Dieting is hard and can be totally miserable. So many dieters experience short-term weight loss and success but then regain that lost weight.
This truth highlights how difficult and miserable dieting really is. Diets often promise great and long-lasting results, but very few actually yield any long-lasting results.
The truth is that habits die hard. Our habits are our life. Drastically changing a few habits may seem doable at first, but after time, when life gets in the way, our old habits often creep back in. We're left feeling like a failure and are back to square one.
So, is any diet that promotes major lifestyle changes increasing your health and happiness? Or does it set you up to head straight back to where you started? Is it actually successful?
Instead of falling into this ever-frustrating yo-yo dieting trap, here are a few common dieting pitfalls that you could be making and what to do instead.
You know, to lose weight. Exercise has become a chore and it's miserable. It's exciting for a bit, mostly because you're anxiously awaiting the major benefits you're sure to see … someday. But the reality is that innately we don't do well with punishment. A miserable exercise plan only lasts for so long or can negatively impact our well-being if we follow it for an extended period of time. Instead of exercising in a way that's miserable, try out ways of moving that you'll look forward to. Whether it's walking, hiking, dancing, playing sports or whatever, try something different.
Gluten is the enemy, or so you've been told. But, really, what's so scary about a couple proteins? Psychological principles tell us that when we deny ourselves foods that we want, we just want what we can't have. We're setting ourselves up for binging. That's why so many diets are followed by binging episodes, and why the weight often comes back on even quicker than it came off. Instead of cutting out food groups from your diet, or restricting foods you really love, try mindful eating. Try really paying attention to what you're eating. Mindless eating sets the stage for overeating without satisfaction. Mindful eating allows us to feel satisfied with what we're eating and usually on less. Practicing mindfulness is powerful stuff. Try it.
You're following a diet that requires lots of work and uncomfortable restrictions. We way underestimate how much of an impact stress has on our health and happiness. Instead of trying to follow a restrictive diet that requires you to uproot your whole lifestyle, make small changes over time that you want to make. Also, certain "healthy lifestyles" cost a lot of money. Lucky thing is, eating healthy doesn't have to be gluten-free (unless you have been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease), organic or any other way of eating that costs more than conventional food. This is not an anti-organic or non-GMO plea; it's important to separate this ethical issue from the nutritional one. Long story short, there's no one way of eating that's best for everyone. If you notice that your diet is stressing you out, take a minute to step back and re-evaluate. Think about what you have time and the desire to do, and go from there.
Since when is your self-worth and your value tied up in a number on the scale? Sure, accomplishing your goals is motivating — it's really encouraging and may feel empowering to see your weight creep down. But unfortunately research shows that very few people can actually maintain weight loss after a year or so. And when that weight creeps back up, what then? Instead of restricting and then binging, or focusing on your weight that isn't as modifiable as we believe it is, focus instead on the positive and your health habits that you can measure and change. You can monitor this daily and it'll give you a way better picture of your health than your weight would.
Something clicks and you're ready to overhaul your whole life, clean out your pantry, get a gym membership and buy all the healthy foods. But over time, it gets hard. You start to miss that favorite food that is so not allowed on your new healthy lifestyle. But research suggests that restriction leads to binging. The point is not about willpower, the point is about finding pleasure in eating and not finding stress from eating. Finding pleasure from eating and being mindful about it allows us feel satisfied with less food. Now that's life.
Bonus tip: ask yourself, in general, if your diet or lifestyle is miserable. Living a life that's mostly miserable because of the habits you follow is no way to live. It takes over your life and your happiness; it does so on both sides of the eating spectrum.
If you find yourself connecting to this, you're in the right spot. Seek the help of a registered dietitian who is trained in intuitive eating and a non-diet approach, like me, or click here to get back to living a life that's not so miserable.