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Diet's Don't Work

When you wake up on Jan. 2 with a bloated stomach and guilty conscience from holiday overindulgences, you might ponder which diet program to try this year. Before you decide, consider this: all diets work. Period. From the restrictive cabbage soup diet to the more moderate Mediterranean approach, as long as you stick with it, they all work. The question, “Which diet is the best?” or “Which diet works?” is moot. They all do. So how do you decide which will work for you? You don’t.

I’ve had the privilege of helping hundreds of clients in their weight loss journeys. Along the way, I’ve learned one thing: Losing weight is the easy part, but keeping that weight off is immeasurably more difficult.

If in 2018 you have sugarplum dreams of trying that shiny new diet plan everyone keeps hashtagging about, I implore you to stop. Take a moment and reconsider. Permanent weight loss happens when you stop going on other people’s programs and create your own instead.

“The best weight loss plan will fit you like a red carpet dress—taped, pinned and hemmed to fit your every curve, bulge and imperfection.” – C.J. English in “WTF Am I Supposed To Eat?”

How do you stuff a square peg into a round hole? You don’t. When you cram yourself into a pre-determined program that doesn’t fit your social life, work and family schedule, willpower or, lack thereof, you have set yourself up to fail. Maybe not right away, but eventually we’ll all lose the steam to keep doing something that is not a good fit.

Look, life is messy sometimes—chaotic, crammed with too many things and never enough time. Okay, it’s that way all the time. A weight-loss plan that’s specific to you, designed for your unique tastes, available time, preferences and social life situations, is the only one that will work permanently.

The good news is that you already know what to do. Not knowing what to eat is not the problem. Figuring out how to do it within our busy, crazy lives is the real issue. If you believe this to be true, then setting overly ambitious goals like embarking on a complex diet system or making an unrealistic commitment to working out at 5:45 a.m. six times a week is not the answer. Figuring out what will realistically work in your life is.

More good news is that it’s not complicated to decode your secret program. This will get you started:

  1. If you can’t do (insert whatever it is your about to do here) for the rest of your life, don’t start now.

  2. Forget what you think you know or what you’ve been told. Write down the two things you’re not willing to or history has proven that you can’t give up. Mine are wine and eating out. Yep, I do them both a lot and I don’t work out either—not like you’d expect anyway.

  3. Now write down the three biggest things that you know consistently hold you back from losing weight. (You cannot put lack of exercise here. Not working out is likely not one of the top three reasons you are not losing weight. What you do or don’t do in your diet is infinitely more impactful.) My three would be eating after dinner, too much food for my size and lack of willpower over temptations.

Use the above information to make an action statement. Mine might start with something like this:

“If I want to be able to eat out and drink wine when I want to, then I am willing to give up ALL eating after 6 p.m. Since I’m 5-foot-4-inches tall, my body frame is a size small living in a double extra-large food world. Everything is two times more than I need. I’ll eat proportionally for my body size and ideal weight.“

Forget about how much protein to eat or balancing each meal. If what you’re putting in your morning coffee is not in the top three reasons you’re not losing weight then don’t fret it. Don’t waste your energy tinkering anywhere else other than on the key behaviors that will make the most impact on long-term weight loss.

Originally published in Fargo Monthly Dec 2017

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