Admit it, you’d prefer to never go on a diet ever again.
Can you recall the crushing frustration you experienced the moment you realised another diet had failed?
The Problem With Diet Advice;
Type “how to lose weight” into google (in a separate tab of course) and scan read the first 5 articles you come to.
Now let me ask you a question? How many of these article focus on telling you what to eat, what to avoid eating and how you need to move more?
You will likely confirm the majority of the articles focus on these areas. When looking at what many of the best selling books on weight loss focus on, the areas are relatively the same.
When reaching for one of these diet books, the pattern of thought is the same; “I want to lose weight, just tell me what to do”
It is understandable isn’t it?
The Frustration To Be Slim
All you want is to look slim in the mirror and feel in control of your weight instead of time and time again feeling like a failure. You want to follow what’s required but when other priorities in life take your focus. You find yourself delving back into old habits. When you do commit you get overwhelmed by the sheer confusion of what’s the best diet to choose.
And yet, when you consider the number of people who diet (29 million in UK, 45 million in US) and then look at rates of the population considered overweight (61% in UK, 68% in US) it is clear something is missing.
What’s missing is not what you put into your mouth or how much you move your body. What’s missing is what goes on between your ears.
The Diet Is NOT Important
Losing weight & keeping it off is not about what diet you go one but the quality of your thinking
If you look at the pattern of a yo-yo dieter you will see what I mean. A TRIGGER prompts you to go on a diet (off hand comment, a number on the scales, a recent family photo). At this point motivation is high and you go on a diet and commit to doing some exercise.
The diet you decide to go on may be one you’ve been on before. It may be one your friend is on or just the latest diet that is popular. You consciously have an idea of certain foods you should cut down on and class these as bad or naughty foods.
A couple of weeks pass by and you are still being good and you weigh yourself. SUCCESS, you’ve lost 5lbs!
Where Diets Go Wrong
Now, at this point it is the critical juncture and the point where many people take a diversion and it tends to be the result of 2 factors:
Reward – You eat the foods you’ve labelled naughty as a reward for losing weight.
Distraction – Life’s responsibilities and demands continue to vie for your attention and ease you away from the focus of losing weight
As this happens more and more in the coming weeks you begin to revert back to old habits. Exercise becomes less and less while the old ways of habitual eating come back into routine.
On a brief moment of reflection, you find yourself frustrated that you have regained the weight back and feel like a failure. As a way of trying to make yourself feel better you conclude “I have no willpower”.
This cycle continues and continues. This leads you to believe you have a poor relationship with food and you are fighting a losing battle with your weight.
The Most Common Dieting Mistakes
With a few tweaks to how you approach the area of weight loss you can certainly experience a life where you are slim, healthy and firmly in control of your eating.
Before I show you how, let me share with you the most common mistakes I find people make that firmly entrenches them on a cycle of yo-yo dieting:
When you decide to lose weight, what is the next question you ask yourself? Is it what diet to go on? Is it what food you should cut out? Is it what exercise to do? If it is I invite you to ask a much more important question; For what purpose?
By asking this question you are going to approach weight loss depending on the answer. If your answer is “to lose 6lbs before the wedding at the end of the month” your game plan can be a little more aggressive than if your answer is “to reduce my cholesterol and blood sugar levels”.
Why would the approach be different? To achieve the health-based answer (reducing cholesterol & blood sugar levels) requires an approach that must be implemented into your life long enough for it to become habit.
The mistake most people make is implementing a short term strategy to achieve a long term desire & then expecting the long term desire to be achieved in the short term timeframe.
2 Fixated on one weight
By only focussing on what the scales say, you run the risk of being blind to the changes you have actually made. The reason is, your body can stay at the same weight after 6-12 weeks but look completely different, purely because the fat:muscle ratio has changed.
The other reason fixating on a particular weight is a mistake is because of the emotional attachment that has been assigned to your weight. The bathroom scales have been a permanent feature on many households for decades. It used to be common place to have public scales and in Paris some still exist with the inscription:
“He who often weighs himself knows himself well. He who knows himself well lives well”
Not one of the best philosophical quotes to come out of France. I would argue continually weighing oneself can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions due to the known fluctuations that occur with weight.
Instead have multiple indicators and a ZONE of weight
One of the important points I emphasis with clients is use multiple markers of change instead of just one. The bathroom scales are the biggest culprits in attaching emotion to weight. Every morning standing on the scales and your mood for the day influenced by the number that stares back at you.
There are multiple indicators that can communicate change; measurements, looseness of clothing, other people commenting, weekly photographs, how you feel.
3 Focussing on “what I need to do” before you define “who I need to be”
SO many people aren’t successful with their weight long term because they don’t place importance on psychology.
They seek out what they need to DO instead of spending time defining who they need to BE. In a study by Wu H et al (2013) they found, after testing a number of popular diets, the difference in weight loss was only between 1-2kg which was considered of little significance.
Why Yo-Yo Dieting Exists
Diet is not the problem, adherence is. The ability to stick to a way of eating long enough for it to become second nature, habit. This is ALL about psychology & behaviour not what to eat.
To emphasise this more, you can play a little thought experiment. In order to be in control of your weight and your health who do you need to be:
In a supermarket doing your weekly shop…..
Meeting your friend for lunch…..
After a long stressful day…..
For example, you could say, “In a supermarket doing my weekly shop I wouldn’t even go into most of the aisles where most of the sweets and crisps are. I’d buy mostly fresh and frozen whole foods, exactly what’s on my list. I’d buy a single portion of chocolate cheesecake for my dessert tonight”
What can you surmise from that? 90% of her shop is fresh or frozen whole food. She has a list and sticks to it. She avoids most of the supermarket and when she does buy something processed it is only 1 item and a single portion.
In control, Healthy without restriction!
A Blueprint For How To End The Yo-Yo Dieting Cycle Forever
You will have your own triggers for why you are continually on the yo-yo diet cycle. This is why it is always better to work with someone in order to create a unique tailor made plan that works for you. However, for the purposes of this article the following are some pointer that will serve you well in getting started.
- Are you short term or long term? DO you want to lose a few pounds for an event/holiday or do you want to lose body fat as a lifestyle choice? This is SO important, make sure it is clear in your head before you get started on any change of routine.
- If you want to lose weight and keep it off give yourself 1 year. Monitor your progress and keep going for a year. Clearly define when that year STARTS and the date it finishes.
- The 5 why’s – WHY are you doing this. Ask yourself this 5 times after each individual answer and notice your keywords. After 5 times then ask What does that look like? For example a keyword might be freedom. What does that look like to you?
- What are your slip triggers? What are the circumstances where you tend to go ‘off-piste’, fall into old eating habits? Imagine them then imagine what you can do instead once you know the trigger.
- For 1 month, focus on 1 aspect of the day. Be militant on getting this right. If you want to alter others fine, but be militant on this one chosen area. For example for the first month you might focus specifically on breakfast. Disregard the rest of the day and just focus on breakfast. You WILL slip up at times which is why it is important you (a) give yourself a month and (b) focus on one area at a time.
- Have somewhere special to you to do 2 things; remind you what you are working towards and noting down your mini wins. Feedback is key, do not let your mini-wins go unnoticed. Have a pad or an app on your phone, somewhere where you can access quickly.
For anyone who has yo-yo dieted for a long time, it might seem impossible for you to do anything different. However, get your psychology right and everything else will fall into place.