Why It Can Be Hard To Stick To A Diet
I’ve heard so many people say they’ve tried numerous diets but find them hard to stick to. Many people I’ve met have also said they’re sick and tired of dieting. There are many reasons why it can be hard to stick to a diet, and below are a few of the most common reasons why diets don’t work for a lot of people, or why people don’t last long on them.
Going On A Diet To Control Your Eating
Many people feel that in order to control their food intake they need to put themselves on a diet- the belief is that by embarking on a diet with rules that tell you what you can and can’t eat, or how much you’re allowed to eat, they will be able to control their eating and lose weight in the process. The problem is that many people go on diets without really tackling their underlying eating habits. It’s only once you’ve identified any problematic eating habits that you can then find ways to improve your current eating, thus enabling you to control your weight long-term. Using a diet as a crutch is only a temporary solution, as it can be hard to stick to a diet for more than a few weeks. Many diets are restrictive, unrealistic and unenjoyable, yet people do them because they become fixated on what the scales says and focus on losing weight by whatever means. If you don’t tackle your underlying eating habits though, you’re likely to remain stuck in a yo-yo dieting mindset where you’re either being ‘good’ and on a diet, or being ‘bad’ with your eating. It can be a lot more productive if you examine carefully what, how and why you eat first, rather than jumping straight onto another diet- the latter just gives you a false sense of security and won’t help you to find a long-term solution.
Impatience To Lose Weight
It’s easy to be impatient to lose weight. I’ve met many people who have lost a lot of weight rapidly on certain quick-fix weight loss plans, and as a result they still expect to lose weight as quickly as they did back then. People who want to lose weight quickly might embark on VLCDs (very low calorie diets). Unfortunately, if the body perceives it’s starving it will start making you crave food sooner or later, so eventually the willpower you’ve been relying on to stick to the diet runs out and you end up playing a game of tug of war with your body! When we go too low-calorie we can end up feeling grumpy, bored, hungry and cold, making it very hard to stick to a diet for long. So in this case, an impatience to lose weight can eventually backfire on you as you attempt to lose weight by extreme, unrealistic methods.
Even if a person embarks on a less extreme diet and loses a few pounds in the first couple of weeks but then finds that the weight loss slows down, any impatience to lose weight might make it hard to stick to a diet because they don’t feel the diet is working, so perhaps they give up. That’s why it’s important not to weigh yourself too often (not more than once a week) as it can be demotivating, particularly if you’re wanting quick results. Don’t forget that weight can fluctuate from day to day too. For some people regular weighing is a useful feedback tool, but it might be better in some cases to focus on finding a long-term solution to your eating habits rather than obsessing about what the weighing scales says.
So whether it’s a quick-fix diet or a diet offering more steady results, being impatient to lose weight and to see results can be your downfall. The key is to be patient. Being prepared to lose weight slowly over several months means that you can eat in a much more flexible way- even if you only lose half a pound per week that’s still significant weight loss, and each half pound soon adds up! With more flexible eating you’re much less likely to feel like you’re ‘on a diet’ and therefore it’s much easier to stick to.
It’s Hard To Stick To A Diet When The Goal Seems Too Big
If a person has a lot of weight to lose, they might see their weight goal as huge and unreachable, which in turn can be demotivating. Rather than fixate on a seemingly distant goal, it’s more important to enjoy the journey and be less hard on yourself by aiming for more gradual weight loss with more flexible eating and drinking. It can also be more motivating to break your goal into manageable, achievable chunks such as smaller weight loss goals of, say, 3 or 4 pounds each- this way you can see yourself progress, and maintain your motivation, as you achieve each of those smaller weight loss goals. It’s also worth considering whether the weight loss goal you’ve set yourself is too big and unrealistic.
It’s Hard To Stick To A Diet When It’s Antisocial
Many people see weight loss as a ‘no pain, no gain’ endeavour. Perhaps they want to lose weight by a specific date such as a wedding or holiday- they might not give themselves much time to lose the weight, and resort to extreme measures such as VLCDs. Although people do lose a lot of weight quickly on such diets, and find the rapid weight loss results highly motivating, VLCDs can be very anti-social and are therefore hard to fit into a busy social life. Some such diets might prohibit alcohol, for example, and if a person really enjoys alcohol, having to cut this out completely can be very hard to sustain for more than a few weeks, or even days, making it very hard to stick to a diet. Such a diet might mean that the person has to avoid eating out in restaurants, or if they do they might take a diet food pack with them (I have heard of a lot of people doing this when following certain commercial weight loss plans), but this can make them feel isolated and that they’re missing out- and quite rightly so! If they do follow through and lose the weight, then weight gain is inevitable if they go back to their old eating habits because the diet plan was in such contrast to their usual way of eating.
Diets Prevent Us Thinking For Ourselves
Weight loss diets usually involve following someone else’s rules about what and how much to eat. We can almost become blinkered and stop thinking for ourselves. It’s much better to cultivate an inner wisdom so that you can get in touch with which foods and amounts suit YOU. Diet rules are often too simplistic, and the guidelines don’t necessarily teach you to develop that inner wisdom or self-awareness that can help you navigate successfully around the more complex food situations we might be faced with in the food environments we face on a daily basis.
Strict Rules Can Lead To Rebellion
If we embark on a strict diet with rigid rules we can end up placing ourselves in a mental cell of deprivation. If we don’t allow ourselves to eat the foods we enjoy, we’re bound to start craving them sooner or later, and we may become frustrated and decide to break free from the rules. No one food is bad, it’s how often you eat it and how much of it you eat that counts. People rely on willpower to lose weight, but willpower is like a battery- it runs out! Rather than denying yourself the foods you enjoy and eating those foods you think you should be eating, instead take a more relaxed attitude to weight loss and give yourself permission and choice, whilst taking into account nutritional value wherever possible. It’s much better to adopt an ‘80/20’ approach where 80% of the time you’re trying to eat pretty well, rather than trying to eat perfectly 100% of the time- the latter might kick-start that inner rebel! In addition, try developing some mindful eating skills so that you get into the habit of having a dialogue with yourself to help you make better food choices most of the time such as thinking before you eat, eating only when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, and generally being more thoughtful about what you eat rather than eating mindlessly on ‘autopilot’.
Start relying on your inner wisdom rather than following someone else’s diet rules, or being negatively influenced by other people’s views about what you should eat. Becoming a more mindful eater involves a bit of work and focus as you shift yourself out of old, automatic habits and set up new, more helpful ones, but it can be done- I’ve seen many people in my work become more mindful eaters, and they feel so much better for it and no longer rely on diets to try to control their weight.
Diets Encourage All Or Nothing Thinking
It can be hard to stick to a diet because dieting can encourage a black and white mindset- this means that you’re either trying to be ‘good’ and eating perfectly in accordance with your weight loss plan, or you’re being ‘bad’ and eating exactly how you please, perhaps mindlessly making poor food choices and overeating. Examples of all or nothing behaviour include weekday restraint and weekend overindulgence, or starving before a holiday and completely overindulging whilst you’re away. These kinds of behaviours mean that you completely undo all the effort you make whilst you’re being ‘good’, which means that in the long-term you just don’t get the result you’re striving for. Try not to label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as eating ‘bad’ foods can lead to self-judgement and potentially a feeling of ‘I’ve blown it’, leading us to quit the diet altogether.
Make Food Your Friend Not Your Enemy
Although it can seem daunting to stop dieting and aim for more ‘middle-way’ eating, setting up new eating habits just takes a bit of practice. Don’t be hard on yourself, be patient with yourself, and start off with baby steps on a new way of eating that enables you to escape the diet trap. Going on diets can make us feel miserable and even anxious, but by becoming a more mindful eater and giving yourself more permission, you can start to feel a lot more free and relaxed around food, and start seeing food as a friend, not an enemy.
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