Wellness Wednesday: The First Three Letters in 'Diet' are D-I-E
Who here has never been on a diet? Whether for mass, gain or weight loss, for your best friend’s wedding or a Miami trip with your boys, chances are that for some reason, at one point in your life, you have been on a diet. Why? The simple answer is: change.
Change can be good, and is the basis for moving your nutrition from ‘whatever’ to ‘wow’. That being said, diets are probably the worst way to produce change. To be clear, when I say ‘diet’ I am not referring to general patterns of intake, but a short-term, often-drastic change in dietary intake, geared at producing a (usually aesthetic) change. As in, “Are you on a diet?” Short-term diets imply that good health is a transitory deviation in behavior that can be easily switched off again when you aren’t feeling like paying too much attention or caring about your health. If you think that I am wrong, ask yourself how many times being on a diet has lead to a permanent change in the way that you outwardly look and feel or in the relationship that you have with food. I would bet not a single one of you could answer that one with a ‘Yes’.
So why do diets fail? The answer is simple: design. Most of the time, diets are not designed to be sustainable in the long-term, but instead to bring about a specific end result, like weight loss. Sure, cabbage soup three meals a day might help you drop weight for spring break or a class reunion, but I guarantee that scale will go right back up post-celebration if you go back to your normal pattern of eating. This return to your normal eating pattern may not seem like a big deal, but yoyo dieting can make a big impact if the cycle is repeated with time. Studies show that repeat cycling of loss and weight can cause your body to retain a higher percentage of body fat with time.
Another reason diets fail is that they function somewhat like a behavioral Band-Aid. They take the thought and feeling out of feeding yourself. In the short-term, they may be able to get you to where you want, but they do nothing to address the poor behavior that got you to your not-so-great starting point in the first place. If you habitually stress-eat or don’t know a proper portion of carbs from a hole in the ground, you are not going to be able to fix the problem by just going on a diet. Building proper nutrition habits is not a sprint it is a marathon.
Just like a marathon, you will need to train- mind and body to adopt better nutritional habits. You will need to develop new practices and routines that are conducive to improvement and you will need dedication and consistency in those habits. You will need to focus on your long game and be patient in the knowledge that real change takes time. Remember this the next time you feel like giving up, extending your cheat meal into a cheat weekend, or eating an entire pie/ cake/ bucket of chicken/ wheel of cheese. Breathe. Be patient, stay the course and be content in the knowledge that when those sprint dieters don’t have any more gas in the tank, you will just be hitting your stride.