In our world of cutting-edge medicine, we are still suffering from startling health statistics: more than half of the United States population is overweight or obese.
Everyone wants to be slim and trim. Flooded with conflicting advice and false promises this dream of optimum health and perfect weight is so elusive.
Type the term “weight loss” into an online search and the results are in the millions.
I ask you: If obesity is preventable, why do many of the popular weight loss solutions fail? There are five reasons why diets fail that stand out in my mind.
Why Your Diet Is Failing
1. Forbidden foods
Most diets have a long list of forbidden and permitted foods. There are carbohydrate-restricted diets, high-fat diets, high-protein diets, detox diets, and fasting diets, to name a few.
But the reality is that we want to be able to enjoy our food, including all the food groups, as they are actually healthy for us.
The US Dietary Guidelines recommend lean protein, low fat or fat-free dairy, and whole grains. As we have all noticed from our various failed attempts, severely restricting any healthy foods long-term simply doesn’t work!
2. Unrealistic exercise goals
There is hardly a person on the planet who is not aware that exercise improves health and aids weight loss.
So, we join a gym and we start to make plans. The problem often is that more time is spent planning and strategizing about the new custom exercise plan and the trendy outfit to match than actually getting up and doing some simple exercises!
The key is to get up now and start moving. You don’t even need a gym membership, although that may add to the fun and improve consistency.
Walk around your block. Start with 10 minutes, three times a week, and slowly build up to 20-30 minutes, preferably five times a week. Listen to music or an audiobook, or just enjoy the beautiful scenery, breathe deeply, and see this time as your ‘own’ time to rejuvenate.
3. Ignoring “mind habits”
It is easy to understand why smoking or excessive alcohol consumption are difficult habits to break. But how many of us think of losing weight as a process that requires behavior modification?
The American Dietetic Association states that most diets fail to consider that the goals of weight management go well beyond the numbers on the scale or a list of permitted and forbidden foods. Permanent weight loss success encompasses the development of a healthful lifestyle along with behavioral modification for overall fitness and health.
Most behaviors are habits that have been established over time and we do them automatically – without resistance or much thought. You can’t simply just stop doing something unhealthy or change your whole routine all of a sudden.
Sure, this may work initially and even last for a few weeks or months. But ultimately, motivation wanes because the mind requires conditioning in order to change course.
Unhealthy habits and behaviors must be replaced with healthy behaviors—at the right place. If you take this approach, you will not need to rely on willpower or motivation.
By using the same method that established our bad habits in the first place, healthy, productive behaviors will be set in motion and eventually done automatically, without even thinking.
4. Lack of self-awareness
Who likes to keep a diet diary or food journal? It is a bother, after all.
But the reality is that a simple diet diary can make all the difference. I believe a huge reason why diets fail is that people are simply not aware of what they are really eating. You may think you are eating healthily, not overeating, or eating only ‘dietetic’ food but you may be shocked when you record everything that enters your mouth!
The first stage of making any change is true self-awareness.
5. Ignoring the cause
Many of our bad eating habits take place in specific places or in response to certain emotions. Determine your ‘triggers’ so you will not continue to eat badly.
Clarify your behavior and feelings when you overeat, eat the wrong foods, or break a nutritional principle with these three simple questions:
- Where was I when I broke the principle?
- What was I feeling or thinking when I broke it?
- What was I doing when I broke it?
It’s also important to be aware of the “why” for your own general self-awareness. These very same reasons that led to going off your diet are often general stress factors that determine behavior in every aspect of your life—not only in eating.
If you are eating because you’re sad, mad, glad, lonely, lazy, or tired, then by recognizing this, you can deal with the emotion rather than filling your mouth in response. After all, we all know that those extra chocolates, potato crisps or high sugar and refined flour treats never fill the hole we think they will!
There are several reasons why diets fail, but yours doesn’t have to if you follow these tips. Keep at it and stay strong!
David Zulberg is the author of The 5 Skinny Habits: How Ancient Wisdom Can Help You Lose Weight and Change Your Life Forever. A foremost expert on Maimonides’s medical works, he holds an MS from Columbia University. He is also a certified ACE health coach and fitness specialist who has been featured on national TV. Learn more atThe5SkinnyHabits.com and on Facebook.
Photo by Cecilia Loreto