“Ughhhh… no way that can be right. This scale is definitely broken. I must be bloated because I had Chinese food yesterday and it has so much salt. My belly feels soo bloated.”
“Same number. Scale is still broken. Try again tomorrow.”
“Is this thing broken? Did I gain weight? Maybe I won’t have any carbs today.”
“How did I go up a pound? FUCK THIS SCALE. I need a drink and I think I should start cutting carbs. I’ll start on Monday.”
And then it starts…...
“All salads, no carbs. Nailed it!”
“Small slip up. Had a few M&M’s but it’s no big deal. Still on track”
“When I got home from work, I was starving and I made a sandwich with bread I had leftover from when I was being bad… but it will be out of the house soon. Still good”
“I went to happy hour after work and it didn’t go so well. I just couldn’t help myself. I saw the food, and then all of sudden I looked down at my plate and it was all gone. I’ll just start again Monday.”
The idea of cutting carbs is wonderful in theory, but it goes against fundamental concepts of human psychology, and it is the exact reason why most diet fails.
No habit, either good or bad, is developed overnight. If you gained 20 lbs, it is likely the culmination of a many small decisions versus one big choice. The way to fix a problem is to reverse the small decisions that got you there in the first place as consistently and as often as possible.
The problem is we are humans and we have complex emotions. When we have that epiphany moment of “Holy shit, I gotta do something, I’m getting way too fat,” we are so anxious to fix it that we feel like we need to do something about it ASAP. Therefore, we create an extreme solution so it “feels” like we are doing something to solve our problem.
The problem with extreme solutions is they typically don’t last because of something 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 the 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.”
Let’s see what this looks like in action. Pretend I decide to my cut carbs down as much as possible. In the weeks prior, I was eating carbs like bread, pasta, fruit, and crackers. Nothing crazy, but I just love pasta and eat it about 1-2x per week. Normally, me and my co-workers go out to lunch every Friday and I get some sort of pasta every time we go out. Everyone else is having the usual: burgers, sandwiches, pasta, etc.
When I get the menu, I stare at the pasta. Then I look at the salad. Then I stare at the pasta again. But I say to myself “It will be worth it, Joe, hold strong.” I want that pasta, but stop myself from eating them because I am cutting carbs. Right then at that moment, emotional dissonance is created, because what I want and what I am doing are not in alignment.
A few good days, weeks, or months (if you are really disciplined), of “being strong” and dissonance starts to creep up and you want to go back to your old ways. Unfortunately, your brain can only handle so much dissonance before something gives. By using an extreme solution, our brain enters an unbalanced state that often resolves itself by attacking willpower and leaving you with the opposite effect of what you wanted.
Therefore, if you are eating carbs and then all of sudden cut them out in one swoop, your brain will enter the unbalanced state and eventually balance itself out with carb overload.
How your brain will resolve dissonance is a huge plate of pasta, an entire bag of chips, or a few bags of M&M’s. The resolve is also going to be more extreme than what caused the dissonance in the first place.
And then your solution is to… drum roll please…. “Start cutting carbs again on Monday.”
I promise you this will not work. This is an endless and brutal emotional cycle that we must avoid.
Monday is just another day
Historically, Monday is the busiest day at the gym. That is not exclusive to big box gyms either, it is inclusive of CrossFit, Boot Camps, Barre, Kickboxing, Yoga, Pilates, etc. This is the same for nutrition. According to myfitnesspal, the number one food tracking app in the world, Monday is best day of diet adherence.
For gyms and diets alike, adherence falls down a steady slope until Friday and the slope gets steeper over the weekend.
It is very clear why this happens:
- Most people do not work on the weekends
- The lack of structure on the weekend throws off diet adherence
- The return to structure motivates an adherence to diet, exercise, and work productivity.
The truth is Monday is just another day. The start of a calendar month, new year, or new week doesn’t signify anything for our body. Neither our body nor our bank account ignores the calories we eat or money we spent because it’s a weekend or a holiday.
If you constantly find the 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 make more money. I promise.
Instead, you need to consider a new plan that doesn’t delineate between the weekdays and weekends.
To help with this, I start anyone in our food coaching program on Thursday. The weekend days are not cheat days, nor is Monday the refresh button. Instead, we exercise balance each day.
Time to be honest..
No matter what anyone says about the negative health effects of pizza and alcohol, alcohol and pizza will always win. You know why? Because pizza is fucking delicious and I only dance when I’m drunk. So unless some magic combination of avocados and grilled chicken unleash my sick dance moves on Saturday night, Jameson it is.
We are not machines. We are humans with emotions that don’t allow us to make extreme behavior shifts that every diet or weight loss trick requires. You can NOT:
Change what you eat overnight - You’ll go right back to it.
Cut out all the things you love to eat - You’ll go right back to it.
Cut out being social or going out to lose weight - You’ll go right back to it.
So why not incorporate this into my plan instead of fight it?
The only way to lose weight sustainably and keep it off is to change habits, not food. Habits are not changed overnight, they take time. Mindsets are not changed overnight, they take time. Losing weight is not done overnight, it takes time.
I will say this over and over again: If you want to lose weight, you must change your mindset first, and the weight will melt off.
To learn more about my anti-diet method of weight loss, start with the workshop below.