Why Your New Diet Lasts Three Days
I’m going to take an educated guess and say you have had more weight loss attempts than successes.
With a further guess, maybe less educated, I am going to say there is a ratio of a least 10:1 ratio of attempts-to-success, defining success as any weight loss.
With a final guess, non-educated and based purely on conversations with clients, I am going to say there is a 100:1 ratio of attempts-to-achievement, defined as achieving your goal.
That’s ‘an attempt’ every fortnight for four years, and sticking to the system and getting a result once. Not great numbers by any stretch of the imagination.
But don’t feel bad, everyone else is in the same boat (myself included).
If I had a dollar for every time I had told my girlfriend that I am ‘eating better on Monday’ or ‘losing x amount of kg by September’ I would have about $100.
If I paid back that dollar every time I stuck to it, as a tribute to the Dieting Gods (I’m watching Game of Thrones right now), I would still have about $98.
So my success rate is 2% and I am the guy who does this as a profession.
The reason that success is so low is that we barely ‘attempt’ to lose weight. Instead, we just hope that this time it will happen.
I wouldn't count ‘eat better from Monday’ as a goal that is part of a serious attempt to lose weight. It’s more of a nice thought, or maybe a justification for eating something bad on the weekend.
These feigned attempts last three days before fading away with the first challenge we face. It might be running out of prepared meals or having a big meal out, and then sleep in and missing the gym the next day.
Then we get upset for failing, so we take a break for the weekend (to feel better), and that turns into the next week.
Two weeks later you are back at square one, having either gained weight or maintained it, but not making any progress towards your goal.
The downfall of this approach is that we can fall into the trap of feeling like we are dieting all the time, but never getting a result.
Of course, the reality is that we are dieting for three days and then have eleven days that consist of somewhere between normal and off-the-rails. But it doesn’t feel like that.
Again, I’m not here to make you feel bad - my job is to provide clarity and a potential solution.
There are three important questions that need to be answered to give you a chance of sticking to your plan - What, How, and Why?
Having clarity around these questions makes the process quite simple. However, our attempts rarely have this clarity.
The What is too ambiguous, somewhere along the lines of ‘lose weight’.
The How is unclear, probably including ‘eat better and exercise more’.
The Why is there, but rarely acknowledged. We say ‘feel better’ or ‘for health’, which are both admirable, but neither of them get you out of bed 60-minutes earlier than usual to scrap Antarctica off you chariot’s windscreen, so you can go to the gym and have to deal with me.
Let’s run through them all individually, and you can see what we can do better next.
The What is often simple – weight loss. However, you can dig deeper than that.
Weight loss might not even be your true goal. I prefer the term body recomposition, because it reframes the deprivation mindset of weight loss (eat less, do less enjoyable things) and focuses on optimisating training and nutrition (train harder, eat good foods, gain strength). However, this terminology remains niche – as evidenced by how much of either phrase I have to type into Google (soon to be the gold standard of research validity).
Coming up with a target or goal will provide the driving force of your program.
As a coach, my job is to help you refine your goal (What) to something that I can develop a plan to achieve it (How).
If we set the goal of weight loss – with no specific numbers – will you be as happy losing 10g as you will 10kg?
Of course not, there is a threshold where you become happy with the outcome – this is where the goal begins.
Setting specific goals, particularly regarding weight or body composition, can be a tough conversation to have (if you have a coach) or a hard reality to face (if you are going it alone).
It’s a conversation I could have been more forthright in the past, and certainly will be from now on. I am currently reviewing all of my client’s goals, to ensure their strategies are on-point and we making progress in the next session, week, and month.
However, the irony is that if you avoid tough conversations and fail to develop a goal that will direct your strategy, it's more than likely people will be left where they are right now - which is often unhappy. Avoid it at your own peril.
The How is dictated by the What and is. As a coach, it’s my job to develop the strategy and tailor it to an individual’s needs. But don’t let a lack of me stop your progress – there are plenty of templates and plans out there that all work fine - if you stick to them.
A good way to start building your strategy yourself is to keep asking how, beginng with your What.
What - I want to lose weight.
Create and maintain an energy deficit.
Make small changes to decrease food intake and/or increase physical activity
a) Replace toast with eggs for breakfast.
b) 15-minute walk daily
a) Buy the eggs and cook them
b) Schedule the time daily
That’s a rough example – but you see what I mean - and most generic plans are well-suited to creating an energy deficit. If anything, it might be a bit too much so you can scale back and progress from there.
The most important component for a weight loss strategy is energy an energy deficit (energy expenditure > energy intake). As long as your How achieves this goal, you will get results as long as you stick to it.
Having me on your team doesn’t guarantee results – I can stack the odds in your favour, but I can’t do it for you. Having me on your team gives you the certainty that you will do it, because you have to be accountable and work hard - otherwise you are wasting your money and both of our time
The most important part, yet the most overlooked. Actually, ‘overlooked’ is the wrong term, ‘discarded’ is more appropriate.
Why is the driving force of your attempt. It can get you out of bed at 5am, it can stop you from eating that brownie at 3pm, and it can keep you going when your legs and lungs are burning like never before, as you push a 100kg sled for seemingly endless laps.
If you could only define your Why - with no What or How - you would probably end up close to achieving your goals.
Yet Why never gets the attention it deserves.
As I mentioned before, the Why’s of ‘feeling better’ and ‘health’ are great – but not overly motivating. And since I am in the business of getting people to stick to their program, we can’t have a lack of motivation.
Why tends to be a source of pain - it is something that you can’t/don’t feel or do, and often related to confidence.
It’s important to realise that successful body recomposition won’t give you a new skill set - outside of new training and nutrition abilities - but it can give you the confidence to try new things or progress existing ones.
For example, I have worked with three clients in the past year that have wanted to feel more confident when speaking to their team, on stage, or on camera. Body composition was an area they identified would help this confidence.
After we achieved their goals, two of these people said they felt more authoritative and confident when presenting, and that people are more engaged. The third is still training with me.
Nothing I did helped them with their speaking. In fact, I hate public speaking myself, so I can assure you no good tips came from me.
I doubt their content changed either, and it’s probably still not the most riveting dialogue ever.
I think the increased engagement comes from their more authoritative style and confidence. They now feel more comfortable standing up and having eyes on them, and when you are confident the performance becomes easier.
I have challenged my current clients to better understand their Why, and we will be working through this over the next month.
I also opened up a survey last week to The Integrated Insider, asking people to anonymously submit what their goals would give them the confidence to do and achieve.
The results have been incredible and I will be sharing – completely confidentially – the common answers and themes in a special edition of The Integrated Insider, this Friday.
Feel free to submit your response anonymously here – the more people who share their goals, the more others see they aren't alone!
Developing your What, How, and Why will go a long way to achieving your body recomposition goals.
Next Sunday, if you decide to lose weight, take ten minutes to outline your What, How, and Why.
Alternatively, complete the tracking challenge and I’ll run you through a free strategy consultation. Of course you will need to use a What, How, and Why method to justify your direct your action to complete the tracking challenge, but that’s pretty easy.
What? Record nutrition and exercise for seven days.
How? Using the document.
Why? Get clarity on your body recomposition strategy!