6 Ways To Stop Short-Term Dieting From Harming Your Health In The Long Run
Phil Connors is an arrogant weatherman sent out to cover the annual Groundhog Day event. Little did he know, his life was about to take an unexpected turn. Phil eventually discovers that he is in a continuous time loop, repeating the same day over and over.
At first, Phil takes advantage of this by indulging himself in pleasures, such as stealing money, seducing women, getting drunk with no repercussions and learning all the town's secrets.
Hold up ... this name and story sound familiar. That's because they are.
In 1993, Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, is introduced to us in the movie "Groundhog Day." Besides teaching us valuable life lessons, this movie shares valuable nutritional lessons we still suffer from currently.
We live in a society where people spend plenty of money on fad diets, countless workout programs and supplements promising us quick results. Unfortunately, more information and money hasn't saved our society from becoming more obese. In fact, a recent study concluded only 2.7 percent of Americans live a healthy lifestyle. A basic, healthy lifestyle consists of moderate exercising, a good diet, no smoking and having a recommended body fat percentage.
Phil's problems are getting out of a rut, finding meaning and fulfillment and instituting change. Weight-loss seeking enthusiasts' problems are escaping from a dietary rut, making fitness and life co-exist and creating lasting change.
While we're not trapped in a time loop like Phil, many of us are trapped in our daily routines by our conditioning. These routines and current conditioning are the reasons many of us fail with our diets, despite the plethora of knowledge available.
Many of us are on autopilot, never taking the time to slow down and assess what's working and what isn't in our lives. While many people seeking weight-loss have the right intentions, their motives and methods are flawed.
The typical dieting cycle starts with a diet full of motivation, supplied by adrenaline and the novelty of starting something new (albeit they're often too extreme and aren't tailored to your personal lifestyle). Once the motivation and novelty of it all wears off, the diet starts to feel restrictive.
And then, the hunger games commence (aka discomforting and annoying cravings from the restrictive diet). We give into the temptations of unfriendly foods, and we're flooded with guilt and shame. Then, we quit. Months later, we feel a spark of inspiration and start back at square one.
Day after day, year after year, people lather, rinse and repeat this cycle. This is the "Groundhog Day Effect" people experience while dieting. Until you slow down and realize that all your thoughts, actions and approaches determine your results, you're going to experience the same result over and over again.
To stop chronic dieting, you must begin to pay attention to the outcomes of your decisions, and how your thought patterns and preconditioned responses determine the majority of the actions and behaviors you take on a daily basis.
Once you've reached this level of awareness, you can break the chains and free yourself from this continuous cycle. Now you can start to recognize what's working for you, your fears and other preexisting beliefs you hold.
As you embark on this freeing journey, use these six strategies to head toward a path of lasting success by focusing on your health and longevity and stop chronic dieting:
1. Reframe your approach to goal-setting.
Basing your worth and success off the number on the scale is setting yourself up for disaster. The scale isn't the best indicator of progress. This is sometimes due to water weight from eating certain foods, along with other hormonal fluctuations that aren't being accounted for.
Instead of relying on superficial metrics and numbers, set positive and realistic goals that promote positive outcomes. Base your goals on behavioral and action oriented metrics, not specific outcomes. In other words, become process-oriented, instead of results-oriented.
“I'm going to live healthier," “Start working out" and “Lose some weight” aren't good examples of setting concise, positive, measurable goals. Some great examples would be reducing your consumption of sodas, decreasing your sugar intake, committing to the gym four times a week, eating vegetables with each meal, walking for 30 minutes daily and eating one portion of protein with each meal.
2. Don't trap yourself inside the box of sameness.
What makes us special as humans is that as similar as we may seem, there are little intricacies that make each of us unique individuals. Health and nutrition aren't any different.
Sure, some principles, such as eating plenty of vegetables and avoiding processed foods, apply to each of us. But the methods to go about eating those vegetables and healthy foods can be accomplished in many forms.
We're all wired uniquely and require specific dietary needs for our particular lifestyles. Find what suits you and what meshes seamlessly with your goals, while not requiring a complete overhaul of your daily life.
There are many different avenues to a destination. It's up to you to discover and decide upon which path works for you.
3. Let your body be your guide.
In today's society, we're terrible listeners. We're mostly focused on ourselves and what we're going to say next. So, it's no surprise that most people aren't good at listening to their body and making adjustments accordingly.
You can have the best diet and exercise plan on paper, but at the end of the day, it's not guaranteed to work exactly as planned. Predicting calories and macronutrients is a good starting point. While tracking your macros and determining an estimated calorie number is beneficial, the best indicator of success will always be your body. Your body is constantly trying to guide you, but you have to pay attention.
Are you noticing intense hunger pangs, or are you just writing them off as part of the normal process of dieting? Are you noticing your daily energy levels, or are you just accepting that walking around cranky and tired is part of the dieting process? Are you paying attention to your body and those seemingly small aches and pains, or are you just writing them off as an intense workout?
These are just a few examples of your body communicating with you. An intelligent, sustainable diet doesn't mean you have to starve or function day-to-day with low energy. An intelligent, sustainable diet provides enough macro and micronutrients to help repair your body against nagging joint pains and other common issues. Let go of the mentality that you have to suffer while dieting, and start paying attention to the feedback your body provides.
4. Celebrate the little victories.
Us humans often times set dauntingly ambitious goals that are set under unrealistic timelines. When it comes to our goals, we need to feel as if we're making progress. Focusing on the end goal, however, often leaves us feeling as if we're not making progress due to the scope of the goal.
When we don't feel like we're making progress, we're more likely to quit. However, this is a moot point when you start to reframe how you view success. Someone may want to lose 20 pounds, but why delay celebrating until you reach that 20?
To increase your chances of success, start setting micro goals. These micro goals provide opportunities for little wins, which serve as your gasoline to continue along your fitness journey. If 20 pounds is your main goal, why not celebrate at three? Every little bit should matter. When you focus on the little victories, you give awareness to the fact that you're making positive changes within your life, thus guaranteeing momentum to continue along.
5. Embrace and commit to the long term.
Whether it's committing to a relationship or committing to a work assignment, humans have trouble committing. Let's face it, commitment is scary. It forces us to leave our familiar conditions. The same thing happens once we commit to changing the way we eat.
Fad diets, body resets and cleanses will work in the short term. Sure, you're going to lose some weight and start to feel good about yourself, but once you stop these types of programs, your weight is most likely going to return with no mercy.
People experience a rebound weight effect over the long term because they haven't developed the proper habits and behaviors needed to keep the weight off. Fad diets and other short-term gimmicks place you in a state of temporary change. They allow you to avoid committing to new behaviors, while adopting less than stellar behaviors and relationships with foods.
These short-term diets tend to either outcast one particular food group, or come loaded with rules that leave you with a distorted perception of healthy eating. Healthy eating isn't a 30-day event, nor is it a five-day affair. It's a 24/7 affair requiring a commitment to the long term in order to truly experience lasting change, instead of the illusion of it.
6. Health goes beyond the physical.
It takes a lot more than eating baked chicken, steamed veggies, sweet potatoes and a salad to achieve optimal health. Achieving optimal health while maximizing your longevity requires a keen focus on the four pillars of fitness: emotional, spiritual, mental and physical.
Often times, eating healthy is only preached as an avenue to get abs, tone our arms and tighten up our glutes. Though it's not nearly as sexy to focus on, our internal world is far more important than our external world.
What good is a lean, athletic body if it's internally comparable to a sickly, disease-ridden 80-year-old's body (no disrespect to senior citizens)? Despite what social media tries to shove down our throats, fitness isn't just a game consisting of superficial metrics and rigid rules.
Forcing yourself to eat bland and tasteless foods in the name of achieving the almighty six pack isn't worth it. Following a restrictive diet that doesn't fit your particular lifestyle isn't your only option.
Even though you may be eating healthy foods on this restrictive plan, you're simultaneously creating unnecessary stress in your internal world. You're not going to be happy with this plan. Healthy eating should be a nutritional adventure designed to build you up physically, nourish your soul with flavorful foods, emotionally satisfy your needs and mentally allow you to thrive in life.
Dieting is important, but remember that you only get one body. Treat it with love.
When left unaddressed, our pursuit of a healthier body and lifestyle often becomes our biggest detriment. When unaddressed, we only see our bodies for their imperfections, and not for their gifts and unique abilities. The more you accept your body and treat it with love, the more motivated you become. From there, it will be that much easier to reach your goals.
In a hyper-sexualized world where looks are placed at a premium, keeping the big picture in mind is essential. When you start to focus on your energy, overall wellness, happiness, inner peace and approach your nutrition with love instead of an unhealthy obsession with losing weight, your life will level up (as well as your physique).
Yes, you may feel ashamed of how you look, or feel you need to lose 15 pounds in order to be happy, but remember, it's not the size of your muscles or the weight of your body that determine your value to the world.
Focus on your general well-being and living the good life. The weight and body you desire will follow suit. I promise.
This article was originally published on the author's personal blog.