We’ve all heard the rallying cry over the past decade: “Diets don’t work!”
So obviously diets aren’t working right?
Well, it depends on how you look at it and whom you ask. There are still that 5% of dieters who apparently haven’t gained the weight back. (Wouldn’t you actually like to meet one of those people someday?)
So I wouldn’t say diets don’t work. Because, technically, they do. In general, if you restrict your calories you will lose weight.
If diets never allowed anyone to lose weight they would have been passé long ago. Instead, the diet industry just keeps chugging along, raking in billions of dollars a year, making more and more outrageous promises.
Somebody’s got to be getting results somewhere!
But perhaps the better question to ask yourself is this:
Does dieting work FOR YOU?
Does dieting work for you in the sense that it moves you towards your goals (permanent weight loss, natural slimness, and freedom from worry)?
I believe that for 95% of the population, the answer is a definite ‘NO!’
Diets may work in the sense that they can take off weight under certain circumstances. But diets are far from the best method to lose weight.
In fact, for most people trying to lose weight, diets are the WORST thing they can possibly do!
Diets actually set people up to gain weight!
How? Well, diets are harmful by the very nature of what they do to our physical bodies. (slowing the metabolism, making the body extra efficient at fat storage, etc).
But maybe worse is what they do to our minds!
There are 2 ways in which diets mentally TRAIN us to gain weight.
First of all, we all know that what we focus on, we are drawn to. We are told that if we want to achieve any goal, we should focus on that.
>> “Picture where you want to be.”
>> “Visualize it.”
>> “Think and grow rich.”
>> ”Imagine your success in vivid detail.”
>> “See yourself crossing the finish line.”
Why do we do this? Because our minds are powerful and what we think about, we are drawn to.
So what do diets make us focus on? The food!
We’re constantly thinking,
>> ‘Is that hot dog on my list?’
>> ‘How many exchanges is that hamburger worth?’
>> ‘How many points is this banana bread?’
>> ‘Is that salad dressing really low carb?’
Thinking about food over and over again then becomes a mental habit.
And what’s the result? We find ourselves eating more because we’re constantly thinking about food and eating. It’s not that we don’t have the willpower to stick to a diet. It’s that we’re unknowingly training our minds to eat by dieting!
The second way diets set us up to gain weight is by introducing a concept that humans are not good with: restriction.
When you think of the traditional ‘diet’ do you lovingly envision the carrot sticks or the cottage cheese that you’re allowed to eat?
Chances are that you started dreading the ‘diet’ food, while longingly picturing the restricted goodies like pizza, or chocolate cake, or potato chips, or butter tarts, or French fries…
That’s a classic example of what restriction does to us. Our focus turns to what we can’t have. And what you focus on…(see above)
Here’s another example of what restrictions do to us: If I told you that you could write with any instrument except a blue ballpoint pen, what would happen?
Chances are that you’d be fine for a while, writing with pencil, black or red ballpoint pen, even markers or crayons. But eventually what would you start to think about?
‘Why can’t I use a blue ballpoint pen?’
‘What’s so special about a blue ballpoint pen?’
‘What does she know that I don’t about blue ballpoint pens?’
‘Look at all those people writing with a blue ballpoint pen. They look so happy!’
‘Who the heck does she think she is, telling me I can’t write with a blue ballpoint pen?’
‘I’ll show her!’
And you write a wonderfully long, insulting letter to me with your blue ballpoint pen. (Ok maybe you wouldn’t be that bad but you get the point!)
That blue ballpoint pen has just taken on more value for you.
It’s the forbidden fruit that you’d much rather have over any simple pencil.
And has anything really changed?
No! Writing with a blue ballpoint pen is just the same as writing with a black ballpoint pen or a pencil.
But in your mind, it’s better.
See why we value our chocolate and pizza and French fries so much? Because, just like that blue ballpoint pen, we’ve been told we can’t have them.
So in going on a diet, we’ve psychologically moved ourselves closer to food by focusing on it and restricting it.
Talk about setting yourself up for failure! Not only does the weight pile back on with a vengeance, but you now have a very well trained food-focused mind that values the highest calorie (and least nutritionally helpful) food.
If you’ve been beating yourself up for failing to lose weight with a diet, I would encourage you to forgive yourself. Let it go. Just forget it. It’s not the only way to lose weight. It’s not even a GREAT way to lose weight!
Make the decision to let diets go once and for all. For many people their journey towards natural slimness and health begins with the first step of giving up diets forever.
I would encourage you to do that today. Start training your mind to focus on life and what’s really important to you–family, friends, goals and dreams. NOT food!