Are you tired of dieting? Are you struggling with weight loss? Do you work hard on your diet only to see the weight come right back on after you stop? I am going to tell you my secret to long term weight loss. However, I guarantee that once you read it, you are not going to like it.
Ditch the term “Diet”
I really dislike the term “diet”. I have had a lifetime struggle with my weight and with food. Have I lost weight on diets? Yes. But the weight just comes right back afterwards. Sometimes I even gain more weight after a diet. When I am on the diet, I am miserable, hungry, cranky and lack energy. So, the word “diet” has become a cringe-worthy bad word for me.
Diet: a special course of food to which one restricts oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.Oxford Dictionary
In my past, I have purchased many magazines and books that boast articles such as “21 Days to a Beach Body“, “Lose Belly Fat with this 7 Day Detox Diet“, and “Lose 25 Pounds in 3 Weeks“. You know the ones. These headlines are everywhere and in most magazines. Those headlines grab your attention, don’t they? They promise weight loss in a short period of time. Who doesn’t want quick weight loss? Often, these diets are endorsed and promoted by celebrities, so they must work, right? Well, yes, the headlines do work to sell magazines to people like you and me. They sell a lot of magazines. But do the diets in those magazines work? Meh, not so much, in my opinion.
Diets are easy? Say what now?
We like diets because they seem easy. They are usually planned out for us. They take the guesswork out. Eat this, eat that and you will lose weight. Sometimes you can purchase the meals themselves. There are recipes, diet plans, point systems. It is all laid out for us. How easy is that! I like easy, its true.
We also feel like we belong when we join a weight loss program. We join up with like minded people who can support us. Maybe we have paid money to join or purchased weight loss products, which makes us even more committed to the program. Again, these types of programs are making it easy for us by providing us with ready-made weight loss support systems.
Fad diets spread like wildfire
We talk about the latest trends with friends and coworkers. “Have you heard about the XYZ-diet?”, we ask each other. New fad diets are great lunch room and water cooler topics. We love to be the first on the program and we try to get our friends and coworkers on board with us. We create our own support system when we successfully convince people to join in. These fad diets spread like wildfire, especially if they seem based in pseudoscience or border on bizarre.
We want the success others have had
Anecdotal stories of other people losing weight by eating a certain food or eating in a particular way encourages us. We want to do what they did because it seemed to work well for them. But we never get the full story, we don’t know what happens long term. We see a single snapshot in time of their success and we want that success too. So we jump on the bandwagon. I am guilty of this.
Some diets are loosely based on interpretations of preliminary science
When there is some actual science that seems to back up the diet program, there is usually an interpretive twist on that science. Remember the grapefruit diet? Several decades ago there were some preliminary studies that suggested that the enzymes in grapefruit break down fats. This was reported in the mainstream media and it morphed into a diet craze. People were eating grapefruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The trend has popped up again and again over the years in different versions of grapefruit diets, some more restrictive than others.
Some diets may work in the beginning
These fad diets may work sometimes. But if they do work, they only work in the short term. What we don’t see most times in these anecdotal stories is that once the diet is over, once the person goes back to their old habits, the weight comes right back on. Celebrities struggle with this too, but you tend to not hear about it as much.
There are dangers to dieting
These diets can make weight gain easier. The weight loss-gain cycle can do damage to our bodies. There are scientific studies that support this. And doctors are cautioning people following the low-carb, high protein diets, as there are no long term safety studies in adults.
Diets don’t work in the long term
We need to rid our vocabulary of the term “diet”. Diets do not work. They do not work because they are designed for the short term. They offer us quick fixes. But these diets are not realistic for the long term. It is not realistic to expect people to eat grapefruit everyday for the rest of their lives. It is not realistic for people to eliminate carbohydrates for the rest of their lives. I would call this inhumane even.
Most diets are based on denial of pleasurable foods
Diets expect people to give up the foods they love so that they can lose weight. And when we can’t do it long term, when we succumb and eat that donut or that piece of cheesecake, we feel guilty. We feel like failures. All those negative feelings of self-criticism, self-shame, and self-doubt surface. And we quit the diet, because we don’t like feeling like this. But denying ourselves long term is not realistic and is self-defeating. Denying ourselves the foods we love isn’t even required for long term weight loss. Yet, this is the basis of these diets…denial and, in a sense, punishment. And that part is not easy. That is the hard part about dieting.
So, stop dieting!
Instead focus on what really matters, YOU! You matter. You have not failed at dieting. Those diets have failed you. So stop dieting.
You haven’t failed at the diet. The diet has failed you!
If diets don’t work, what does work?
I am now going to tell you what does work, but I guarantee you will roll your eyes. You have heard it before. You dismissed it because it is hard to do. What works is not the easy way. It is a long process of self-commitment and determination. I told you you were not going to like it. But hear me out. It is not a system of denial and punishment. It can be uplifting and positive, if you want it to be.
My secret isn’t really a secret.
The secret to long term weight loss is eating less, committing to healthy choices and moving more. That’s it! Did I just see your eyes roll? It is a simple concept, but it is so very hard to execute and maintain. However, if you want long term weight loss and a healthier you, you need to start thinking in terms of “forever” and “the rest of my life”. Remember, you matter! You are worth the effort. A healthier and happier life is worth the effort.
Eat Less, Move More!
So, if we start to think in terms of forever and life long, it makes no sense to deny yourself the foods you love. You can definitely eat the foods you love. If the foods you love are not considered healthy choices, then eat them less often and in smaller portion sizes. Denying them outright will only put you into a cycle of craving, bingeing and guilt. If the foods you love are healthy choices, then by all means, eat them. We can learn to love eating healthy. Our bodies can start to crave healthy foods over time.
Since this is a long term effort there 10 concepts I want you to remember:
1. Build a foundation of healthy habits
Forming habits means that you won’t think about what you are doing, you will just do it. But it takes time to form a habit. Allow yourself this time.
2. Focus on one thing at a time
Don’t try to form multiple healthy habits all at once. This is a life time commitment. There is no rush to an imaginary finish line. Maybe start with drinking more water, or eating off smaller plates, for example. Once you have established one healthy habit, move onto another healthy habit.
3. Be honest with yourself
Choose realistic goals, log your food honestly, and don’t cheat on your exercise. No one else cares about these details. You are only cheating yourself if you aren’t honest.
4. Surround yourself with positive people and like minded peers
Stay clear of naysayers. Migrate towards positive people. You deserve support and encouragement on your journey to a healthier you.
5. There is no such thing as failure in this
If you experience a setback, refocus and continue on your way to health. Use the setback as a way to learn about yourself. Why did it happen? What was the trigger? How can you prevent it from happening next time?
6. Find enjoyment in living healthy
What healthy foods to you like? Eat those. What activities do you like to do that gets your heart rate up? Do those.
7. Eat less, but also reward yourself
Don’t continually deny yourself. That doesn’t work. Go ahead and eat a small piece of cheesecake. Share a donut with a friend. We can still eat our favorite foods. We just need to find ways to control the portion size and don’t do it too often.
8. Write things down
This helps to see where you are and where you need to go. Don’t rely on your memory. It is easy to forget that you blindly ate that candy you took from the jar on bank teller’s counter. It adds up. Write it down.
9. Move more
Not only do you burn calories, you do other gloriously healthy things to your body. You will feel better, both physically and mentally, if you move more.
10.Do not quit!
Remember, you matter. You are so worth this. Never forget that fact. Keep moving towards that healthier you, even if it seems like a 2 step forward, one step backwards process. Progress is progress. Keep going.
Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight is not easy, I know. I continue to struggle with this, as I have my whole life. But I lost 90 pounds when I stopped dieting and focused on a life-long commitment of healthy eating and living. I know it works. Just eat less and move more. Let the diets die out.
I will explore these concepts further in future blog posts at pinkribbonrunner.com. Sign up for our newsletter if you want to receive notice of upcoming articles. In the meantime, if you want to get started on a healthier path, have a read of my review on the new Canada’s Food Guideor my article on walking back to health.