A diet is one of the hardest resolutions to keep. After a day or two, we start to slip. We go ahead and take that extra cookie or we cheat a little when we go out to eat, and soon we lose steam and fall back into the same behaviors we had when we started the diet. Well, not quite back where we started… Failing at a diet means more than just not losing weight. We fail and then we feel guilty. We fail and then we eat even more. We fail, and we fail, and we fail.
It’s very easy to get stuck in this cycle of initiative and failure, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You can escape the cycle and start seeing results immediately… Although they might not look quite like you expect.
Let’s make sure the cycle is clear:
1. You feel bad about yourself.
2. You think you’ll feel better if you lost some weight.
3. You resolve to start dieting.
4. You begin your diet.
5. You fail at the diet before you see results.
6. You feel even worse about yourself.
Looks pretty dire, right? Well, take heart. It’s possible to interrupt the cycle and change your trajectory. Before you know it, you’ll start shedding pounds and feeling better about yourself simultaneously. Best of all, you’ll keep making progress long-term.
We’re going to take aim right between steps four and five in the cycle listed above. We’re going to interrupt the cycle right after you begin and right before you fail for the first time. The way we’re going to do it is by changing the definitions of failure and success.
When we set up a diet plan, it is usually pretty strict, and it starts off with a bang. Starting tonight, salad for dinner every day and no more desserts, ever, unless I’m at a wedding. Well, sure, it’s no wonder we fail! We set the bar too high, and then we’re disappointed when we fall.
So we’re going to set the bar very, very low, and we’re going to tailor our plan precisely to our capabilities. We’re going to guarantee success by making success very easy to attain. If today is Day One of our diet, we’re going to put the bathroom scale in the closet today. That’s it. If you can put the scale in the closet, you’ve been successful. Tomorrow, take a whole wheat bun from the buffet table instead of a white bun, and that’ll be your success for tomorrow. The next day, have a serving of vegetables at lunch. The next day, a little less salt on your mashed potatoes.
Now hang on just a minute, you might be saying. How am I going to lose 20 pounds by putting the scale in the closet and eating a whole wheat bun?
Well, you won’t lose weight on Day 1, and you won’t lose weight on Day 2. You might lose a little bit by the end of the first Week, but that’s really not what’s important at the beginning.
Your goal is to lose weight, but in order to do so effectively, what you really need to do is change your mind. How can you change your eating habits if your understanding of food doesn’t change?
How can you expect to keep that weight off when your diet ends, if you haven’t changed your attitude toward food?
Avoiding failure at the beginning of the diet is important, because it effectively bypasses step 5 of the cycle, where you fail and fall off the wagon. By focusing on small successes, you can keep gaining momentum day after day after day, and before you know it, you’ll start to see measurable change that can be sustained long-term.
Have you experienced the cycle of initiative and failure? Share your story in the comments.