There’s nothing easy about dieting. In fact, the very idea of intentionally restricting calories goes against every strand of DNA that has contributed to our human evolution.
Interestingly, while we often, and justifiably, place our focus on calories and exercise as the main driver of change, it’s usually what’s going on between the ears that makes or breaks us.
In other words, it’s not that dieting is wrong, it’s a necessary evil in the fat loss equation. You must create a calorie deficit to lose weight. However, it’s the ways in which we choose to restrict, the social support – or lack thereof, and the unrealistic expectations that invariably set us up for disaster.
Let me explain…
Here are 5 observations I’ve made over the past 20 years of coaching that invariably keep us stuck in the yo-yo dieting cycle:
1. We’re too restrictive.
Let’s try a little experiment here.
Don’t think about a pink elephant.
Seriously, think about anything but a pink elephant.
How’s that working for you?
You and I both know the only thing you’re thinking about is a pink elephant.
How about when we tell ourselves “don’t eat that chocolate cake”, “don’t eat carbs”, “don’t…(insert any of the myriad of ways we choose to restrict calories)”.
You see, When you tell yourself “not” to do something, your brain just hears the directive. This means you spend lots of time and energy focusing on what you want to avoid, making it more likely you’ll do the very thing you don’t want to do.
This becomes a futile process of mental tug-of-war that your brain will ALWAYS win.
Case-in-point: When you white-knuckle it for a few days, a few weeks, or maybe a few months only to end up “giving in” to the temptations, followed by guilt, shame, regret, and feelings of failure…invariably derailing your dieting efforts.
Subtraction through addition – By focusing on what you can have while ensuring no foods are “off limits”, we can create the psychological freedom required to make the dieting process less miserable, more sustainable, and ultimately drive more compliance long-term.
We lack social support.
You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time around. Choose your friends wisely.
Weekday happy hours?
Wings and beers for Sunday football?
Or early morning workouts and weekend meal prep?
It’s not an all-or-nothing game, but it is a game of self-discipline and influence, and it’s up to you to position yourself appropriately.
The most successful dieters have no more discipline or willpower than you or I, rather, they intentionally put themselves in situations that require the least amount of self-control.
Establish non-negotiable behaviors and routines that you know align with your values and goals. If friends and family members force you to blur those lines, then clear lines of communication need to be established and/or a new system of support needs to be created.
We’re too comfortable.
Stagnancy and mediocrity live within the confines of comfort.
In my opinion, it’s the daily comforts that keep us stuck in the vicious cycle of behaviors that knee-cap our fat loss attempts…
There’s a general lack of responsibility and ownership over our health and well-being that we gladly and often blindly farm out to whichever medical professional insurance deems “in-network”.
Don’t worry about your high blood pressure, blood sugar, lipids, weight, or even your emotions…
We’ve got a pill for that.
Just stay comfortably uncomfortable living the lifestyle that put you in this position, to begin with.
We “want” to lose weight, but never acknowledge the levels of discomfort required to change.
It’s going to feel really hard.
We (fit pros) love to tell you that you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight, but the reality is that you can’t…
And you shouldn’t want to.
If it were easy, everyone would be lean…but clearly, it’s not.
So accept that you’re going to need to get very uncomfortable and wear it like a badge of honor. Because every great thing in my life has come from leaning into challenge and pain…and I bet if you reflected on it, you’d realize the same is true for you.
We’re too “busy”.
In my experience, when someone tells me they’re “sooo busy”, it’s generally synonymous with the subtext (and subconscious) – “I’m actually not that busy, I simply lack structure in my daily routine and schedule and have over-committed myself to things that often are not in line with my goals and instead devalue my time, worth, and ultimately, my health”.
Structure and clarity are at the root of establishing consistency…which provides the foundation for long-term success.
So if you feel yourself running around being “busy” and having a hard time committing to the plan, then it’s just a matter of time before the wheels fall off.
Instead, those who slow down, prioritize, and create deliberate daily tasks that they know are in line with their goals and values, are the ones that make it unreasonable to fail.
There’s no honor in being “busy”. The #hustle and #grind mentality is one that very few can get away with. Instead, giving ourselves permission to take a breath could possibly be the very best medicine to heal our weight loss ailments.
A good night’s sleep.
A long walk at sunrise.
A conversation with a loved one.
A board game with the family.
A dedicated morning routine.
A simple meal plan on autopilot.
Ditch the frenetic pace and align your daily behaviors with the goals at play.
We don’t actually care that much.
Wanting to lose weight and implementing daily nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle behaviors live worlds apart.
We all WANT to look great in a swimsuit…
But the reality is that we don’t all WANT to do the things required to get there. And that’s totally cool.
Because often, the trade-offs required – and there are ALWAYS trade-offs – just don’t feel worth it.
Sunday brunch with the family.
Drinks with the boys.
A tough Wednesday or a celebratory dinner.
Taco Tuesdays and Friday night fights.
There will always be a reason to eat and drink to our heart’s content. If you’re unwilling to see that sacrificing these luxuries is but a small cost towards the investment of your physique and health goals, then you’ll never actually move the needle…
And for many, coming to the realization that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze is a liberty that we’re glad to provide. Because no one can want this more for you than you want it for yourself.
The 3 levels of “Why”.
If you’ve ever been on a nutrition strategy call with me, then you’ll know that I won’t accept “weight loss” as an acceptable goal. Rather, my job is to uncover the real root of why “losing weight” is so important to you.
Perhaps it’s the way your spouse looks at and desires you…
Or to set a better example for your kids…
Or to show up as a confident and proud leader in your business…
Or to finally show up confident and strong in your body after a lifetime of inadequate feelings.
These “whys” are powerful reasons to want to push through the pain of change, especially when the stagnancy, life bumps, and inevitable challenges come creeping in.
It’s often said that “change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change”…
And frankly, if we’re not changing, then we’re just not in enough pain, yet.
What to do instead:
Sometimes the best way to create change is to shift our focus from what we think we should be doing to acknowledging the things we’ve been doing/done in the past that haven’t served us.
After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result…
Which in the dieting sphere, and as I’ve outlined, is continuing to:
- Be too restrictive.
- Surround ourselves with the wrong people.
- Feel like dieting should be easy.
- Never prioritize your success.
- Find excuses to deviate from the plan.
Instead, what if we gave ourselves permission to fully and wholeheartedly lean into the discomfort that will come from creating change?
You don’t need permission to win…
You f*cking deserve it.
And believe me when I tell you that no one wants it more for you than I do.
If you want help, just let me know. I got you.