Changing Your Diet Forever- Why Is Change So Hard?
Mark Twain once said that quitting smoking was the easiest thing in the world- as he had done it several hundred times himself. Unfortunately, the same applies to changing your diet and taking steps to ensure that you are eating healthy and able to attain and maintain a healthy body weight. Most people reading this can attest to the fact that most attempts at dieting and changing your eating habits result in only short term weight loss and that in time most of the weight lost is regained as you revert to your original eating patterns. The percentage that is often quoted from a very old study on the subject places dieting failure at about 95% and while the study may be somewhat antiquated, the fact remains that according to the World Health Organization figures there are over 1 billion overweight people on the planet today- more than ever before. At the same time more people are attempting to lost weight than ever before and most diet plans, supplements and products profit from the high failure rate as it creates a large number of repeat customers. So why is it so hard for us to change our eating habits and lose weight? Most of us are at least somewhat aware of what not to eat- but the change usually proves to be almost impossible, but it is indeed doable if you understand the mechanics behind our inherent struggles with change.
Changing Your Diet- Understanding The Patterns
The first key to changing your diet is an understanding of your food consumption patterns. If you foster an intimate, objective and non-judgemental understanding of your behavior in the course of time if you are patient enough you will be able to change it. Contrary to what many gurus would have you believe, simply resolving to never eat unhealthy foods again is not the answer for the majority of the population, nor does the answer lie in following every new fad diet and weight loss program that the media marketing machine try to make a part of our collective popular culture. If that were the case then everyone would be successful in their attempts at weight control and somewhat sobering, the entire weight loss industry wouldn’t need to exist after everyone was successful after following the trendy diet of the day, used the weight loss supplements being advertised or followed the in vogue exercise program featured in the magazines and infomercials.
That certainly is not the case and every bonafide expert in the field would agree with my observation over the past two decades as a professional helping people with their weight management is that the only way to lose weight and keep it off is to change your lifestyle permanently. For this to happen there must be an unrelenting commitment to a change. One that is completely divorced from the destructive and self loathing perspectives that somehow there must be some form of atonement for failures to stay on track.
It is human nature to believe that when a ‘wrong’ is committed a period of guilt is required, followed by penance of some sort. Unfortunately, this very idea of eating the wrong foods as a ‘sin’ of some sort is a reality with regards the way most people perceive their dietary slips. The individual falters, eating something that falls into the category of forbidden and goes into a downward spiral of self hatred and disgust. This self inflicted flagellation is followed by a resolve to either exercise more, diet harder or employ some extreme method to compensate for the ‘damage’ done by their indulgence. (Sound familiar?) As familiar as it sounds it remains a major obstacle to long term success.
How Guilt & Quick Fixes Make Changing Your Diet Even Harder
Physiologically speaking, there isn’t anything that you can do compensate for a slip in your diet. Nothing at all. What is done is done and any attempts to try to undo the past are simply wasted exercises in magical thinking. This way of thinking can lead to eating disorders and an overall pathological relationship with food and has little to do with attaining a healthy mind and body. Instead the slips must be looked upon as what they are; learning experiences that teach us more about ourselves as every slip holds the information necessary to help you avoid their continued recurrence.
The popular but limited idea of getting into shape for summer or for some upcoming event or vacation doesn’t permit a transition towards this way of successful thinking. There is a popular weight loss slogan that life is too short to slim fast but like so many advertising mantras it has no foundations in reality. No one ever became overweight overnight and we have to readjust to the reality that permanent change happens over the course of years, not weeks or months and that the idea of getting into shape has to be a long term day by day process rooted in taking care of yourself- not just looking great in a swimsuit. Nothing worth achieving in this life comes quickly and controlling your eating habits is no exception. It takes practice and and it takes patience. On a personal note, while many look at my physique today and the steadfastness by which I am able to not indulge in processed foods of any kind, they overlook the fact that it took the better part of two decades to be able to get there, and without the slips and failures I encountered along the way, I would never have learned the invaluable lessons that allow me to be where I am today.
Understanding The Dynamics Behind Learned Behavior
The other important factor is an understanding of the dynamics behind learned behavior. When you decide, for example, that you are no longer going to eat unhealthy foods, your new attitude only serves to supplement your original behavior where eating unhealthy foods were acceptable. Behavioral psychology has found what many of us in the trenches have learned through objective observation. Namely that the very habits that we seek to change resurface because they are not fully forgotten. As long as new and old ways of thinking coexist as opposing impulses they will always be in competition unless steps are taken to disarm the undesirable attitudes.
Disarming those attitudes requires a fundamental change in perception, a change that comes again with time and patience. It is only when you are able to enjoy foods that are good for you that you will be able to break the cycle. Again, it does not happen overnight but a constant diet of natural unrefined and wholesome foods would eventually lead you to the conclusion that you don’t need added salt, sugar and fatty foods to enjoy your eating experience. Over time your taste buds adapt and if you engage in a well executed exercise plan that increases your caloric and nutritional needs, you will find yourself eventually craving foods that are good for you. You new ‘comfort food’ would be foods that make you physically make you feel better and not junk foods that create only a passing mental illusion of comfort while wreaking havoc on your body. The temptation to indulge in the foods that you wished to avoid therefore would fade into the background, a temptation that over time would simply be forgotten.
Eating Well Has To Be A Way Of Life
This is the same progression that allows me to maintain my diet all year round without any exceptions whatsoever, and the one that has worked unfailingly for innumerable individuals that I have been honored to work with over the years as a personal trainer. I know that many of you are asking yourselves how could you possibly stay on a diet of only healthy foods long enough to get to a point where the old habits are pushed aside. Taken by itself it would be a daunting task, but if you take small steps large tasks are easily accomplished. Finally on a spiritual level, you will be opening the doors to a whole new way of perceiving the world. One where limits are constantly being re-evaluated and where the seemingly impossible task of breaking free of the perpetually destructive cycle of weight loss and weight gain becomes very much a reality for you to enjoy.
NYC Personal Trainer Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training and one of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City. Get a copy of his free weight loss ebook here.
Learn more about his personal training services at www.naturallyintense.net