You’re failing at dieting because you’re making it suck, and what you can do about it is make it not suck.
I could go all Seth Godin on you here and leave it at that, but you’d be like, “Hi. Unhelpful.” So here’s more:
In December, John and I traveled to my hometown in Indiana to spend Christmas with my family, including my two favorite dieters: my mom and dad. They, like so many other Americans, have started and stopped countless diets over the years, and let me know during our visit that they’re giving it all another go in 2013.
I love my parents with all my heart and it would make me so fuggin happy if they’d make healthy changes. I returned home from the holiday with all kinds of diet-related notions swimming in my head–things I wished I could be there to explain to them and remind them of every day as they worked toward a healthier lifestyle.
A couple of weeks ago, I sat down, organized my thoughts, and created a “Keys to Dieting Success” document, which I snail-mailed to them.
This post is inspired by that document.
Ways You’re Making Dieting Suck, and What to Do Instead
Dieting blows, but we make it way more miserable than it actually has to be. Here are four dieting obstacles you’re creating for yourself, and how to get past them:
1. You’re Being Too Strict
Don’t get all ambitious and set these ridiculous diet rules for yourself (no carbs ever, no sweets ever, 1200 calories a day only) that ensure failure. People have a finite amount of willpower. That’s important for you to understand. Eating a diet that’s so inflexible–or just plain isn’t enough food–is awful and impossible to sustain long-term. It feels like punishment. Do you like punishment? Would you keep at it, given the choice (which you have, since it’s self punishment)? Right.
I suggest you cut out nothing. Don’t eliminate anything from your diet, just add a million new healthy things. Start with lots of water, a multivitamin, and fish oil supplements–how easy is that? Now add crazy amounts of vegetables. At every meal or snack, load up on produce. Then we’re gonna add protein, then we’re gonna add healthy fat, and so on… You’re just crowding out the bullshit, you see? Nothing is off-limits; you’ll just eventually run out of room for the bad stuff.
2. You’re Focusing on What You Can’t Have
When people start a diet, all they think about is everything they’re no longer eating. This is dumb and a form of self-sabotage.
No matter if you’re trying to get healthier or smaller or leaner, there are going to be plenty of items you can and should add to your diet. This is kind of fun and should be your focus. Every time you notice you’re feeling sorry for yourself because you “can’t” have something (which, if you’ve implemented my first suggestion, shouldn’t be an issue anyway), make a mental switch to consider what you can have. It’s a lot.
3. You’re Trying to Make Changes That are Too Big
You’re not going to go from fast food every night to washing, chopping, and steaming fresh veggies and grilling steaks for every meal. I mean, you’ll do it for maybe a couple of weeks, but you’ll quit, because that way of living is way different and way more labor-intensive than what you’re used to. You’re already dieting, and now you want to make your life suck a little more by using precious free time to prepare this diet you’re not even jazzed about? Stupid. Recipe for failure.
Pay for convenience. Pay for pre-washed and pre-chopped produce. Pay for rotisserie chickens. You need to pay for these things, because you’re not going to routinely do all this. This is a cost that’s 100% worth it–when you really think about it, don’t you agree? Pay for convenience now or pay for medical bills later. Stop kidding yourself, and start supporting yourself.
4. You’re Not Replacing Satisfaction
Eating is so, so satisfying. And we eat for all kinds of reasons other than hunger, because it satisfies many needs. If you’re doing this–and so many of us are–you’ve got to find a way to replace that satisfaction before beginning a diet plan. Otherwise, you end up unprepared for the moment you want to pop a cupcake because you’re frustrated with an assignment or can’t take the afternoon nap your body’s calling for or are just bored and it’s your default reaction to grab a snack, or whatever, and you either feel the unpleasant void of not eating and eventually give up after you feel it too many times, or you give up right away and call it another failed diet.
Decide on some alternative sources of satisfaction you’ll insert in place of eating. If you’re a calorie counter, just the act of tracking itself is satisfying, and it keeps you from rationalizing food you don’t need (this is true–and a really powerful tactic–for me). Other good eating replacements are:
- simply taking a moment to soak up your own badassery for committing to making these changes in the first place,
- reminding yourself of that awesome feeling you have when you get in bed for the night and realize you totally lived this day like a healthy person,
- dreaming up a sweet (not literally) lunch you can pack for yourself tomorrow, or
- browsing Pinterest for healthy meal and snack ideas.
OR, you can do something totally unrelated and just chill on your couch with a book, or watch TV with zero guilt. Satisfying and calorie-free.
What do you think sucks the most about dieting? What has caused you to fail at dieting in the past? What has helped you succeed?
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