Why Diets Don’t Work-Part 1
When trying to tackle any problem it can be very helpful to clearly identify all of its components. Identifying the who, what, where, when, why, and how are the first steps to overcoming any real challenge. In regards to nutrition some of the have very clear answers: Who=you, what=nutrition, when=daily where=your plate. Why, because with proper nutrition we will live longer, happier, and healthier lives. We even have the answers for how. Eat meat vegetables nuts and seeds some fruit little starch no sugar. So where is the disconnect? Why do so many people struggle with nutrition? Over the next few weeks we’re going to dive into this topic and explore these challenging questions.
The word “diet” comes from the Greek root word “diaita”, which means “to live one’s life,” and from the Latin root word, “diaeta,” meaning a “manner of living”. This was originally defined to describe a lifestyle, not a 6-week fast. Most people, start a diet as an external solution for quick weight-loss and often feel punished and deprived during the process. They restrict for a period of time, say the work week, and over indulge on the weekend as a ‘treat’ for exercising that discipline.
The formula is relatively simple. Use more calories than you consume in a given day- lose weight, use as much as you consume- maintain weight, use less than you consume- gain weight. As with everything there are exceptions and conditions to this rule, but for 95% of us this formula rings true. Excuses like “I have bad genetics” or “I am big boned” are bullshit.
Most likely you have heard of ‘Cheat Days’ or ‘Cheat Meals’. When following a diet cheat days are the one day of the week you can eat whatever you want. It’s a reward to yourself for eating kale, chicken breast, and sweet potatoes all week long while resisting the urge to have ice cream or pancakes at every meal. It’s a personal reward for a week of discipline and most people feel they need that short term incentive to accomplish their goal. The promise of a cheat day can be a powerful motivator when dieting.
Does this pattern of doing something you don’t want to do for that potential reward sound familiar? We go to work because we want the money. We workout because we want to look good naked. We spend 40 years grinding at our career so one day we can retire and have freedom. A HUGE part of our culture is centered around this reward based system.
While this may work in the beginning it is not sustainable, eventually your consciousness has to evolve. You may start working for the money, but then eventually you take pride in the impact you are having on other people or the industry. You start working out for the sole goal of decreasing the weight on the scale, but then your focus shifts to the weight on the bar. You seek to improve professionally because you take pride in yourself and want to perfect your craft. All of these things reflect a shift from surface level bullshit to something deep and meaningful, your relationship to these things evolves.
Like all of the previous examples we all develop a relationship with food and in many cases this is an unhealthy relationship. In the beginning we eat to live, as a baby we don’t care that the milk is not chocolate, we just need sustenance. Then at some point we are introduced to chocolate milk and boom that’s all that we want. Then we are told that if we behave or eat our broccoli, then we can have that chocolate milk as a treat. Once that sugar hits the tongue our brain releases dopamine (heroine addicts achieve a similar result from shooting up) and that spike in dopamine tells our brain that we are happy and feel good. As we age and continue to consume sugar that dopamine response tells the brain to seek more of that good feeling during times of stress, sadness, or even celebration.
In this way food becomes a cancerous crutch. Not only will you use it as a reward for discipline during the week, but maybe you will binge because it was a particularly stressful week. This cheat from dieting often leaves us feeling worse because the low quality/sugary foods spike our insulin levels and throw our hormones out of whack. Don’t believe me? Ever felt particularly motivated after eating half a pizza? So what happens to that cheat meal? Does it turn into a cheat day because you tell yourself, “well I fucked this meal up, there goes the whole day… I’ll try to get back on the wagon tomorrow. I’m to tired to cook now anyway.” Now you’ve consumed 3x the calories you would during the weekday while dieting and your weekly net calories are no longer in a deficit. Which means you don’t lose any weight So now there is not only a physiological need for food, but a psychological dependency soon develops.
Then in an attempt for your brain to make sense of nutrition you consciously or unconsciously split food into 2 categories: Good and Bad. When we have a cheat day we eat the foods that we associate as ‘Bad”. This only perpetuates the negativity we already feel about our bodies! “I’m eating bad foods because I don’t have enough self control to stop myself. So, I guess I’m just going to remain fat because I don’t deserve to achieve my weight loss goal anyway.” We have all had this thought, “I can’t have what I want because I don’t really believe I deserve it anyway.” Now, whether you are conscious enough to realize that this conversation has happened is a significant determining factor to your success. Allowing this conversation to continue will lead to failure every single time.
The only way any of this works is that it becomes a lifestyle shift. Mentally, emotionally, and physically we have to change the conversation about food. Food is good for you and eating is essential to living. Food is how you power your body and how you do amazing things. We need to embrace it as a vehicle to reach our best self rather than restricting it as a way to feel in control.
The human body is an amazing machine with a singular purpose of achieving homeostasis or balance. The body’s goal is to sustain life as long as possible. From a purely physiological standpoint for your body to do its job there is little relative effort required on your part eat well, exercise, and sleep. Everyone knows they need to eat meat and vegetables more often than chips and sweets. So why don’t we?
There are a variety of answers but more often than not it’s similar to why traditional exercise regimens fail. There is lack of understanding what a successful plan looks like, little or no accountability, and a lack of mental toughness to overcome the small adversities. Now that we have established the “why” we will spend the next few weeks breaking down what success looks like and “how”. As in how to make the necessary changes to succeed with nutrition, training, and life. Check back in to our blog next week for Part 2 of Why Diets Don’t Work and sign up to take part in our free workshop on April 30th at 4pm. There we will give you some of the tools necessary to make food work for you and provide you the opportunity to take the next step towards your greatness.
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