The word "diet" is not bad, per se, but its typical meaning relates to something bad: That is, when it refers to an eating plan that, by its very nature, is doomed to failure. Anyone who has struggled with weight issues knows that most diets fail. Like me, they have dieted over and over again and, while they did lose weight at first, they inevitably gave up and gained it all back and then some. Why is this such a common pattern? I'll offer 5 simple reasons in this post.
1. They are overly restrictive.
Any eating plan that results in weight loss must cause you to run a negative energy balance. In other words, you have to be taking in less than you are using up. No way around it. But many diets make that negative balance too large. They bring some very impressive results, but always lead to intense feelings of deprivation and inevitable binging. A sustainable weight-loss plan should run a small negative balance that, over time, brings huge results. Beware of any diet that promises to cut 30 pounds in 30 days. Even if it worked, you'd probably put on 45 pounds in 45 days after that.
2. They include bad carbs.
For a diet to be sustainable over the long haul, it can't leave you feeling like you're starving to death, or have you dreaming about consuming an entire bag of chips or box of donuts. Diets that include simple and highly processed carbs will cause sugar spikes that leave you craving more of the same. When I tried these I'd end up eating 4 lo-cal meals in a single sitting just because I'd be so hungry. What works is an eating plan that is nutrient dense and calorie poor, not tiny amounts of calorie dense and nutrient poor foods.
3. They don't include exercise.
As I've written before, research has consistently shown that both diet and exercise are essential to any successful attempt to become lean and hard. Exercise transforms our bodies at a cellular level and makes us feel more energetic and less prone to regaining the weight we've lost by dieting alone.
4. They don't seem doable.
It's been shown that successful changes are the ones we can see ourselves making. The single change that got the ball rolling for me was switching out complex carbs for simple ones, which my oldest son happened to mention he was trying almost one year ago. It sounded doable to me. If you'd asked me then how confident I felt that I could make that change on a 1 - 10 scale I would have given you a solid 9. I could see myself doing it. Later one, once I began to feel stronger and less hungry, I could see myself cutting my caloric intake. Later still, after I'd lost about 20 pounds, I could see myself joining a gym and working out regularly. It's important that you make changes you can actually see yourself making successfully, even if you don't make them all at once.
5. They don't taste good.
This is one reason I failed at diets that had a specific menu. If I don't enjoy what I'm eating, how can I I keep eating it? I've tried diets before that told me exactly what I could have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I hated them, and I can promise you I got off them as soon as I got within shouting distance of my goal. And then I went back to eating what I liked and gained all the weight back. What I do now is sustainable because I enjoy the recipes I've come up with. There's been lots of trial and error and there will be more, but it's got to taste good if you're going to keep doing it.
Ultimately, most diets fail because they are unsustainable, and if you can't do it for at least a year, it's pretty much a waste of time. I like this quote from an interview with Dr. John Berardi, a very successful fitness coach. When asked about some of the most important lessons he's learned about helping people over the years, he said this:
I also learned that all the technical, scientific recommendations in the world are meaningless...if you can't actually follow them for at least one year. Because that's how long it takes to make a sustainable, jaw-dropping transformation.In other words, if you can't sustain it for at least a year, it won't produce awesome results.
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