As the writer of a popular fitness blog I get emailed almost every day by people asking what diet to use, why their diet does not work, and especially why everyone seems to gain after they stop their diet. Well the simple answer is that diets just can’t ever work.
OK, to stem the risk of seeming a little crazy (I have in fact given positive review of a couple of diets) I will expand on the simplistic so that you can know why a diet will never work and what will work.
Diets can never work because they are only temporary. How many of us have been awed by the loss of a coworker that was on Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig or Atkins? Of course after the came back on we did not congratulate them on the return of their old habits but it was in fact the old habits that came back to roost.
The life of a diet
There is always a sense of excitement when someone starts a new diet. It is like any other lifestyle change in that when we begin a diet we like to look at our perfect selves in the future instead of the warts and all that we live with now. The first few weeks on the diet are full of small victories, a pant size here, 5 pounds there and eventually we not only take pride in our loss but actually identify ourselves with losing weight. The trouble is you can not sacrifice forever and eventually you have to stop losing and oh yeah maybe the people in the office are not really asking to much about the exciting new diet anymore.
Eventually the diet ends. We have either reached a goal , stopped sacrificing or just given up. Lets for example say that the ultimate happens. You hit your goal ! Well now all of the stars have aligned and you feel great about yourself, have pride and a feeling of accomplishment and eventually go to bed. What happens tomorrow.
I will tell you what happens tomorrow, far to often the old habits creep in. After the initial goal there is nothing left and you get tired of sacrificing. You eat a couple of candies ( you lost all that of course you deserve it). You start going out with the people from work in the evening, eat a bit of a bigger lunch and then before you know it you are up 5 pounds, then 10 and then you feel like a loser for not keeping things up but the habits are already headed in the wrong direction.
Enough of the crappy story.
I told you that I would tell you what will work and after all that I know you want to know it before you get to the all magical goal .
What can you do to make a diet work?
The fact is that a diet is not nearly enough, all a diet is to your body is a phase that will eventually end. What you really need is a lifestyle change. Eating better is good but just losing and feeling better is not enough. When the chocolate is calling you need a bigger and deeper reason to keep to the rules that you have. In fact what are your rules?
This is the first big part of successful lifelong loss, what do you feel is important? What is the role of food in your life? What are the rules that you have in the food arena? What are the foods that you just do not want to eat anymore? Remember that once you finish your loss all of those foods that you are denying yourself will expect to be back in your diet. You can not banish foods forever, but, you can just decide that these foods are no longer going to be important.
The next big part of your life will be your relationship to exercise. We all know that we need to exercise but if the diet is going well and we can avoid the exercise then many of us will skip it altogether. What you really need is a goal based exercise program. I can not think of anything worse than knowing that you have to exercise for 30 minutes a day for the rest of your life. A better way to do exercise is to make it a social event. Join a walking club, get a squash team together, join an online forum that talks about successes in exercise. If you are only looking at exercise as an important chore to losing then once you have lost the there will be no reason to continue and guess what, you won’t continue. So just like the food it will be important for you to make sure that the value of your exercise is internalized an important lifestyle choice so that after the day you reach your goal there will be no decision the exercise has just become a part of your life.
The time to act is now
No matter where you are at in the cycle of dieting, just starting, almost though, at your goal or, on the other side with your moving up, it is important for you to decide on the role and value of diet and exercise that will carry you for the rest of your life and not just until you hit your goal .