I’m willing to bet that almost every single one of us who’re privileged to live in a country of abundance, have been on a diet of one sort or another. In fact I’m sure we’ve all been on several.
And what was the result? Usually disappointment. Sure, there may have been some short-term gain: you fitted into your wedding dress; lost a few excess pounds; got beach-body ready in time for your summer holiday.
But what happened next? Your wedding dress represents a nice memory, but it no longer fits? You sacrificed your beach-bod for a fortnight of self-indulgence? You found you had no strategy in place for keeping off those lost pounds?
Sadly, this outcome is true for the vast majority of us who succumb to the seductive marketing tactics employed by those who peddle what is always touted as the next best thing. Putting my cynicism on hold for a moment; lets examine why the vast majority of diets fail:
1. They Have a Short-term focus:
In other words, they’re not even designed to be sustainable. That’s right, there entire focus is upon getting a fast result, and of-course, your money. Unfortunately, this is usually by any means necessary, and frequently via a significant calorie-deficit. You may see some serious number changes on your scales and believe it’s working, but these diets almost always provoke a loss of lean muscle-tissue. Subsequently, they leave you weaker and in worse health than when you started.
Rarely is the concept of maintenance even mentioned, which then leads to a reversion to old habits and the regaining of all the weight that you suffered to shed; minus the muscle you lost. This approach is a fast track to yo-yo dieting, and puts the body under immense stress.
2. They Don’t Involve Education:
What use is any diet that doesn’t explain why it works? How can you possibly know how your body is being affected, and what potential side-effects there may be?
Anyone standing by a diet or lifestyle recommendation ought to be willing and confident enough to explain the science and reasoning behind it. There must be a formula in place that’s easily replicated by the user, based upon sound science and a body of non-biased research that stands up to scrutiny.
That’s the big problem with a lot of meal-plans, or diets that are based around meal-replacement shakes. They require minimal thought by the dieter, and offer nothing in terms of health-based knowledge. In fact, if you want a fright, look at the ingredients that go into a typical shake. And if you can’t make sense of them, or know what effect they have upon you body: point proven.
3. They Make No Sense:
I recently read about a diet that involved eating nothing but hot-dogs and saltine crackers. Another focuses on the alkaline content of food, while being apparently devoid of any relevance to human physiology. One recommends eating as many bananas a day as you can manage, and another has honey and lemon listed as an appetite suppressant. The list is endless.
I’ve had friends tell me how excited they were to start a smoothie-based diet. OK, so how many pieces of fruit in each smoothie? How much fructose did that involve, and what effect upon insulin did they expect? Silence! And yet, they were more than willing to accept wild claims made about this protocol’s efficacy; without any form of critical analysis, and no questions asked. Not to mention how expensive it was.
Even the popular vegan diet – ignoring the selective ethics on display – cannot come close to providing enough protein to sustain lean muscle-tissue and optimal bodily function.
Quite often it all comes back to the question: does it all sound too good to be true? Be honest, we can all tell when something is a bit off, doesn’t sound quite right, and ought to arouse suspicion. But when it promises to give us exactly what we want so long as we don’t look too closely; it’s amazing how human beings suddenly become selectively blind.
4. They Demand Copious Amounts Of Exercise:
Firstly, if an eating plan is halfway decent, then exercise won’t be a significant factor. That’s right, I said it!
When exercise is typically thrown into the mix, you can be sure that the diet in question is working on a calories in/calories out equation.
Now, I love working out, and can’t recommend enough that people stay as active as possible. But that isn’t the same as using it as a means to burn calories or increase metabolism. If the exercise is designed to increase metabolism, and the body’s automatic response to calorie restriction is to slow down metabolism: how does this even work in the context of a weight-loss plan?
The focus instead ought to be on nourishing the body with both food, and an appropriate amount of activity. Some will be more inclined, or able to do more exercise than others, and their nutritional intake has to reflect this. Too much exercise without enough food to fuel it, has a detrimental effect of body-composition; leading to a loss in muscle tissue.
This is where we circle back once more to education: understanding our physiology, and having a well-thought reason for everything we put into our bodies. Also, does an hour-a-day of mindless cardio sound healthy and/or realistic? Using our bodies can be fun, and can involve challenge relevant to our personal level of fitness. But ultimately, it must form part of a realistic and sustainable strategy that doesn’t do more harm than good.
5. They Pay No Attention To The Mental Aspect:
The word ‘diet’ is synonymous with suffering and deprivation; instantly invoking an association with feelings of loss. Sure, there’s a desire to lose weight. But then there’s the part that involves losing access to a range of food-groups that most probably have an element of emotional attachment.
But diets, and typically their exponents, rarely consider the user’s mental state. They’re only concerned with their own agenda, and how to access your funds.
In reality, food, and the wider aspects of our body’s health, are massively connected to our emotions. And to enable anyone to make a significant health transformation, requires a means by which these emotions can be understood and navigated. Without this attention to detail, feelings become overwhelming, and comfort is sought within the embrace of familiar habits; comfort eating being one example.
This is where personal coaching comes in. It individualises the process; taking careful consideration of each person’s unique life experiences, available resources, and current capabilities. Sure, the basic formula remains the same, but we all communicate differently, and this must be recognised and respected in order to attain the best possible result for each person.
A good coach will provide education, support and accountability. A great coach will also ensure a strategy of maintenance is put in place, so that all gains (or losses) are easily maintained. How many diets have you come across where this was ever a factor?
So, how do you find an approach that works? Seek out someone who’s clearly been through their own transformation, and ask them a lot of questions. If they’re genuine, then the answers will flow freely and easily, you won’t feel bad for asking them, and you’ll find that you’ve actually learned something.
You won’t be required to take up residence in the gym, and any supporting exercise protocol is optional, rather than being a major component.
Ultimately, any approach you choose may involve a leap of faith on your part. But having done your due diligence by grilling your prospective coach: the one you choose will make sense; it will take account of your personal circumstances and past struggles; and it will involve a long-term strategy that promotes effortless healthy living.