Your resolution was to lose weight. But sticking to your goals hasn’t been easy. According to a recent survey of people who diet regularly, two out of five quit within the first seven days, one out of five last a month, and the same number — just 20 percent — make it to the three-month mark. Here are five reasons a diet can fail and simple ways to overcome them. With a good plan in place, you can succeed in meeting your weight loss goals.
- Body Rebellion – Drastic or very strict diets can trigger mood swings, headaches, physical and mental fatigue, irritability, digestive upset, and brain fog; not unlike symptoms associated with withdrawal. Nobody wants to feel this way. Changing your diet for the better should leave you feeling energized, clear-headed, and happy.
You know your body better than anyone else. Listen to what it’s telling you. If you find yourself starving or craving something you’ve cut out, build in an extra snack, increase portions a bit or add a little bit of that something back in. Trust your body. Undercutting its basic needs can compromise your metabolism causing you to feel miserable. Instead of being strict and hard on yourself, consider an “everything in moderation” approach.
- Hunger – Feeling hungry is not going to help you lose weight. Chronic hunger can actually indicate that your diet is out of balance, which can cause your body to conserve energy and resist weight loss.
To lose pounds and inches without those awful hunger pangs, include healthy foods that keep you feeling fuller longer. Choose foods high in lean protein (organic eggs, poultry, fish, beans and lentils), fiber (fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, lentils), and good fat (avocado, nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive and coconut oils). A 350 calorie meal of one cup of vegan black bean soup, topped with a quarter of a chopped avocado, two cups of grilled asparagus, and a half cup of cooked quinoa, will leave you feeling a whole lot fuller than a 350 calorie frozen diet dinner.
- Cravings – Long-term weight control is a lifetime commitment. Not finding a way to build-in indulgences is the primary reason many people ride the weight rollercoaster — lose 20 pounds, gain back 25, lose 30, gain back 40. Trying to be “perfect” week after week typically leads to feelings of deprivation, resentment, even anger or depression, and culminates in either binge eating, or diet abandonment.
Ditch the “all or nothing” mentality. In that mindset, one small diet deviation triggers thoughts like, “Well, I blew it, I might as well go all out!” If you’re worried about self-control, allow yourself small splurges in ways that reduce the chance of overeating. You could split a dessert at a restaurant once a week, or buy one cookie from a bakery rather than bringing home a whole box. Also, be sure to include nutrient-rich weight loss friendly foods that feel like treats, such as almond butter, avocado, and dark chocolate. Not being able to look forward to and savor your food is a surefire recipe for disaster.
- Social Pressure – Without meaning to, friends and family can quickly sabotage your weight loss initiative. Comments intended to encourage, such as “You don’t need to lose weight, you look great,” can actually lead to pressured indulgence. A recent study found that friends who eat together consume more food than those paired with strangers, and friends give each other “permission” to overeat.
Avoid the eating-as-entertainment pattern. Instead of scheduling social time around happy hour and dinners out, mix things up. Go to a play (where munching on popcorn and candy is prohibited) rather than a movie. Go out dancing and volunteer to be the designated driver. You’ll get your exercise and stay hydrated with water. If your friends resist, explain why your goals are important to you (e.g. eating better helps you sleep, so you’re more productive at work, makes your heartburn go away, keeps your migraines at bay), and ask for support.
- Emotions – Our society actually promotes the use of food emotionally. We bond and celebrate over meals, use food to show our affection, bring others food in times of crisis, and choose food as a means of comfort. A terrible day at work, or a long-awaited promotion can both trigger you to eat.
Strong emotions tend to squelch rational thoughts, and distance us from the consequences of immediate actions. When you’re really sad, angry, or scared, and you know that eating ice cream is going to make you feel better right now, it’s easy to push away thoughts about how you’ll feel tomorrow, or detach from goals that don’t feel relevant in that moment. Shifting away from this pattern can have a dramatic impact on your weight. Replace food with something else that you really enjoy. Celebrate that promotion with a day at the spa. Drown your sorrows by going for a long walk. This is the hardest one to conquer, but the one with the most lasting effects. You can lose weight – you just need to do it wisely, with a plan.