Can you guess the #1 issue with 99.9% of all weight loss solutions ever devised?
Neither 30-day diets or 10-day juice fasts are real solutions for weight loss. These are foreign behavioral and dietary anomalies that your mind and body will force-correct in time. They can create the illusion of change, but unless your brain’s neural pathways change through sustainable repetition, you’re going to revert to who you still are underneath.
As tempting as these quick change ideas are initially, you will despise them (as I do) after experiencing what real change feels and looks like. I saw a youtube video of a woman who had just finished a popular “10 day green smoothie cleanse” (yes, that one). She was so excited to have lost 15 pounds in 10 days. She posted the video in 2014, but I saw the video in 2015, a full year after she posted it. Curious about her progress a year later, I scrolled down to see a recent comment of hers that read, “I am not doing so well in the weight department.”
It’s no mystery why fad diets and “cleanses” get popular. People get rapid, temporary results, which excites them enough to tell everyone they know. Long term, their success is not sustained—they regain the weight—but the creators of these short-term plans only need that initial excitement to make their sales skyrocket.
The Only Permanent Solution
The only permanent weight loss solution comes from a permanent change in the individual. That’s something that no diet has been able to achieve with regularity. Nor should we expect them to!
Diets are not change strategies, they’re merely a suggestion of what food to eat. Most books presenting a new diet completely ignore strategy and adopt the ubiquitous “just eat this way” philosophy. If attempted straight up, a new diet is a harsh, strict change from the norm that is extremely difficult to maintain over time.
Calorie counting, the supposed “anti-diet solution,” is not conceptually different than a new diet plan. Instead of eating different food than you’re used to, calorie counting is eating less food than you’re used to. It’s even more of a pain, too, as you have to track every piece of food you eat, and add up your calories. I have to solve math problems to turn off my alarm clock in the morning—I like math—but I would not want to count calories!
Who wants to punish themselves for life to be thinner? Who wants to micromanage their life to be thinner? Nobody wants to do either, but they think it’s necessary. It’s not.
Put the pieces together, and this is why so many people are overweight and feel a sense of despair. They see it as a choice between being happy and enjoying life or weighing less and being healthier. With the current literature on weight loss, I completely understand the despair. Do you see the problem I see?
Most weight loss solutions don’t consider who you are right now. They only care about the actions you can take and the effect those actions will have on your body. They leave the actual change part, the hard part, up to you. “Count your calories, never eat carbohydrates again, lose the dietary fat, and stop eating sugar,” they’ll say. And you’re left there to figure out how to do it. This is why long-term diet adherence is so low. A failure to adhere to something means that the strategy didn’t work.
Any change you attempt to make should be sustainable in practically all circumstances. You should be able to do it in the worst storm of your life. You should be able to do it when you’re tired. You should be able to do it when you’re unmotivated. And isn’t this common sense?
Who, while preparing to scale a mighty mountain or sail a feral sea, packs their gear with the assumption of perfect weather? Smart adventurers know to prepare for the worst so that they can overcome any adversity that may come. Why haven’t we learned to do this with our attempts to change? When a person doesn’t bring snow gear to a mountain known for blizzards, we call them foolish. When a person assumes they will always be motivated, we cheer for them.
The whole point of getting to a healthier weight is to stay there and live out those benefits. If you get there and gain your weight back later, it’s a weightcation.
Can you perceive a pattern here?
- Person adopts diet plan
- Diet “works” and person loses weight
- Person is happy
- Person drifts back to their normal life
- Person gains weight and needs to go on a diet again
- Person gets excited about a new fad diet
- Repeat step one
The bright side of dieting is thinking and caring about what and how much you eat. When you’re mindful, you’re less likely to consume (excessive amounts of) unhealthy food and drink. The concept of dieting, however, is fundamentally flawed.
Weight loss needs to be a methodical, calculated venture, not a barbaric rush to drop 20 pounds in 20 days or overhaul your dietary habits overnight. When you regain weight previously lost, not only have you altered your metabolism to favor weight gain, not only have you been set back, but you’ve wasted time and will be emotionally hurt from teasing yourself with temporary results. And what do emotionally hurt people do? They (over)eat comfort food.
The journey to weight loss with mini habits seems so humble and insignificant at first. You’ll probably start out losing less weight than your friend Nancy, who is on the latest fad smoothie cleanse. It wasn’t nice of Nancy to rub it in, either, but you know Nancy (if your name is Nancy, I meant the other one). Later on, you’ll see Nancy’s weight loss progress slow, halt, and reverse as she realizes that not eating enough food is kind of a bummer.
As Nancy regains her weight, not only have you lost some weight, but you’ve been remarkably consistent with your changes, you’ve enjoyed the process rather than dreaded it, and you don’t feel like you’re being drained of life. You’re actually getting better at choosing the right foods over time (such is the magic of habits!). A successful change strategy will grant you freedom and empower you, not restrict you and make you feel like a slave to it. When people are restricted, they want to escape. When people are empowered, they can’t wait to continue.
Time passes. You’ve only lost seven pounds, but you smile, because you didn’t do anything extreme to get those results. Rather, you made small changes that you know you can sustain for the rest of your life. It’s a different feeling. It’s not euphoria as much as it’s a growing confidence that not only can you continue to lose weight, but you can keep it off as long as you want to. You’re not merely losing weight, you’re losing the mindset and habits that gained you weight. You’re conquering the roots of weight gain. You’re changing!
Think of it this way: In the right environment, a tiny spark can create a raging inferno. But in another environment, a large explosion might only last a second. We tend to think the size of the initial flame matters most, but it’s more about what that flame can become. Dieting offers a big explosion that quickly fizzles out. Mini habits use a small flame to build a strong fire that can burn for a lifetime.
The world needs an alternative to dieting. It needs Mini Habits for Weight Loss. Leave dieting behind for good on November 27, 2016.