The one true miracle diet, the one that’s guaranteed to have you lean, fit, and healthy for your whole life is:
…sorry, it’s not not that easy.
The truth is, there’s one common denominator in every diet you try, whether it’s Paleo, Atkins, all juice, high carb, high fat, extreme low calorie, or whatever. Pick a card, any card…
The common denominator is YOU. If YOU can’t adhere to the diet, either short term or long term, it’s gonna fail. You know that stat we see everywhere – 80% of dieters gain back all the weight they lose, plus? It’s because they’re on diets, which means they’re eating differently than they typically would. And that’s hard, so if the dieter isn’t fully committed to change, it’s not going to work. But did the DIET not work, or did the dieter not work the diet?
The single most important element in a weight loss diet is whether it’s sustainable. Can you eat this way long enough to lose the weight you want to lose? And then, more importantly, can you continue to eat this way for as long as you wish to keep the weight off (which ideally is forever)? It doesn’t matter what food groups the diet makes off limits, or how many points or calories you are allowed to eat, or what day you aren’t allowed to eat at all. All that really matters is this: can you DO it???
Diets work when dieters adhere to them. Period. The end. When you read these days about how low fat diets don’t work, or calorie restriction doesn’t work, you’re either reading a blog with an agenda (that is – they’re trying to sell you on their own magic diet) or you’re not getting the whole story. If low fat diets didn’t work, how did people manage lose weight in the ’80s? They DO work – most people will lose weight on a low-fat diet. They’re just very hard to maintain long-term, so dieters fail to adhere to them (which is why all those “successful” ’80s dieters are fat again now) . The same is true for low carb diets – they work for weight loss, but tend to fail as a long-term solution. Why? Because people find it hard to go five minutes without pizza, forget about five years. And when even the most committed dieters backslide into their old eating habits, they tend to do it ALL THE WAY. So a pizza today turns into a week of cake and lasagna and that turns into a year of garlic bread, spaghetti, more pizza, and more cake and suddenly… that low carb diet failed!
So, where does that leave somebody who wants to lose weight and keep it off forever?
In a tough, but not impossible situation.
Look at it this way: being on a diet is inherently finite – it has a beginning and an end. And that end is the problem. When you reach your goal weight, what do you do? Most popular diets don’t really address this – just lose weight, fit in that bikini, and good luck fitting back into your fat jeans in two years when you’ve gained all the weight back, plus some. So first, forget about the weight loss goal for a minute. Think big picture. Put the finite out of your mind and think infinite. If you’re considering any diet, seriously ask yourself if you can imagine eating the prescribed way forever. If the answer is no, maybe that diet isn’t the right one for you.
Then again, lots of people choose not to think about what happens after they lose the weight. And that’s a whole separate blog post – the issue of event-driven weight or fitness goals – so all I’ll say here is that if being the right weight for your high school reunion is all you care about, you’ll probably end up back when you started regardless of how you lose the weight.
I’m going to quote the brilliant Dan John again. As he wrote in a recent blog post:
The hardest thing to get across is that something like Fat Loss is very simple. Here is my two-part formula:
Fill in the Blank
Now: Pick ONE!
Cross Country Ski
Fill in the blank
Now: Pick One!
What he’s getting at (in case you missed the simplicity of it) is that ultimately it doesn’t matter what diet or exercise program you opt for.
So back to the first line: The diet that’s guaranteed to have you lean, fit, and healthy for your whole life is:
The one you’ll stick with.
It’s really that easy.