How many of you have lost weight only to gain it back and then some? As we look at the history of structured diet programs, there is also a history of increased rates of obesity. Coincidence? I think not! There is well published research indicating that when people engage in a weight loss program and experience success, they tend to gain all of the weight back plus about 10%. That is pretty significant! Why is this? I think it boils down to a few things:
- Most commercial diets are way too restrictive. This can easily lead to binge eating behavior. When we feel too restricted, we almost become what I describe as an oppositional teenager. The more you tell me no, the more I want to do the opposite. This sets us up for a cycle of self-sabotage. Once we take that first bite, all or nothing thinking kicks and we think we have already blown the diet, so we may as well throw it out the window and eat everything we’ve been denied.
- They aren’t generalizable. It is easy to have structured eating during the week when we have a structured schedule. Most people fall apart over the weekend when the rules go out the window. You eat out more. You spend time in social situations when you can’t eat the items prescribed for you. When it is difficult to eat your allowed foods, you fall into the same trap described above.
- There isn’t enough variety. Many diets are one dimensional. Often there is a short list of acceptable foods or they are prepackaged. We need variety. That is why we have so many types of food available in grocery stores or restaurants. We need it from a physical standpoint and we need it mentally. We cannot get all of our nutrients from a handful of foods and we get bored when we don’t have options.
- We tend to think of weight loss as having an expiration date. We want to lose weight for an event, vacation or some deadline like a birthday. Once that passes, it goes back to business as usual. This leads to the yo-yo effect. We go down just to go back up. This can destroy our metabolism and it usually leads to more weight gain. Which is why the typical dieter gains back all of the weight lost plus about 10%. If we look at weight loss as a piece of our overall health and wellness, it becomes more about a choice in our lives long term, not just until you aren’t obligated anymore.
Stop the yo-yo dieting! By looking at weight loss and balanced eating in terms of a lifestyle, you are more likely to be successful. If you take a step back and stop thinking about food in terms of should and shouldn’t, it can be a tremendously liberating experience. Allow yourself to eat foods that are currently “forbidden.” As soon as foods aren’t off limits, they lose their power. When you actually take the time to enjoy your food without guilt, you will find that you don’t feel the need to eat as much. You will begin to lose weight and actually experience long term success maintaining your weight loss.