Why Diets Fail And How to Fix Them
Author - Stephen Griffith C.S.C.S. Pn1
This is one of my favorite videos on the internet. It humorously breaks down the issues with many diets. Here are my favorite lines from the video that goes to the root of why diets don't work.
“We don’t want you bored and defeated. We want you to keep giving us money forever, as your body shape morphs back and forth”
“See how we keep changing what’s considered good for you? That’s how we get it”
“Because a hundred and eight million people are dieting just in the US, and they try and fail, and they try and fail, four or five times a year. Then if you do lose weight 95 % will gain it back within 3 years.”
“We literally design our programs for failure. However, if you earn that weight back, It’s YOU who failed, not our program, never our program. You’re a failure because you can’t maintain an unrealistic masticating and exercise pattern for the rest of the time you spend breathing.”
What's the problem with diets?
Intentionally or unintentionally diets are designed to fail - that's the problem.
Marketers prey on people's intentions to get healthier and their lack of knowledge on how to do so.
I think it would be wrong for me to make the assumption that the people in charge of diets are intentionally trying to create a system that fails.
To be fair, most diets target one of the 4 dietary variables - food quantity, food quality, macronutrient ratios, and food timing - and they can work. However can is different that will. In theory, I could win the lottery but the odds are I will not.
The case for diets would be that they aim to simplify the process of dieting by focusing on just one or two of the variables above. They provide directions on how to accomplish a goal for those who may not know and if followed verbatim can help people see results. (Worse results than with a comprehensive diet plan that targets all 4 variables)
Theoretically can work, but why then do diets fail so often?
They’re short term
Diets promise quick results. To do this, they often rely on making drastic changes such as cutting out carbs, fasting, or restricting the foods you eat. These changes may lead to results, but those results will be fleeting - gone as quickly as they came.
Results will last only as long as you continue to make the adjustment. Diets focus on the short-term results because the promise of quick results sell, but long-term results require dietary changes that are sustainable. If you want results that last a lifetime then ask yourself before you make any changes if you're willing to commit to that change for a lifetime.
They rely on willpower
Relying on willpower is a recipe for failure. Willpower is a limited resource subject to being depleted as we use it throughout the day.
Everything from waking up, resisting a slice of birthday cake, not yelling at your incompetent coworker, or working throughout the day on a project uses willpower. As your willpower tank empties it becomes harder and harder to resist temptations. When the tanks empty the binge begins.
Any diet that relies on willpower will fail. The key to a successful long-term diet is that it minimizes temptations and relies on building habits. Habits are automatic behaviors that take little mental energy. Just as you don't will yourself to brush your teeth every morning the fit person doesn’t have to will themselves to make healthy food choices all day long.
They ignore behavior
Last, conventional diets ignore the one thing that will determine our success - behavior. Behavior is defined as how a person acts in response to a particular situation or stimulus. Your ability to respond in a healthy and constructive way to the cornucopia of challenges that arise each day will determine if you lose weight and achieve they body you desire.
Why don’t diets include these? Maybe it’s so you never learn to be self-sufficient- because once you do then you will no longer need their product. Or maybe it's because they're just telling us what we want to hear - Quick, easy and simple sounds a lot better than long, challenging, and complicated.
If diets fail then what is the solution?
At Fitness Made Clear, our goal is to teach the skills necessary for a person to become comfortable confident and self-sufficient. We like to measure our success not by the results you receive while you train with us but by the results you attain and sustain after you finish with us.
We’ve helped many people lose weight and keep it off. Before training with us many of our clients found themselves in the try and fail cycle of dieting. It wasn’t until they came to see us that they were able to see the results they were looking for.
I am proud of the success we’ve had with our clients and I know that it's possible for you too. The key is to change the way you think about dieting and weight loss. Fundamentally, we've chosen to flip the conventional diets on its head.
We use long-term thinking
Instead of making drastic changes that yield quick results we opt for making small sustainable changes that will actually last. Most of our clients lose about a pound every week. That sounds paltry next to the claims of 10 lbs in 10 days you see in ads but the difference is that our clients don’t regain that pound back.
Results that last a lifetime require a lifestyle. Make small changes and focus on developing good eating habits. The changes you make should be something you can do for the rest of your life.
I’ve had many clients who when they started training said they would cut chocolate(or their favorite snack) out of their diet. My response is always to ask whether they’d be ok never eating that food again? The answer is always no. Cutting out your favorite snack is an unsustainable change. My goal in asking that question is to have them think in the long term. Never having chocolate again is unsustainable, but limiting chocolate to special occasions is likely both doable and sustainable.
We change the Environment
Willpower is unsustainable. Resisting temptation requires work and people will always move towards the choices that are most convenient. Eating healthy will only persevere when it becomes easier than eating unhealthy - we must tip the scales in our favor. There are two ways to achieve this goal
Make healthy eating more convenient
This might be things like using frozen veggies instead of only fresh produce
It also includes building healthy habits so we can rely on willpower less. I don’t will myself to brush my teeth each morning, its habit. No mental energy required.
Make unhealthy eating less convenient
An example might be not having treats in the house or readily available
Making friends with healthy eating habits
We Focus on developing behaviors and skills
At the heart of our success is that we are teachers first. We think of exercise, nutrition, and healthy living as a series of skills which can be learned, practiced, and refined. The reason most people fail at diets and losing weights is that they lack the skills to do so.
We tackle a variety of skills from food choices, behaviors, environment, mindset, and life skills.
For example, we have worked with our clients on a variety of different skills including teaching them how to portion their meals, how to shop, how to cook, how to meal prep, how to set up their kitchens, and how to handle social interactions with family and friends who may not understand what you’re trying to do.
What skills we work on specifically is based on the needs of our clients and their willingness to make a specific change. One place we like to start is by having the person identify their 3 biggest diet obstacles. These obstacles point to the skills that would have the largest impact on their goals. Afterward, we have them identify 3 solutions they can put in place - from here we aim to make these actions into habits.
In theory, commercial diets can work but in practice, they don’t. They espouse quick easy results but are plagued by short-term thinking and unsustainable behaviors.
The key to seeing changes that last requires rethinking how we go about losing weight. We are what we eat and if what we want to be is lean and healthy, then we must eat the part. Eating healthy is a skill and we should take time to cultivate this skill if we want to not just lose weight but keep it off. If you want results that last a lifetime you must make it a lifestyle.
Initially, this process may take time and energy but I promise it is worth it. Certain habits may be challenging to adopt but over time it becomes easier. Eventually, it becomes second nature like brushing your teeth or putting your seatbelt on.
Start working on your skills and make a lifestyle that works for you .
Looking for a place to start?
First if you haven’t already sign up for the newsletter so you won’t miss any of our articles.
Second, We at Fitness Made Clear are working on a course that will break down exercise and eating down in a step by step manner to take you from Zero to Hero. - Even more reason to sign up so you don’t miss any special offers.
In the mean time I recommend you pick up my favorite book on Fatloss. Fatloss Happens on Monday. It’s the best book on Fatloss I have read. It breaks down dieting understandably and was the original foundation of our skills based approach.
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