You wake up in a fabulous mood. After a good night’s sleep, you are ready for your day.
On your way to work, you stop into the local grocery store to pick up your favorite coffee, since you noticed this morning that you were running low – and you know you won’t be able to function without it. You proceed to the checkout line. You look to your left. And this is what stares you in the face:
Lose 5 pounds overnight! Drop 10 pounds in the next 4 days! Flatten your stomach in 3 minutes a day!
Instantly, your mood shifts. You start regretting the cinnamon roll that you hastily ate for breakfast, feeling like you should’ve grabbed the banana instead. You start counting on your fingers how many days it’s been since you’ve visited the gym – and then realize that you don’t have enough fingers to count on. You shift your weight from side to side: Wait—are my pants tight?
There is no escaping the full-blown diet culture that we live in today. Thanks to the booming, multi-billion-dollar diet industry, from the grocery store to the gym, from the office to the TV, you’re inundated with messages about how to lose weight – fast! – and occupy the body (and life) of your dreams.
“Eat this,” they tell us. “And don’t eat that.” Or, with a toned model on the cover of a magazine, an arrow pointing to her abs, “Try this workout – and don’t ever do the workout we advertised six months ago again!”.
And it seems to always get our attention.
We know, thanks to research, that 95% of dieters regain the weight they lost within five years (with many gaining even more). We know that dieting slows down your metabolism, that it eats away at important lean tissue, that it raises stress-related hormones.
We know from our own personal experience that dieting never actually works and that it sure as hell doesn’t make us happy.
And yet, we still search for the magic pill or plan that will help us lose weight.
I get it. I have spent 76% of my life (yes, I did the math) either “on” or “off” a diet, always looking for The One. The one that will work; the one that will finally make me happy.
I even did the same ones over and over again. Because you see, they worked – once. I lost over twenty pounds on Jenny Craig…three times. The cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet, Atkins, they all worked too, at first. And I gained the weight back each and every time.
So, if it worked once, it should work again, right? We keep going back and back and back to the same old tips and tricks (sometimes repackaged to seem safer and easier) because they’re tried and true, don’t we?
Well, not exactly.
You see, our bodies change. What worked when you were twenty probably won’t work when you’re forty, first of all. And depending on your own diet history – if you’ve been yo-yo dieting for a long time – your body actually gets really good at dieting! And no, I don’t mean that it gets better at shedding fat. I mean that it becomes really practiced in saving itself from our self-induced starvation. Because of that, it will protect you by storing body fat for the next time you try to restrict or deprive yourself of what your body needs.
I know, you’re thinking, “This time, this year, it will be different.” You can taste it this time. Victory is yours. I’m just writing this nonsense because I’m a diet failure, and you know you can stick to it better and make it work for you.
Okay. Well, ponder this, then:
If diets worked, why do we still have them surrounding us? Why does it continue to be a sixty-billion-dollar industry, year after year? If they worked, wouldn’t they become obsolete? Without repeat consumers pouring money into the diet programs that they believe in, wouldn’t all of these companies shrivel up?
This year, I want you to sit down and think through something different than how to lose weight. Ask yourself: How much money, time, and energy have you spent over the years searching and struggling to find the “right one?” How many diets have you been on (and off)? And how much exhaustion have you felt from always feeling like you’ve failed?
Personally, I don’t want to even think about it.
What I do want us to think about, though, is how some of the most common tips and tricks for weight loss are lies – so that we’re better equipped to swat the ideas away when they creep up on us.
Here is the Worst Dieting Advice We Have Ever Heard
- Cleanse or Fast by Only Drinking Liquids
Whether it’s a master cleanse, intermittent fasting, or meal replacements, this one comes up a lot. And lately, it’s particularly come up a lot in the form of a “detox.”
Detox plans have become quite the rage over the past couple of years, with even celebrities like the Kardashians promoting them. The idea is we bloat and feel lethargic because we fill our bodies with so much junk. And if we detoxify them – by going on an all-liquid diet or only eating lentils for a few days – they’ll become pure and work again.
What many people don’t realize is that the body is a very efficient detoxing machine on its own. Literally, it’s what you have a liver for. But your body needs the nutrients found in a balanced diet to do it.
- Replace Real Food with Pre-Packaged Meal Diets
Especially for folks with really busy schedules and not enough time or knowledge to plan our their food week to week, this can sound like a dream: You get meals and snacks from one distributor, and the thinking is done for you! Ta-da!
Um, and then you realize that all of these meals contain, essentially, fake versions of what real food looks like.
Listen: Lab-created peanut butter isn’t going to feel or taste the same as what you can get out of a jar. So let’s just be honest with ourselves and eat the thing we’re really craving. Because we’ll probably end up eating it in addition to the fake stuff anyway.
- Skip Breakfast to Save Calories for Later
Wait. I thought that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. What happened to that? Make up your minds!
The truth is: Calories don’t work like that. You need a consistent flow of calories, amounting to the proper amount to keep your body in balance, over the course of the whole day.
If anything, studies show that this strategy actually just sets you up, both physically and emotionally, to overeat later, more than making up for the calories you saved from avoiding that oatmeal.
- Eat Only Protein and Fat
Any diet plan that de-emphasizes the importance of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you get from fruit and vegetables is suspect to me. And don’t even get me started on anyone who tells me that I can’t eat bread!
- Count Your Calories
We love to believe that weight management is as simple as calories in/calories out equation: If we consume fewer calories than we output, our bodies will have to rely on our fat deposits for energy. That’s how the thinking goes.
First of all: If our body is storing fat for our safety, why would we want to deplete that storage? Especially in the winter when it keeps us extra warm.
But also: I hate to break it to you, but our bodies are far more complex that this simple equation allows for.
- Eat X Meals a Day
These diets could recommend anything from one meal a day to six or more, but the idea is the same overall: If you can just find the magic number, you’ll eat less and feel better.
But different people have different needs. Our bodies are different. Our schedules are different. And any one-size-fits-all approach to eating habits is never going to work for everyone.
Sure, you may experience some quick weight loss if you do this. The truth of the matter is that many of us are over-dependent on carbohydrates; they make up most of the easy-to-grab options that we have in our culture. And when our schedules are as slammed as they are, we can find ourselves reaching for carb-heavy foods.
When we cut them out, we’re sure to lose weight – because we have fewer options of food to eat. But it’s quickly gained back as soon as you introduce carbohydrates back into your eating plan.
And let’s be real, you will eventually have to introduce them back into your eating plan – because your brain literally can’t function without them.
- Drink a Glass of Water Before Every Meal to Fill You Up
This would make sense if hunger was an issue of volume. But that’s not really how hunger and satiety work. Food is converted into energy. When our bodies are running low on energy, we crave more food.
Drinking water is great! But drinking water in place of eating food is not.
- Don’t Eat After a Certain Time
Night eating is a real issue. In fact, it can be a full-blown psychological disorder. And we need to treat that with care and respect. There are, indeed, folks who might overeat at night. But creating ridiculous rules and regulations about food doesn’t help.
Eat when you’re hungry. Eat enough to satiate you. And then wait to eat until you’re hungry again. These “rules” – the ones that your body adheres to naturally – are the only ones that you need to follow.
- Try Certain Exercises to Trick Your Body
Do long, slow cardio sessions to lose more weight. Work out on an empty stomach to burn more fat. Working harder is better for weight loss.
The idea that we should exercise to eat – rather than eat to exercise – is problematic on many levels. The idea that you should go into a workout depleted of energy, or that you should push beyond your capabilities, isn’t just ludicrous in terms of weight loss; it’s downright dangerous.
And if you look at the list above, most of these diets – which ask you to eat either more or less of some particular food or otherwise set guidelines on the way you eat – are dangerous. Because they tell you to betray your body – that your body is something that you need to work against.
Your relationship to food can’t be confined by a rulebook. The only way to have a healthy, happy relationship to food is to relearn your body’s natural intuition. But I guess that’s not really a money maker, so people are keeping the secret from you.
But if you want to change not only your relationship to food and your body but your life, visit Green Mountain at Fox Run. Learn how to begin a new journey with our program that leads you to trust your own body and making your own choices, where you learn to make yourself a priority and understand that you’re worthy of taking care of.
Let 2018 be the beginning of a non-diet approach to the rest of your life.