3 Reasons diets suck and fail…and a winning alternative.
As I was scrolling through FB and my email this week, I noticed something.
Do ‘this’! Don’t do ‘that’!
Intuitive Eating is the only way to go!
You have to meal plan to lose weight!
You can eat it—IIFYM!
Avoid these 3 foods to lose weight!
Always eat this, drink that to flatten your belly….
It just went on and on….
And while the messages all had different advice, the bottom line was the same:
There is only one way to eat right/lose weight and keep it off . ONE.
Be extreme in your methods or fail.
Except that’s not true. AT ALL.
Here are 3 reasons dietary extremes fail…
1. Life is Phasic. Dietary extremes are absolute.
One of my good friends once said to me, while I was lamenting my infant daughter’s nap resistance, “It’s just a phase. And everything is a phase.”
Initially, I just applied that wisdom to raising kids, but in the past couple of years I’ve started to see it applies to all of us, all of our lives: Everything is a phase.
We are constantly changing creatures, who go through different phases of life—the simplest just being the changing seasons of the year.
But if you think about it, we are pretty different people than we were 5 years before—our lifestyles change, our relationships change, our jobs or locations change, and so do our bodies.
Moreover, so do our bodies’ needs!
I know at 41, my body’s needs are noticeably different than when I was 35. If I tried to adhere to whatever scheme worked for me at 35, I’d be miserable and setting myself up for failure.
Trying to permanently stick to one way of eating that has zero flexibility is like trying to fight the tide: it’s pretty futile. And frustrating.
2. Extreme dietary rules allow for zero customization, and you are a unique human chemistry set.
There just aren’t realistic ‘one-size-fits-all’ nutrition plans out there. Trying to cram yourself into one of those ‘silver bullet’ nutrition molds is both painful and ultimately unsuccessful.
Take something like the 21-Day Fix. You get the colorful containers and guidelines for what food groups to put in each—the portion sizing is already done for you…and EVERYONE else who follows the program.
Do you and your husband or sister or co-worker have the same portion needs for each meal?
I’m thinking not.
Are you going to keep filling those cute little containers and hauling them around with you every day for the rest of your life? Or even the other 7 days left in that month after the 21 days are over?
And do tell me where the wine and chocolate containers are.
I’m being a little silly, but really, are you never going to eat chocolate or drink wine again?
And what happens if you do? Are you bad, or ‘off the plan?’ Should you apologize and feel ashamed?
The bottom line is, no matter how fancy the marketing or how loud the message, there’s just not ONE solution that meets EVERYONE’s needs.
3. Following extreme dietary rules puts the locus of control in someone else’s hands.
When you decide to adhere to a diet plan created by someone else, they make the rules.
They make the decisions for you about how much to eat, when to eat, what to eat, what not to eat, what to combine or avoid combining….That’s a lot of control, a lot of power to give over to someone else.
Think about how much of your day “They” influence when you follow their plan or program! Do you let anyone dictate that much of your day for you??
Well, maybe an infant or toddler—those little things are tyrants 😉
And if you’re just following a popular plan or program, and it’s not information coming from a medical professional, a registered dietician or certified nutritionist, those rules can be pretty darn arbitrary.
They don’t know you, they don’t know your life, they don’t know your struggles—although they’re pretty good at hitting your pain points! “They” aren’t interested in helping you become more self-sufficient. “They” want your adherence to their plan, whether it really suits you or not.
Chances are, even if it suits you initially, it may not suit you later. And when it doesn’t suit you anymore and there’s no ‘wiggle room,’ but you’ve bought into the philosophy or practice…that’s where we start to doubt ourselves and often seek a new extreme solution. Total surrender of our power; we’ve placed our faith and trust in someone outside of ourselves.
…And a better alternative that will make eating healthy, and getting lasting physical results, easier:
Tweak and Evolve.
Rigid dietary plans and programs have ONE way of doing things, AND they ask to you toss the baby out with the bathwater. It’s always a total overhaul of your current ‘normal,’ which, let’s be honest here, isn’t maintainable. It’s too much change, all at once, and it might not be the right KIND of changes that we need anyway.
Instead of taking drastic measures, adopt a ‘tweak and evolve’ practice.
By ‘tweak and evolve,’ I mean changing one aspect of our eating at a time in a way that makes sense to us and is meaningful. Instead of suddenly eliminating an entire food group, tweaking would mean eating less of it or eating it less frequently.
Let me show you what I mean.
Situation A: Following a rigid diet plan
The holidays are over and the treats were aplenty. You’ve decided you want/need to lose weight, so you sign up for a certain diet plan.
This diet plan requires that you cut out all added sugars right from the start—including your beloved chocolate.
So, being ‘good,’ you cut it out, abstaining completely…for a few days. But because you’ve put chocolate on the ‘bad foods’ list, it’s also gotten on to your ‘obsessive foods’ list.
You try so hard to avoid it, you think about it frequently, eventually breaking down and eating it—a lot of it. Then you feel bad and restrict again, vowing to be stronger and stay on plan this time….and the cycle repeats itself.
And what do you learn out of this rigid diet approach?
You’re ‘weak,’ you ‘can’t follow the plan,’ and trying to eat more healthfully is a mentally painful process.
Situation B: Adopting a ‘tweak and evolve’ practice
The holidays are over and the treats were aplenty. You’ve decided you aren’t feeling your physical best and you want to make changes in your eating to feel better (or lose weight, etc).
You look at your current eating habits objectively, maybe using a food journal to get all the facts. After a couple of days of journaling, you notice that there’s more treat eating going on than you’d realized—too many goodies, including your beloved chocolate.
Since the treat eating is the most obvious place to start making changes, you decided to cut down on the amount of sweets you’re eating, but don’t ban anything in particular. You choose to eat sweets less frequently during the day, to only eat the stuff you REALLY love and that’s satisfying—and just eat less of it.
After a couple of weeks, this becomes your new normal way of eating. You’re starting to feel better, maybe even see some changes in your waistline.
Feeling good about being successful in adopting this one change, and getting positive results, you continue to see where else you can make adjustments in your diet.
And what have you learned from the ‘tweak and evolve’ practice?
You’ve learned self-trust. You’ve learned you’re capable of making helpful changes in your diet that give you results—without torment.
Your confidence in your own ability to choose a change, make it stick grows. This confidence inspires you to make more healthy changes.
And you still get to have chocolate.
The ‘tweak and evolve’ practice means that through the different phases of our lives, we make adjustments as needed based on how we’re feeling and what our needs/goals are.
After practicing thinking, eating and behaving in this way for a while, we get used to adjusting our eating habits to match the ebb-and-flow of life.
We eat more when we need more, we eat less when we need less, we notice when we get a little ‘off-track’ and choose the changes that are needed to get back to where we feel more comfortable.
We get to make little changes (tweaks) how and when it feels right to us, and allow our nutrition/diet to grow with us as we go through different phases of our lives (evolve).
We are never ‘locked in’ to one rigid way of thinking or eating—we are FREE to trust ourselves and do what WE need without judgment, guilt, or needing anyone’s permission but OUR OWN.
Total ownership of a lifetime of customized eating.
Now how amazing would that feel?!?!
“But where do I even start??”, you might ask.
Start small and simple. Remember the chocolate scenario?
Most of us have a pretty good sense of what things need to change the most—it’s usually the stuff we feel a little embarrassed about.
Choose that one thing that stands out the most first. What little ‘tweak’ can you make to start heading you more in the ‘right’ direction—the direction of living a healthier lifestyle as YOUR best you?
If you drink too much soda, swap one soda for a no-calorie drink (eg: water or fruit-infused water for a little more flavor) per day.
When this change gets normalized, swap out another soda.
Keep up with this process until you’re off your soda habit—or at least down to a bare minimum.
Then choose your ‘next best’ thing to change! You know You. Now trust you.
The topic of self-trust, especially when it comes to eating habits and food, has been on my mind for years. It evolved into a burning need to create a program and a system through which women can learn to trust themselves around food and live more peacefully in their own skin.
So I’m thrilled to finally be offering a new coaching program at the end of January: The Nourished Mind.
The Nourished Mind is a 12-week personal coaching program that teaches women the skills they need to never diet again, and empowers them to trust themselves to make the healthy decision around food 90% of the time, and to learn to embrace their body.
**Opens to the public on January 26, but you can get on the wait list NOW to receive priority access and exclusive deals not available to the public**
Getting on the wait list is completely risk-free: there’s no obligation attached, just special deals and extra info and tools. More info will be coming soon!