Why Diets Don’t Work – and What to Do About It
It’s a new year, a new decade – and there are a lot of folks looking for a new way to eat. Since we rang in the new year, I’ve noticed many articles about making changes and people’s panicked notions about food and weight. There is no question that it’s hard to make changes – especially when it comes to food. So, for a long time, I tried coming up with the best possible “diet” concept to help people achieve better health. I’ve come to realize, however, that there is no one-diet-fits-all – we are all so different! Our bodies, our cravings, our weaknesses, our strengths, our lifestyles, and our metabolisms – how could one diet work for every single American?
Yet people are still searching for the magic bullet. And fortunately, we are getting a little closer. I was glad to see that the top ten 2009 diet books addressed important topics like improving metabolism, starting the day with breakfast, and eating foods that make you happy. And then, there is always Michael Pollan’s food rules and excellent advice to: eat foods, not too much, mostly plants.
There are some great nuggets of information out there but maybe, it’s not a specific diet we are looking for but rather, it’s a matter of finding methods to make change. We need a breakthrough in developing techniques to change our habits and palates. Otherwise, we could stumble across the best diet ever – but if we can’t shift ourselves over to it, then it’s a moot point. It also boils down to customizing a way of eating that works for each individual.
While traveling, I caught up on my magazine reading and came across some interesting articles about REAL people who made huge changes in their lives – using various eating and exercising strategies. People magazine (January 11 issue) featured regular folks shedding half their body weight – no gimmicks, no personal trainers, and no surgery.
While I was reading, I focused less on WHAT they were doing – since different methods worked for each of them – and instead, zeroed in on HOW they were doing it. Here are some of the themes that I noticed:
They each had an A-ha moment. No matter how trivial it was (i.e. wanting smaller jeans), they each had a “trigger” moment that made them realize that continuing as they were sounded infinitely more exhausting than doing something about it.
They found inspiration – for some it’s their kids, for others it’s being able to shop in any store. It’s much easier to motivate when we have a reason – whether it’s a Breast Cancer fundraising walk or the dream of being able to fit into a kayak.
They started small. This is so important! One woman said, “the first thing I did was just park further away from where I was driving.” Pick one or two realistic goals to start with and keep cheering yourself on.
They asked for support. They had at least one family member, friend, or instructor/trainer who offered them encouragement and advice. If you feel like you need extra support, there are lots of resources online including SparkPeople.com and LiveStrong.com.
They used technology. Some of them downloaded applications to their phones while others recorded their diets in an online journal. Take advantage of what’s already on the internet.
They re-trained their palates. This is key – we have to love our new way of eating or else we won’t continue with it. This is why I teach cooking for a living – it’s behavior modification at it’s best. Find new foods that your taste buds LOVE and that make you feel GOOD. As one Biggest Loser contestant said, “I literally can’t eat ‘bad’ foods. My taste buds have changed and I crave the healthy stuff.”
They started eating whole foods. Instead of following a diet fad, they completely altered their approach to food. They cut out fast food and products made in laboratories – and replaced them with foods that exist in nature. In Oprah magazine’s article, “Can You Transform Your Whole Life in 60 Days?” Paige Williams noticed that she “was hungrier on the drive-through diet of probably 3,000 calories a day than I am now on half that amount.”
They learned to forgive themselves. When they fell off their new regiment, they understood that the pathway to change is sometimes 5 steps forward and 1 step back. They didn’t let setbacks stop them from achieving their goal.
They created new habits. This is the key to creating change. For every old habit we want to quit, it helps if we replace it with a new one. This helps the brain re-wire itself. For more on implementing new habits, check out Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.
Most importantly, they didn’t give up! They had a vision and they kept moving towards that goal. This goes for any dream. Keep at it. You can do it.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” -Calvin Coolidge