Do you want to know why diets don’t work? It's because we give up on them, either after a few months and a few lost pounds, or about 45 minutes after we declare to the world that we’re finally going to lose weight once and for all and then promptly do nothing.
But why do we do that?
Well, some fitness pros will give you a standard industry cliche that you have to approach weight loss as a lifestyle, not a diet. Personally, I find this really annoying because A) I hate stupid cliches and B) what the hell does that even mean?
Being retired is a lifestyle. So is being child-free by choice and maybe yachting, but is trying to be “not fat” really a lifestyle? I don't think so.
I know a gal that has a rocking body. She's in her mid-40s now and even though she has had several kids, I honestly don't think she has ever experienced a fat moment in her life. She’s not overly skinny but lean with muscle and shape in all the right places. She never talks about working out. I can't recall her every mentioning being on a diet, or following a particular protocol and I've been to her house for dinner and I can assure you, she’s not eating bird food.
So why is she so lean without ever a second thought about food or fitness and yet, the rest of us torment ourselves about every damn thing we put in our mouths?
Is it genetics? Maybe. But not everyone in her family is as lean as she is and really that excuse will only get you so far.
Want to know what it really is? It’s her habits and behaviors.
This gal is always moving. She lives on a big property with lots of animals to care for, so there’s always someone to feed, wash or harness. She eats mostly fish and veggies. Not in a restrictive way, but that’s generally what she tends to prefer to eat. Her days are full so she’s out and about, perhaps making a protein smoothie for the road, but rarely snacking.
When she does sit down for dinner, her focus is on the conversation. Telling stories, asking questions, she puts her fork down between bites and actually chews her food. When she’s no longer hungry she stops eating, which is often before she finishes what’s on her plate.
So here's a woman who walks a lot, eats pretty simply, actually stops eating when she's full and focuses her life on things other than what she's eating next. She chills, she bakes, she drives around and does all the same things you and I do, but she’s not obsessed with food. She lives a “lifestyle” that’s active, healthy and balanced but has nothing to do with dieting (I don’t think she even formally works out).
As a “fitness expert” (that awkward term that requires quotes), I can safely say that if you can wrap yourself around this, uh… “lifestyle” you will end your struggle with weight for life.
Sound simple? Sure. Sound easy? Not so much.
The art of behavior building is a constant and conscious awareness about the choices you make on a day to day basis, and the discovery of what triggers make you decide to make what decisions (for example, studies show a lack of sleep will trigger you to eat more processed carbs). But once you master this knowledge for yourself, once you can start to understand what actions, interactions and environments set off certain rabbit holes, you can start to rearrange your choices to better support your goals. Then, over time and without any obscene amounts of broccoli and chicken, you will lose weight. Better yet, you will keep it off because now your body is on autopilot and you KNOW what works for you and what sends you down a bad path.
Then, you can start leading a “normal lifestyle”. You know, the one that you enjoy and that suits you really well. Fancy that!
If creating a diet lifestyle is something you’re interested, you can find that in most prescriptive books that tell you how to lose 30lbs in 30 days. But I doubt that’s what you want.
If you are interested in creating a lifestyle that supports the body and energy levels you’re looking for, then there’s an easier way to achieve being lean and happy. Just start to focus on the choices you’re making in a day.
Here’s a short list of things you don’t want to include in your “lifestyle” unless your goal is to get fat:
- Eating too many processed carbs (and in some cases, even too many unprocessed ones)
- Not eating enough protein
- Not eating enough fat
- Not getting enough sleep
- No drinking enough water
- Too much snacking
- Not enough square meals
- Too much sitting on your butt
- Not enough walking around and lifting things up
So to create a lean lifestyle, I’d start looking at these possibilities with honest attention. I’d also start to track calories and measure food just so I can get a gut check on how much I’m really consuming. Once you know, you can adjust.
In the coming month, I’m launching a habit-based program that combines behavior change psychology with a flexible dieting approach to weight loss. If this is something you’re interested in checking out, get on my email list to get the head’s up. I also send out free meal plans, shopping lists and other “lifestyle” tools that will help you build a really good one.
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, low carb recipes, quick home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.