The popular weight-loss culture gurus often ask us to do things that SOUND okay on paper but that will actually increase our chances of failure!
I know they SAY it will help but it most likely won’t.
You should know what those things are so you can stop wasting your time and money on them.
Here are a few:
- Get information and hope for the best
- Set a big goal and focus on having more motivation and willpower
- Start building some good habits and hope for the best
- Assume that your behavior is always a result of your choices
Let’s look at each of these in more detail
Get information and hope for the best
It may sound good but this is where most diet programs fail.
Any weight loss approach that is based on informing you about which foods are best or that has some fancy new approach that is supposed to be better than others is probably not going to work as well as you think.
Some examples of this are any named “diet” you can think of such as Keto, Paleo, Vegetarian diets, or any calorie-restricted diets.
Very few people in our current society are unaware that overeating leads to weight gain and eating less usually leads to weight loss.
Our issues are not that we don’t have enough information.
And whether you choose to eat fewer carbs or calories is not as relevant as you think. You may be surprised to learn that most of the tried and true popular diets out there end up with similar results to each other. (1, 2) There is no ONE diet strategy that has been shown to be better than others!
So, just gathering more information and hoping you can stick to it, is not a viable strategy for most people.
SET a big goal and focus on having more motivation and willpower
Oh boy! Where do I start with this one??!!
If I see another Instagram “star” telling me to just suck it up, I will scream!
They tell us to set these huge goals or do some crazy cleanse and expect us to just do it?
That is against our nature!
Recently I’ve heard of two examples of this approach. Yesterday a woman told me she ate a diet of just fruit and vegetables. She was supposed to do it for a month! She said she was hungry all the time so she gave it up.
Another example is diets that ask you to give up pretty much everything but lean meat and veggies for a month (I won’t name any names). People often feel great when they do this but they cannot wait until it’s over! And as soon as it is over they go back to eating “normal food” as quickly as possible.
NOTE: Highly restrictive diets tend to cause nutritional deficiencies and poor bacterial balance and do not correlate with weight loss. (3)
We want to enjoy our food. We want to enjoy our lives.
Motivation needs to be kept up and willpower relies on motivation. (4)
How do they expect us to be miserable and keep up the motivation at the same time?
It simply makes no sense.
We do better with gradual, small changes. And with the small wins we get from those gradual changes, we have more motivation.
And we can therefore slowly but surely build new habits, which reduce the need for willpower.
But habits are not as easy to build as you would think.
start building some good habits and hope for the best
In the past few years many weight loss programs have moved away from the “hit-you-over-the-head” approaches described above and now emphasize building new habits.
How many times have you started a great habit, kept it up for a while, and then stopped doing it?
I know I have done that many times.
So how do we take it a step further? It’s not just about doing a habit for a month or two.
It’s about building lifelong habits.
We need to develop an environment that sustains the habits and we need to create a system for sustaining the motivation to keep up those habits over the long haul.
I have a lot to say about that but I’ll keep it short.
The most important thing is that you understand that environment is everything. And planning for your environment is everything.
If you can remember this, it will help you keep up those habits forever.
Another factor to keep in mind is that as long as you are more concerned with how you feel now than some future time, you won’t make much change.
You always have to be moving toward a goal.
Once you reach your weight goals, you have to find new things to motivate you. Find something that is more important to you than “being happy at the moment”.
And this leads well into the final pet peeve I have.
Assume that your behavior is always a result of your choices
The worst travesty of all is that when we struggle to eat well or lose weight we are blamed for it. It is as if we are deliberately trying to be unhealthy or to not lose weight.
The sad truth is that most of us are doing our best and we do not get credit for it.
The problem is not that we don’t want to be healthy or lose weight.
The problem is that there are a lot of factors working against us.
Some of these factors include body shaming leading to poor confidence, mixed messages from the diet industry about what is the best way to lose weight, scams and overpriced products that don’t work, food temptation wherever you go, and doctors that brush off our health concerns or questions. The list goes on.
The other thing is that our choices are also heavily dependent on our environment.
Some of that responsibility should fall upon us to plan better and set up our environments to better support the weight loss process.
Our society and culture of overeating don’t help but we have to take the initiative because it looks like no one is going to do it for us.
The important takeaway here is that we need to control our environment, practice good planning, and set it up to make weight loss easier, not harder.
In other words, make sure you work hard to remove the highly tempting foods as much as possible AND have healthy choices readily available.
This will go a long way toward supporting better choices.
If you are struggling with the weight loss process I invite you to join me on a complimentary strategy call. We will talk about your goals, your struggles, and what your next best steps should be.
- Truby H, Baic S, deLooy A, et al. Randomised controlled trial of four commercial weight loss programmes in the UK: initial findings from the BBC "diet trials" [published correction appears in BMJ. 2006 Jun 17;332(7555):1418]. BMJ. 2006;332(7553):1309-1314. doi:10.1136/bmj.38833.411204.80
- Johnston BC, Kanters S, Bandayrel K, et al. Comparison of Weight Loss Among Named Diet Programs in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2014;312(9):923–933. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.10397
- Seganfredo FB, Blume CA, Moehlecke M, Giongo A, Casagrande DS, Spolidoro JVN, Padoin AV, Schaan BD, Mottin CC. Weight-loss interventions and gut microbiota changes in overweight and obese patients: a systematic review. Obes Rev. 2017 Aug;18(8):832-851. doi: 10.1111/obr.12541. Epub 2017 May 19. PMID: 28524627.
- Vohs, K. D., Baumeister, R. F., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2013). “Motivation, personal beliefs, and limited resources all contribute to self-control”: Erratum. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(1), 183.