Why New Diets Fail and What You Can Do to Stop It
One of my biggest pet peeves is watching people “go on diets”.
A diet has come to represent a temporary solution for those seeking a permanent result.
Oxford English Dictionary’s definition states that, to diet is to “restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.”
Let’s take a closer look at that definition.
Diets come in a variety of (special) flavors: low-fat, low-carb, high protein, high-fat, high-carb and everything in between.
Going on a diet can require one to eliminate (restrict) entire food groups, entire macronutrient categories (fats, carbs or proteins), and unfortunately, even the chances of true , lasting weight loss.
According to Merriam-Webster, the original meaning referred to “habitually taken food and drink.”
This definition, I feel, is closer to the original denotation of the word.
Diet is from the Greek diaita, which is derived from diaitasthan, meaning “to lead one’s life.”
In Greek, diaita denoted a way of living.
It was the antithesis of our current approach to dieting.
Ironically, diet represented a lifestyle…not a quick fix.
Magazines and Other Media
Looking over some old magazines (that I bought quite a few years ago) , I read headlines that saddened me.
One promised “insane abs” with one move.
This same magazine also touts “ fat burners” and “butt toners” as a way to the best year for one’s body.
Another magazine advertised “10 Tricks” for fat burning, how to strip fat fast, and the #1 “fat loss secret”.
What do all of these diets, tips, and tricks have in common? They don’t address the real culprit. The why. The habits. The behaviors. The underlying thought process.
Or in the Greek, the diaita. The way of living.
Unrealistic and Not Maintainable
I love bodybuilding….I followed bodybuilders on Instagram and attended the competitions. What I learned was sobering.
Of those things, one of the most beneficial was understanding that photo shoot preparation included “dieting down”.
What people couldn’t see is that the person in the picture, already in top shape, dieted down even further, in order to achieve that “picture perfect look”.
This what what many base their ideals on. It was what my idea was based on.
An unrealistic, even if briefly attainable look.
These photos should come with a disclaimer.
It is also important to note that whether people agree with it or not, bodybuilding is a lifestyle.
It takes years of dedication and commitment to achieve that look.
It is where our current definition of diet and the Greek,diaita, meet in the middle.
My Personal Journey
We’ve all met people that have never struggled with their weight or have no issues with choosing the right foods. They don’t overeat, they’re not emotional eaters…they have a great relationship with food.
Well, I wasn’t one of those people. Whenever I was faced with any type of stress, I turned to food. It became my go-to source of comfort. I lived a self-medicating lifestyle.
I did not deal well with stress and suffered from anxiety.
Food, technically, was NOT my issue. My use of food as a coping mechanism was my issue. I used sweets and other carbs to boost my moods.
My “tools” were normally baked goods. I vividly recall feeling relief wash over my body, as I bit into a piece of lemon pound cake from Starbucks.
To circumvent these habits, I worked out extra hard at the gym and took a kick boxing class to burn the extra calories.
In the end, I continued to put on weight.
The turning point came , one day , when I went into my daughter’s bathroom and stepped on her scale.
I was so shocked by the number that I convinced myself that it was just “used to her”.
I changed the batteries and placed it in my bathroom (as if that would somehow persuade it to tell me a different number). I stepped on it again with no change. I was in complete denial about my weight gain.I even bought a new scale.
I was devastated…not because of the weight itself, but because I felt hopeless.
I was at a point where I had completely lost control of my eating. I prayed about it because I knew that it was beyond me.
I was full of self-doubt, self-consciousness and self-loathing. I compared myself to others and always came up short.
I had very little self-control, which caused me to feel overwhelmed and even more unmotivated.
Hiring a Personal Trainer
At my wits end, I hired a personal trainer that worked at a gym known for bodybuilding.
I bought the package that also came with the meal planning option.
I lost the weight… FINALLY.
People(at my main gym) were amazed and asked me what I had been doing.
I proudly boasted about my twice a day workouts, my personal trainer and my new meal plan.
Then, the inevitable happened.
I wasn’t able to maintain that level of intensity.
It took a toll on me physically, mentally, emotionally and physically.
My diet was failing. My ability to diet was failing.
My only “success” was in regaining some of the weight.
The Aftermath…The Diaita
It has been 4 years and not easy.
I’ve kept MOST of the weight off.
Was it just the exercise? No.
Was it a meal plan? Kind of.
The meal plan was great and I lost weight…BUT…I was not able to continue to follow it… it wasn’t sustainable .
I was tired of eating the same things … or not eating what I craved.
In small increments, I went back to some of my old habits.
I didn’t understand how important it was to have a plan for AFTER I lost the weight.
I didn’t understand that it would take a change of mindset…
So, in actuality, it was developing and learning to maintain a healthy lifestyle…diaita.
That development involved myriad of trial and error .
It took a dedication and perseverance that nobody warned me about.
A Diet Mentality: Temporary Change
· “I’m saving up my points.”
· “Is that Keto?”
· “I stopped eating dairy, but I miss cheese”
· “I don’t eat carbs”
· “I lost (X) pounds on..”
Do these strategies work? Yes. Temporarily.
When the dieter ultimately goes back to what was eliminated (restricted), the weight comes back and so does the self loathing, feelings of failure and shame.
Tagging along are another failed attempt at weight loss and the feeling that true and sustainable weight loss is unattainable.
So what is the answer? The diaita. The way of life. The lifestyle.
Eating Habits Can Be an Overlooked Part of Our Mental Health.
Food is a part of our individual cultures, our celebrations, our favorite childhood memories…
Food , for some can be become both friend and foe.
While in the Army, I developed a dangerous relationship with food. I did not see it as nourishment. I saw it as a necessary evil.
In order to maintain my (rather significant) weight loss, I began to obsessively monitor my calories and then purge what I “should not have eaten”…
My unhealthy mindset was in full control and my thought process began to threaten my physical health.
It also took a toll on my friendships. I refused to eat anywhere that didn’t list their calories.
NOW, I am blessed to understand the importance of health from a holistic perspective.
The struggle is real …
That sounds cliche but it is so true …
Even as a health coach/trainer, there are times that I haven’t felt motivated to stay on top of my nutrition , consistently exercise, or do any of the things that brought me success in my own weight loss journey.
Oddly, I appreciate being in that slump…
It gives me an increased ability to understand what my clients go through…
Although I have overcome an unhealthy lifestyle in the past, the reminder is refreshing.
I know what it’s like to feel unmotivated…to fall off the wagon…to know what to do and not do it…
The struggle is indeed real…
Health, in any form, is not always linear.
There will be good and bad days…
There will also be good and bad weeks… It’s important to remember to take it all in stride as a part of the journey.
Getting healthy and staying that way is not quick or easy…
It is about the lifestyle. It is about the diaita.
1. Too restrictive
2. Temporary mindset
3. Fad- tend to leave out entire food groups or macronutrients and even micronutrients
4. Weight gain when it’s over
5. Keeps the rollercoaster/yo-yo in full swing
6. Focus becomes food instead of health
7. Perpetuates an unhealthy relationship with food
Take the first step towards health and a healthy lifestyle.
Take a look at some of your habits and behaviors that are having a negative impact on your life.
Learn how to identify the habits that may be sabotaging your efforts to change whatever it is that you struggle with.
“Whether you admit, acknowledge or “see”, the result is the same. A clarified perspective. There is a saying that “Admitting is the first step. Although it seems cliché, it isa crucial step on the journey to change.
Acknowledging that we need better and more productive habits will allow us to set goals and begin the process.