The Diet Mentality
For over 40 years I’ve been coaching, training, and supporting women (lots of men as well but as I’ve moved into my 60’s, my passion for helping women in particular has fueled my continuing efforts) as they journey toward getting to and maintaining a healthy weight, healthfully. If you’ve worked with me, or read any of my articles, blogs, etc, then you know that this passion is both a personal and professional one. My first diet was at age 13 and I can truthfully say that I have been working diligently toward creating the shift for myself and my clients away from the diet mentality and into the true adoption of healthy lifestyle habits.
What is “diet mentality”? It is the belief that in order to lose weight I need to “go on a diet” or start some program or follow a particular regime, or adopt some named eating/living style (paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, to name a few) that defines how I make choices. While there are lots of good reasons for choosing certain foods, exercises, and self-care practices and avoiding others (I’ll be elaborating on this in future articles, blogs, and videos), it is also important to let go of the practice of “being on something”. This mentality (that I call the “diet mentality” although it pertains not only to eating style and choice but also to exercise and lifestyle choices) can only keep us stuck. Stuck on the roller coaster ride of going on something, gaining (or not) some degree of success and then going off whatever it was we were “on” at some point. Being “on” something has a direct implication that at some point you will “go off”. It’s really a horrible and restrictive way to live.
And the bottom line is that it doesn’t work! All you have to do is look around! Or better yet, check out the overweight, obese, and morbidly obese statistics here in the U.S. It’s not a pretty picture and it continues to get worse! Overweight and obesity in our children has been on the rise for years now…so much so that Type II diabetes is now prevalent among our kids! If diets worked, we’d all be thin because this country continues to have best seller after best seller in the diet book arena! But it’s just a flawed approach…in every way.
Diets, by definition are restrictive and we are led to believe that discipline and will power are the way to muscle ourselves to a healthier and fitter place. We continue to take this approach because firstly, we believe (and our belief systems are everything when it comes to what we do and don’t choose to do) this is what we have to do to lose weight, and because most of the time we will achieve some degree of success with a “diet” regime. But….and here’s the catch….by what standard are we measuring success? Is success that we lose weight? Or, as is often the case, that we lose weight quickly (pounds, body fat, etc….for the purpose of this discussion it’s all the same)? Or is success getting to and maintaining a healthy weight healthfully…forever? Because those are two very different objectives and the distinction is key to unlocking our ability to get off the diet rollercoaster.
There are many ways, most of which are unhealthy, to get weight off quickly. And most perpetual dieters falsely believe that is the goal. But there are two key errors in this thinking. The first is that faster is better. It is statistically proven, in study after study, that the likelihood of maintaining weight loss that is done quickly is slim (failure rate is more than 98%). This holds true even when the plan is to just get off to a good quick start and then learn how to eat more healthfully for weight loss maintenance (that never works, btw). But the second, and I believe the most powerful reason that most Americans go for the diet fix, is that it takes the body a while to respond to a reasonable healthier eating, exercise, and lifestyle regime and the delayed gratification is most often enough for the “dieter” to believe that what he/she is doing is not working and therefore the process is abandoned. We simply haven’t maintained the new healthy habits consistently enough and for long enough to realize the results of our efforts so we jump ship thinking, “this isn’t working”. When the reality is that we just haven’t given it enough time.
Changing habits is difficult. It takes time, effort, support, and accountability to help us put new systems into place in our life to help us create those patterns and structures that support a healthy weight…a healthier lifestyle. But in the end it is how we will be able to sustain a healthy weight and a healthy body through the years.