Ditch The Diet - Lifestyle Tips For Sustainable Weight Loss

Successful weight loss is defined as intentional weight loss of at least 10% of body weight kept off for at least one year. Some researchers believe that maintaining weight loss of 5% of body weight for a year or more should at least be considered moderate success due to the associated positive metabolic improvements. Yet most diets fail. In fact, most people gain back the weight they lost within 1 to 5 years. In some cases, people put on more weight than they lost in the first place.

This happens because traditional diets often fail to address the complex interplay of factors influencing weight and health, leading to temporary results at best and long-term frustration and disappointment at worst. 

The diet industry is big business with the weight loss industry in the United States being worth $72 billion. There are no shortages of “diets”, with more than 1,000 developed or approved by published experts, and still more propounded in the media.

Why Diets Fail

The reasons for the success or failure of a diet are complex and highly individual. 

Some possible reasons include:

Restriction and Deprivation: Many traditional diets rely on restrictive rules and severe calorie reduction, which can leave you feeling deprived and hungry. This deprivation often leads to cravings and overeating, ultimately making it difficult to stick to the diet long-term.

Unsustainability: Traditional diets often promote quick fixes or drastic changes that are not sustainable in the long term. People may lose weight initially, but, without a long-term strategy, they revert to their old eating habits. The weight often returns, leading to a cycle of yo-yo dieting.

Focus on Short-Term Results: Traditional diets typically prioritize rapid weight loss over overall health and well-being. They often overlook the importance of making sustainable lifestyle changes that promote long-term health and weight maintenance.

Lack of Individualization: Traditional diets often take a one-size-fits-all approach, failing to account for individual differences in metabolism, preferences, and lifestyle. What works for one person may not work for another, leading to frustration and discouragement.

Emphasis on External Rules: Many traditional diets focus on external rules and guidelines rather than teaching individuals how to listen to their bodies and honor their internal hunger and fullness cues. This can create a disconnect between food and emotions, leading to disordered eating patterns.

Failure to Address Underlying Issues: Traditional diets often overlook the underlying factors contributing to weight gain, such as stress, emotional eating, sleep deprivation, and hormonal imbalances. Without addressing these root causes, it's challenging to achieve sustainable weight loss.

Focus on Weight Loss Alone: Traditional diets typically measure success solely based on the number on the scale, overlooking other important markers of health such as energy levels, mood, sleep quality, and overall well-being. This narrow focus can undermine motivation and lead to frustration if weight loss stalls.

Lifestyle changes have greater success than diets!

Lifestyle changes are different from putting yourself on a diet. They are based on creating healthier habits and are not a one-size-fits-all prescription with a ton of arbitrary rules. Most importantly, lifestyle changes are long-term shifts that are associated with a value proposition – something more important than simply weight loss

You are capable of making meaningful changes that will be better for your health and happiness so long as you go about it correctly. There are many opportunities and strategies to fulfil the intention of creating a healthier version of yourself:

Make Health Your Priority

Prioritizing your health and happiness as opposed to fixating on a number on the scale is a cornerstone of successful weight loss efforts. This leads to process-oriented, meaningful change as opposed to fearful, outcome-oriented thinking. If you operate with the expectation that you will feel better and become healthier, this sets the stage for more sustainable change.

Personalize Your Plan

No two people are the same. What works for one person may not work for another person.

You need to take into consideration factors including your values, lifestyle, schedule, pertinent medical history, priorities when determining which changes will make you healthier and happier. Create a template that fits your life as opposed to forcing your life around an arbitrary set of rules.

Set Realistic Goals

Instead of focusing solely on the number on the scale, set achievable goals related to behaviors, such as exercising a certain number of times per week or increasing your daily vegetable intake. Celebrate your progress along the way, regardless of the scale.

Focus on Real Food 

Rather than counting calories or following strict meal plans, prioritize whole, nutrient-dense foods. These include humanely raised animal proteins, pastured eggs, local and seasonal vegetables and fruits and healthy, naturally occurring fats. Not only do they provide essential nutrients, but they also keep you feeling satisfied for longer periods. Read more on real food here

Practice Mindful Eating

Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues. Eat slowly, savoring each bite, and stop when you feel satisfied, not stuffed. Avoid distractions like screens or eating on the go, as they can lead to overeating.

Stay Hydrated

Sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Herbal teas and infused water can also be refreshing options. Learn more about optimal hydration in this post

Prioritize Sleep

Lack of sleep can disrupt hormones that regulate hunger and appetite, leading to cravings and overeating. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to support your weight loss efforts. Read on here on strategies to improve your sleep

Manage Stress

Stress can trigger emotional eating and sabotage your weight loss efforts. Practice stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature. Get a great meditation here

Include Physical Activity You Enjoy

Find activities you genuinely enjoy, whether it's hiking, dancing, swimming, or yoga. Regular exercise is good for overall health and boosts mood and energy levels, making it easier to stick to your weight loss goals. Read on here to learn how to incorporate more movement into your life

Seek Support

You might be unclear on what healthy looks like for you when it comes to foods and patterns of eating. Don’t hesitate to consult with a knowledgeable professional, who will look at the total picture of you and then create an individualized plan. Anyone you go to should consider your overall medical history, lifestyle, and personal goals.

It’s also important to surround yourself with supportive friends, family members, or even join a community or online group of people with similar goals. Having a support system can help you stay motivated and accountable.

Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that setbacks are a natural part of the journey. Instead of dwelling on mistakes, use them as learning opportunities to adjust and move forward.

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A few examples of real-world lifestyle changes could include:

  • Consuming less alcohol and making smarter choices if and when you do choose to drink (learn more about that here)
  • Doing yoga either in a studio or through an online app once a week to reduce stress
  • Choosing a variety of vegetables at the local farmer’s market and enjoying some seasonal produce
  • Removing junk food from the house to add more nutrient-dense foods to the diet
  • Meal prepping once a week so that there are always options that support good health. Alternatively, choose from this week’s menu and have healthy meals on the ready
  • Walking daily
  • Blocking workout times in a calendar so exercise and self-care is a priority
  • Having at least 50% of friend meet-ups be non-food related (this results in more exercise, which is beneficial to health)
  • Track your progress using an app or a chart. Monitoring tools are important for staying on track, creating awareness and staying accountable.

Consistency is key when it comes to long-term weight loss success. Focus on making small, sustainable changes to your lifestyle rather than seeking quick fixes. Remember, it's not about perfection but progress over time.

The reasons why diets fail are complex and individual and healthy dietary changes can be hard to maintain. Instead, look at how you can become a happier and healthier version of yourself. Lifestyle shifts provide a holistic approach to weight loss that addresses the root causes of unhealthy behaviors and promotes sustainable changes for long-term success and well-being.

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