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Diets Don’t Work: Why “How to Lose Weight Fast” Is the Wrong Question

Diets Don’t Work: Why “How to Lose Weight Fast” Is the Wrong Question

Searching the Internet for “how to lose weight fast” is just as absurd as falling for a get rich quick scam. Discover why diets don’t work (and what to do about it).

“Diets don’t work,” says science.

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” – Julia Child

An analysis by UCLA published in the journal American Psychologist discovered that dieting does not work. Researchers performed a comprehensive analysis of 31 diet studies to determine their long-term effectiveness. While most dieters typically lost 5-10% of their starting weight in the first 6 months, the results didn’t last; at least one-third to one-half of the dieters regained all of their weight (and then some) within 4-5 years. As UCLA researchers concluded in their analysis, “There is little support for the notion that diets lead to lasting weight loss or health benefits.”

Get Rid of Your “All or Nothing” Mentality

“Moderation in all things.” – Aristotle

Any diet that depends on eliminating entire food groups is destined for failure. Recall when you were a child: a parent or teacher might have told you something like “Do NOT touch anything in this store!” What did you then proceed to do? I bet you touched ALL of the things. It’s funny how it becomes more tempting to do something as soon as it becomes “forbidden.”

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Food works in the same way. The more you tell yourself you can’t have something, the more you’re going to want it. And besides, do you really want to live in a world where garlic toast, cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies are outlawed forevermore?

This isn’t to say you don’t have to make sacrifices if you want to get fit and healthy, but extremist “All or Nothing” diets aren’t the way to do it. Sure, you might lose weight fast, but that doesn’t mean the pounds will stay off. And if you don’t sustain it, what’s the point?

If you don’t heed this warning, here’s what’s gonna happen:

1. You’ll do great for the first few weeks (or months if you’re lucky) and lose a bit of weight.

2. You’ll start craving those delicious foods you’re depriving yourself of more and more with every passing day, until you lose your cool and go on a binge-eating rampage.

3. You’ll feel guilty, beat yourself up, decide you might as well give up, and find yourself right back where you started.

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Stop Demanding Perfection of Yourself

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life… And that is why I succeed.”
– Michael Jordan

If Michael Jordan could win NBA championships while missing over 9,000 shots, I’m pretty sure you can successfully lose weight despite the occasional setback. Eating a few peanut butter cookies at a holiday party isn’t worth pushing the Panic Button over. Just like a single healthy meal won’t make you go down a waist-size, eating a single unhealthy meal won’t make you go up one. If you do make a mistake, don’t freak out. Take a deep breathe; count to 10; and ask yourself, “Why did this happen and how can I make better decisions in the future?”

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about those “lazy days.”

There are always going to be those crappy days where you just don’t feel like doing anything (much less exercising), so you don’t. Let’s face it: I have them, too and I’m a trainer (why yes, I am human!). Show me a person who claims to be without fault or weakness and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

It’s 100% possible that your desire to have a “Walking Dead” marathon might trump your desire to be fit on occasion. This is okay, but it cannot become habit. Remind yourself that your long-term want (get fit and healthy) is more important than your short-term want (watch zombies eat brains).

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Here’s why this is so very important:

I’ve noticed a tendency in certain people. They make one little insignificant mistake and allow it to spiral out of control until it screws up their entire fitness plan. They break their diet once by eating a piece of cake, or they miss a couple of workouts in a row, or whatever the case may be. These people then proceed to agonize over their mistakes, beat themselves up for being so “stupid,” and call it quits.

Make a mistake? Learn from it and try again. Don’t wallow in guilt and regret, or you’re going to convince yourself you’re a failure, which is the furthest thing from the truth—you’re merely human. Nobody’s perfect. I promise.

Strive for Consistency (Not Perfection)

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.” – Jim Rohn

Yes, you have to make sacrifices if you want to become fit and healthy.

Yes, you must have focus and discipline to achieve your goal.

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No, that doesn’t mean you can’t have the occasional treat.

No, the world won’t end if you make a mistake.

You probably shouldn’t eat creme-filled doughnuts every day; but life is meant to be fun, and the occasional indulgence won’t hurt you as long as you make positive decisions most of the time.

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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