I am amazed and fascinated by the dieter’s cycle. The persistence and the denial and the inability to see what is really happening in the big picture is awe inspiring. I am having my own revelations about my history even now, looking back years later. The statistics show that 98% (or so) of diets fail. People lose weight and then they gain it back, plus more quite often. Diets fail for many reasons that all stem from the same main underlying reason, that the diet is not sustainable.
And yet, the dieter never sees the failure in the diet. They completely and 100% assume it’s a failure in themselves. If it’s a failure in themselves, then the next time they try it, they will work harder or try a different approach and then it will work. We think that every time, over and over. We rationalize why the last one didn’t work. We list all the reasons why we were not able to eat what the diet required or work out the way the corresponding fitness plan suggested. But it’s all our fault, not the diet’s. It reminds me of the Greek myth of Sisyphus, whose punishment for eternity was to roll a boulder up a mountain over and over again, only to have it roll down the hill every time he gets it to the top.
With dieting, whenever the boulder rolls down the hill, it gets bigger and it's even harder to roll it to the top the next time. What if everyone were to ask themselves, why am I struggling so hard to roll this boulder to the top? What will be different when I get there? What if I stop struggling and simply step out of the way of the boulder and let it go?
Instead, we blame ourselves for not being disciplined enough, for not having enough willpower, for not following through, for being tired and lazy, for getting sick, for having too much work to do, for having to take care of aging parents or a pet or a child. We never ever consider the idea that it’s the diet that is the problem, not us. We even glorify those few months or few years when the diet was working and think – oh if only I could go back to the time where I worked out 5 days a week and had a kale salad every day for lunch – then I will lose weight again!
So why don’t you go back to that? Because it wasn’t sustainable. For whatever reason, it wasn’t sustainable.
Here’s the thing – the place your body wants to be weight wise, is the place it is when you eat without thinking and move as your life requires and as it feels good to you. Maybe you walk a few times a week or maybe your job has you on your feet all day and you don’t specifically “work out”. Maybe you eat pancakes for breakfast one day and nothing the next – because you are busy and not because you are trying not to eat. Eating and moving naturally is sustainable. Eating and moving without thought and by instinct is sustainable.
Whenever it takes enormous extra effort or special planning or requires ingredients you don’t normally like to eat or exercise you don’t enjoy doing, it won’t be sustainable. How do we fail to see this over and over again? It’s the forcing ourselves that I am trying to point out is a problem. If getting up and running 5 miles a day is as natural to you as breathing and is your connection with nature and your meditation and your lifeline – by all means, that is sustainable. But if it isn't, you can’t force it. You might be able to experiment and play and come to love new behaviors, but if you are robotically trying to follow meal plans and fitness programs that don’t feel natural to you, that is where – ok everyone all together now – it’s not sustainable.
You body always wants to get to the place of pleasant equilibrium, where there is no stress and no struggle to maintain it. Imagine eating what you want, when you want it. And moving when you feel inspired or energized or cooped up and in need of some release. When you listen to your body and give it what it wants, you are not in a place of struggle, stress and resistance with yourself. This is where your body always wants to be. So if you have to force yourself to do anything in particular, because you think you should, or because you promised yourself you would even when you don’t really want to, and you do this not once but over and over again, that shit is going to blow up.
I’m amazed how we don’t make the connection. In looking back, I always lamented the fact that I gained 15 pounds over the first 3 years of my marriage. I blamed it on playing house and cooking lots of dinners together and spending time together and not exercising as much as I could have. I assumed I got rather lazy and was rather embarrassed about it. Only recently did I put two and two together. What do we normally do before a wedding? DIET. And what happens after a diet ends? WEIGHT GAIN. Holy shit – how did I not make that connection before? Did I really gain weight because I was lazy? No! It was because I was forcing a way of eating and moving that wasn’t natural and then I stopped. It was inevitable. My history is actually littered with those stories. And every time I praised the diet for working when it did and blamed myself for failing when it didn’t. And I am only realizing it now.
That time I lost 10 pounds on the Flat Belly diet? That was an amazing diet and I don’t know why I couldn’t keep doing that. (Non sustainable). That time I went to the gym and worked with a trainer two times a week and wrote down all my food and got down 10 pounds? Why can’t I do that again? (Non sustainable.) I hear this story all the time from people. “Well I used to run 5 miles a day and only eat 1200 calories and I felt great and if I could only get back to that…..”.
Question for you, if you felt great, then why didn’t you keep it up at the time? Because it was NOT SUSTAINABLE. I think you get it.
The whole very simple point is –if it were doable all the time, then you would do it all the time. It’s not your failure, it’s the failure of the diet. We aren’t meant to live like that – rigid and controlled with very few options and no spontaneity. Who would want to live that way anyway? Life is never that structured. There is always going to be something changing and something getting in the way of your plans. This isn’t bad news. It’s an invitation. It’s an invitation to open up to the flow and joy of life in a way you never have before. It’s an invitation to leave behind the rules and the “shoulds” and all the things that are making you feel tight and restricted in your life and in your body. Not dieting offers a freedom like you have never experienced before and can open up your life in multiple directions that you didn’t even know were possible. Who is ready to let go of the vise grip dieting has on our psyches and relax into a life of freedom, choice, comfort and joy? It is more than worth it, and so are you.