I read an interesting article yesterday in one of my personal training journals that talked about why 98% of all diets fail. The reason is that diets don’t address the overall unhealthy relationship with food that most people with weight problems experience. Diets tend to feel restrictive – like punishment. If you “cheat” from your diet, then that must mean you’re “bad”… then that gets into issues of self-esteem and self-worth. This sets up a false belief system that bases your “goodness” or “badness” as a person on how well you eat each day. Of course, nobody can be a perfect eater every day, but whenever a dieter “falls off the bandwagon”, the dieter berates him/herself and often times just gives up. You must understand… you didn’t fail; the diet failed you. Deprivation and restriction aren’t natural, and we’re not meant to live that way.
Diets fail because they focus only on behavior change, not the more deeply rooted thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. To quote the article, it says “There is a neurological pathway that exists in every human’s mind, consisting of four distinct steps. Thoughts (“Look at the cellulite on my thighs!”) lead to feelings (“I feel lik a fat pig”), which lead to beliefs (“I was meant to be fat”), which ultimately lead to behaviors (burying ugly emotions in a pint of ice cream) (“The Power of Intuitive Eating” by Tiffany Crate, p. 25 in the May edition of Personal Fitness Professional).
The solution is to stop dieting and change our relationship with food all together. We need to learn our hunger/full signals; learn how to cope with emotions without using food; learn how to plan healthy foods and meals in a way that we enjoy and look forward to eating. For more information on intuitive eating, visit www.intuitiveeating.org.
Laura Brand is a personal trainer and the owner of A Brand New You in Decatur, Georgia. Visit her website at www.fitnessforwomeningeorgia.com.