foods I won’t be allowed to eat during that time period. In fact, many people starting a diet tomorrow will have a ‘food funeral’ today; a farewell to their most beloved.
At the beginning of any new program where we’ve set an intention and have a clear goal to reach—we are in determination mode. It’s exciting and we are motivated by the sweet signs of success; the scale dropping and our clothes feeling loose. Foregoing a cookie feels easy and rewarding when we are just two steps into a diet.
But, if you only allow yourself joy and contentment when a goal has been achieved, you are denying yourself many opportunities to experience pleasure along the way. ‘If… then…’ or ‘when… then…’ is a common deprivation mindset “I’ll be happy when I lose 20 pounds,” “I’ll buy that amazing dress when I’m a size 4.”
And over time, as the goal seems to remain elusive and just beyond our reach and all of our hard work can’t get us to the end point fast enough— we become weary. ‘How much longer do I have to do this? When will I meet that goal?’ We remain in waiting for our happiness.
In this deprivation mode we are still in the race but have run out of fuel and may even begin to feel sorry for ourselves.
And then, comes rescue mode. This is where all our hard work begins to unravel. We say things like ‘just this once,’ or ‘I’ve been so good, I deserve this.’ And that, dear reader, puts an end to another round of dieting.
It is unfortunate, but every time you set out on a weight loss journey, only to find yourself back at the starting line, you teach yourself a valuable lesson. You learn that you can’t be trusted, you aren’t reliable and your word means nothing. So then every time you embark on another round of dieting, you may even begin already knowing deep down that this will not be the last time.
Please know this; you are not a failure. You are not the problem. The problem is what you have been focusing on.
In fact, you are a true hero. Despite all the ups and downs and the losses and gains you haven’t given up on yourself. You keep picking yourself up again and again, and continue to try. That is what defines a hero.
For the up and down cycle to finally come to an end we must take the long view. (Again, the same advice for your marriage) Embracing a lifestyle that reflects your values and priorities means you ADD IN things to your life. Instead of living in deprivation, you can choose to live in abundance with a lifestyle rich in activities that reflect who you are and what is important to you, and that includes enjoying food too.
Achieving and maintaining your ideal body weight is a lifelong commitment; it is a goal that can only know achievement when we are done living our days. So create moments each day that allow you to feel full and content, proud, beautiful and accomplished. Focusing on the process instead of the goal will ensure your long-term success.