When it comes to health and weight loss, the biggest mistake people make is trying to make "changes" to their current diet and exercise, without understanding that their habits is the building block for improving their quality of life.
About 6 years ago, I decided I wanted to lose weight. A Google search told me that there was plenty of quick weight-loss solutions to try : low-carb, calorie counting, intermittent fasting, vegan and paleo were all top contenders. At the time, I wasn’t really into critically evaluating my options, so I decided to opt for calorie counting mixed in with cutting out what I deemed as “bad foods” (i.e. pasta, bread, desserts, “high carb” fruits, “processed foods”, etc.) . Being the perfectionist that I am, I was logging EVERYTHING into MyFitnessPal, making sure to never exceed my calorie allowance of 1600 calories (when I look back on it now, I can’t believe I was brainwashed by an app into thinking that that few calories were appropriate for me, given my body and highly active lifestyle. )
It worked. Over the next year, I lost 30 pounds (which was about 20% of my bodyweight). It wasn’t easy. It was done using a never-ending succession of different high maintenance diets (looking at you, keto), while secretly hoping all the while that I might one day find a diet that results in seamless, no to low-effort weight maintenance. I kept telling myself (dreaming really) , that while it was a daily battle NOW, the journey would get easier once I reached my goal weight. I was deep in the "once I reached my goal weight then...." mentality. Then it'll be easier. Then I'll be happier. Then life will just be BETTER.
Well, of course, anyone who’s ever tried to lose a lot of weight (and maintain that weight loss) knows that this diet doesn’t really exist.
Now that I’m older and have a lot more nutrition, psychology and biology education under my belt, I have a lot more perspective and understanding about why.
The truth is, I developed a weight loss (and maintenance) strategy that worked not because I found the magic diet – one that told me to avoid all the right foods or to stick to a no-fail macro ratio.
No, it happened gradually (very much unintentionally), as I changed my entire lifestyle through small changes. Such small changes that they went unnoticed , until I woke up one day and realized that my weight & diet were something I simply did not worry about anymore.
After years of my own experience, and now working as a Certified Holistic Health Coach, what I came to learn is that traditional diets don't always work, at least not in the way that the Internet tells you they do, and that they will often fail, especially in the long-term. Research shows that even after losing weight on a diet, people often will struggle to keep that weight off.
Diets, by definition, referring to “any special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons”.
As early as 1993, the National Institutes of Health Technology Assessment Conference panel published a paper on methods to better enable long-term weight loss without substantial regain. The report noted that the evidence from weight loss trials showed that up to two-thirds of all weight lost through strict weight loss programs is regained within a year, and within five years, almost all of it has been.
In fact, a history of dieting can be associated with greater weight gain, not weight loss...so why do so many people do it?
In theory, diets work because you create a set of rules that cut out certain foods or reduce calorie intake that result in weight loss as long as you follow the rules.
But in practice, diets tend to fail because most people have an endpoint in sight. Whether it’s a specific weight or a certain date, people embark on restriction for a set period of time, but it is not a real lifestyle change.
Diets tend to approach nutrition and weight loss as a temporary state of mind. While it may seem as the easiest and quickest path, resulting in quick weight loss, it was also come back quickly, usually with some added pounds to boot, not to mention the mindset hit of having failed yet another attempt.
Promises made by trendy diets, shakes, and supplements don’t appear to live up to their assertions or hype. And that's to say nothing of the effects that a lifetime of dieting can have on your mental health or self-image.
With every new attempt, your identity- the one who someone who will always struggle with their weight- gets even more deep-rooted. You begin to identify as someone who is weak-willed and lacks discipline. The self-doubt settles in, feeding the cycles of self-sabotage every time an obstacle gets in the way.
Of course, we all wish long-term weight loss was as simple as cutting out carbs for a few months, but the research suggest that this approach is doomed to fail.
Many of my clients who have tried to lose weight and have been unsuccessful feel guilty and weak. Their history of trial and error is so deeply established in their psyche that their biggest roadblock is their own mindset. Part of my job is coaching them into understanding that they didn’t fail, the diets did.
Some dedicated dieters (looking at you, keto and intermittent fasters) snap back when someone dares suggest they are on a diet. “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle!” is a common phrase I hear.
Here’s the thing. Most “lifestyles” of the sort encourage dieters to take on a “lifestyle” that is tolerable at best , and at worst, involves suffering by way of some combination of cultivating hunger or cravings, eliminating enjoyable foods or food groups, and making it difficult to lead normal lives with friends and family. In addition to encouraging eating patterns that are unnatural, they fail to encourage weight loss and maintenance goals that are in sync with reality.
So, it’s no surprise that the outcomes of “lifestyles” that involve any level of suffering are short lived. Often leading to a common cycle of going “on and off the wagon”.
No matter how much research refutes the efficacy of diets for long-term maintainable weight loss, they still saturate the mainstream. Websites, books, magazines, blogs & social media have found a way to profit off of people’s vulnerabilities & desperation to improve their quality of life.
Yet, the research is clear, and thoroughly laid out by the Academy of Nutrition in Dietetics : the single most effective path to sustainable weight loss is through a focus on the “overall pattern of food eaten…on a variety, moderation, and proportionality in the context of a healthy lifestyle, rather than targeting specific nutrients or foods”.
As a holistic Health Coach, my approach consists of working towards a weight that is what you can achieve while living the healthiest lifestyle you can actually, truly enjoy.
Think about it, if you fail to make healthy eating and moving an engrained, automatic part of your daily life, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle. Struggling with willpower constantly. Beating yourself up for lacking discipline. Scraping the barrel of motivation daily. And I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe life is about sacrificing the things you love and making yourself miserable in the process in the fight to achieve the "perfect body".
The concept of building and compounding small, barely noticeable habits has revolutionized the way I approach life and achieve my goals. While I do contribute my initial weight loss to the severe diet restrictions and exercise schedule I had imposed on myself, I can assert with absolute certainty that I would be right back where I start, 30+ pounds heavier had I not shifted my strategy and mindset around health.
The longer I’ve maintained my weight and shifted my lifestyle over and over, the more I realized that the actual food I eat or the number of hours I spend that the gym isn’t the main thing that has enabled me to keep the weight off. I’ve made changes that have made it possible for me to commit to my lifestyle that facilitate weight loss in the first place, including becoming a master of my diet , mindful eating and understanding my hunger cues, managing my mindset, getting healthy & enjoyable movement throughout the day and managing stressors in my life.
My own experience made me realize and embody what the research and clinician perspectives uphold : Maintaining a weight-reduced state is a lifelong journey, many dietary approaches can work to facilitate weight loss and keep it off, and the overly prescriptive, overhyped promises of our dieting culture are just a temporary bandage on a much greater issue. For many, many people, weight loss diets will fail. The important thing to remember is that it's not you, it's them.
Structuring my lifestyle around tiny habits has had a profound effect on me, my life, my career and the way I coach. Habits underpin almost everything we do on a daily basis. But forming habits and breaking bad ones can be tough. And simply relying on willpower alone is not enough.
You need a process, a proven method.
What you’ll learn is that optimal sustainable health is about understanding how to :
* Eat better, without dieting or feeling deprived
* Get active, no matter what shape you’re in now.
* Ditch the food rules, dropping the fad diets and conflicting advice.
* Build fitness into your life, without it taking over.
* Achieve, and maintain, your goals, even when life gets busy.
So what’s next?
If you want to …
....then I am ready to show you how to easily implement simple and science-backed strategies for a healthier, happier you. Say goodbye to painful, unsuccessful diets and open your mind to a completely revolutionized way approach to optimal health.
To learn more about my Healthy By Habit method , click HERE.