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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 November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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