Raise your hand if you have ever had any of these experiences:
- The second you are on a diet, you can’t stop thinking about food
- You’ve set the same exact nutrition goals every Sunday night for the upcoming week
- Gone grocery shopping and bought everything healthy and then proceeded to eat none of it
- Found yourself at the vending machine at the same time every.damn.day
- When you eat something unhealthy, you feel super guilty
- When you eat healthy for a few days in a row, you feel deprived
There are three super important components to losing weight:
Of these three, your attitude is the most important. 80% of losing weight is 100% mental. The science behind dieting has become super advanced, and there are 1,000,000 ways to lose 100 lbs.
So how is it that people continue to fail on diets when as a society we have more information, better technology, and more dieting products than any other human generation before us?
The diet program is not the problem, it's your attitude. Let’s consider this scenario. You start a diet on Monday morning. It’s Thursday at noon. Work stress is through the roof and you have to leave the office so you don’t go crazy and punch your boss in the face. You and a co-worker decide to go out to eat for lunch. You look at the menu on the drive or walk over and pick the perfect salad. Your co-worker, on the other hand, is absolutely not on a diet. They order:
Farmhouse Burger 8oz. Beef Patty topped with Applewood Bacon, Baby Spinach, Goat Cheese, Smoked Tomato Aioli & Fried Egg, Fresh Baked Brioche
(Just reading that gets me all kinds of excited. I also like saying Aioli because it makes me feel sophisticated.)
You are on your best behavior, so you order:
Southwest Salad Chopped Romaine, Black Bean Salsa, Cherry Tomatoes, Colby-Jack Cheese, BBQ Tortilla Strips, Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
And you politely ask the waiter to take off the cheese and tortilla strips and sub the ranch dressing for oil and vinegar. Oh yea, and please add to shrimp to it. You think, “Boom. Protein, veggies, fiber, low carb. I am a disciplined machine!!”
Then the food comes out:
You think: “Fuck that burger looks good. Those fries look dope. But look at all the colors in my salad, I’m being so healthy.”
Even though you want that big beautiful burger, you are proud of your decision to stick to your diet. But when you get back to the office, you’re not happy, you're grumpy, and you don’t know why.
Because you wanted that burger.
This is called emotional dissonance. To use technical terms, emotional dissonance is the conflict between experienced emotions and emotions expressed to conform to display rules. Simply put, it is internal conflict between what you feel and how you act. When it comes to food, most people interpret emotional dissonance as “being good” or “being disciplined.”
Unfortunately, your brain can only handle so much dissonance before something gives. This unbalanced state often resolves itself by attacking willpower and leaving you with the opposite effect of what you wanted. Often, you find yourself at the bottom of bag of chips not even knowing what happened. You just started eating and didn’t realize how much you had eaten until the bag was empty.
Now, customary logic would say, “ok, you’ve eaten the chips, let’s stop there.” But this is food. And no matter what anyone tells you, food is emotional. Normal logic does not apply, and unfortunately the natural instinct is to make it worse. Your inner dialogue sounds something like this: “Well, I’ve ruined today, so I might as well eat whatever else I want now and I’ll be good starting tomorrow.”
And I wish it stopped there. However, for many people, this carries into the next day and the following and following until you think, “Well, I’ve ruined this week, so I will be good starting Monday.”
Monday is New Year’s Day
- “Starting Monday, I’m going to do cardio every day.”
- “New diet on Monday! This is going to be my last ‘bad’ meal, so I’m going to enjoy the shit out it.”
- “I’m gonna crack down and get serious starting Monday.”
These are mind tricks or avoidance behavior. The fact of the matter is these are symptoms of yo-yo dieting, dieting baggage, or the belief that in order to be healthy, you must stop everything you are doing and eat chicken, broccoli, and brown rice.
And no matter how many times you do this, you somehow convince yourself that “this time will be different.”
And we are back to Monday again. And again. And again.
In fact, I can prove this to you. According to myfitnesspal.com, a food tracking app with 100 million users, Monday is the day with the most diet adherence and actual food tracking. Sunday is the least.
Similarly in gyms, Monday is the most highly attended day by as much as 25%. Sunday is the least.
The fact of the matter, this does not work. And something needs to change.
So how do we fix this epidemic?
Must, must, must mindset shifts
Eliminate the idea of the refresh button
If you constantly need to hit the refresh button on losing weight, STOP what you are doing immediately. You are doing it wrong. Monday is not a special day with mythical and magical powers. It won’t suddenly give you the willpower not to eat Oreos. You won’t run faster, jump higher, or lift heavier either. I promise.
Instead, you need to consider a new plan that doesn’t delineate a line between the weekdays and weekends. Just because work is over at 5pm on Friday, does not mean that your body stops counting calories too.
To help with this, I start anyone in our food coaching program on Friday. The weekend are not cheat days, nor is Monday the refresh button. Instead, we exercise balance each day.
Stop dieting in a bubble
The idea you are going to crack down or be “strict” needs to go away. Being “strict” assumes you are living in a bubble. Life does not work that way. And the more strict you are when on your diet, the more dissonance you will create. If you have ever done a 30 day challenge, you’ve probably noticed 3 days after it ends, you will have reversed everything you just accomplished plus some.
Life will be full of:
- Unplanned busy days of work
- Unplanned business trips
- Cocktail parties
You cannot prepare for all these things no matter how diligent you are. You need to plan as best as you can and be nimble at other times.
Have something you enjoy everyday
A mandatory part of our program is having something you enjoy everyday. This can be M&M’s, Snickers, chips, Oreos, or whatever. You will plan for it, account for it, and manage it.
You can still lose weight while eating the foods you absolutely love as long as you can exercise this concept responsibly.
When I started doing this, I messed it up for the first two weeks. Keeping a bag of chips in the house for longer than a day just never happened before. I would buy the chips on Friday and finish them on Saturday or Sunday. They never made it to Monday.
As I repeated this effort, having chips in the house lost its luster because I could have them again tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after.
As of right now, I have a bag of chips in my house that I bought 1.5 weeks ago, Oreos that I bought two weeks ago, and Twix minis leftover from Halloween (it's November 8 today). I have never been able to do this in the past.
Learn to fail small
Having a bad day is inevitable. No matter how much you plan, organize, and color code your calendar, unexpected things will happen. This does not give you the right to check out and say "Screw it."
Let’s look at this another way.
Pretend you are in Vegas at the blackjack table with $500 and you have set this amount as the most you are willing to lose. You sit down and for the first hour you are killing it. The second hour, you give some back. The third hour, you hit a cold streak and lose it all.
Do you go back to the ATM and take out another $500? Or do you just call it a night and go have some fun doing something else? You probably should just enjoy Vegas.
The same applies to your nutrition. One bad day, or one bad meal, means you just need to get back to business as soon as possible. This concept in and of itself is one of the most valuable concepts you can learn and will change the way you diet forever.
Bringing it home
It doesn’t matter what dieting lifestyle you have chosen. It can be Flexible Dieting, Paleo, Zone, etc. None of these will work until you change the way you think about food. A bad mindset with a good plan will not work. A good mindset with a mediocre plan will work, however.
Cut yourself some slack, enjoy food, and above all employ a great mindset rich in balance.
To learn more about my anti-diet approach to weight loss, start with my workshop below.