5 Mistakes All Dieters Make

served healthy breakfast on wooden table
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Dieting sucks. We all hate it. Even those who have been “successful” at it – have to keep doing some of the things they did at first.

Those who are successful at it though, recognise the mistakes and work around them.

Getting started is even harder. Here are 5 things common to ALL dieters – both new and old:

They get comfortable with postponing until tomorrow

It’s really easy to push anything off until tomorrow. It doesn’t feel like we won’t do it, because we tell ourselves we’ll still do it. So it eases our minds, while in reality, it’s giving us an excuse.

Successful dieters have these thoughts, but they don’t listen to them. They do what needs to be done, because what they want most matters more than what they want right NOW.

Excuses now will turn into problems later.

– Unknown

To overcome this, simply give yourself a reward for performing the task you need to do, and get it done as best as you can. Don’t worry about perfection – progress makes more strides, and absolutely no-one is perfect.

They get comfortable on weekends

What does a Saturday look like to an average dieter? Rest. Relaxation. Pigging out on foods they stopped themselves from eating during the week. No gym. Drinking alcohol and getting drunk, while eating greasy foods at the same time (steak and beer anyone?).

It’s not about the one thing they do – it’s about how they look at the weekend. A typical dieter looks at the weekend as a way to get away from the “healthy lifestyle”.

Of course when we see this as a way to “get away” from something, we’ll tend to go overboard with what we felt we were denied. Thus over-drinking, over-eating, overindulging.

However, a winning dieter looks at weekends as a chance to get in tune with their goals – to their advantage. Catch up on your cardio, get some decent sleep, don’t go overboard with alcohol (which are empty calories), and stick to your waking time.

It will build consistency and make the Monday that usually feels dreaded flow instead. Building a steady routine helps you stay on track and not fall off the wagon.

They don’t focus on progressive overload

The common myth is to mix up your workouts; change exercises every 2 weeks to shock your muscles. This could not be further from the truth.

Typical dieters who aren’t successful will switch out a routine every 30 days or only do 2 week challenges with no plan for afterwards. They change the exercises completely from yoga to running to spin classes, yet wonder why they look the same after 6 months of regular 4x a week attendance.

Successful dieters not only understand the importance of keeping active regularly, but how you have to stick to one thing for a period of time and get good at it. When you get good at something, you need to make it harder to push yourself into growth.

In training, we call this progressive overload. There are so many ways to do this – add more weight, more reps, skipping for 2 minutes instead of 3, more advance yoga poses. This is where change is made. You only change when you grow. And you only grow when you constantly challenge yourself.

They stick to a program and learn the essential exercises that take them to their goal, and they get really good at it. Even if it takes 6 weeks, 3 months or 6 months.

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They overlook the mental aspect(visualisation)

Typical dieters don’t picture how they will look and the habits they will have 6 months, 1 year, 5 years ahead.

They think of only today tomorrow and maybe next week when they’ll be at that wedding (gotta lose those 10 pounds to fit in that dress). It’s easy to get in the moment about what you want right now, because that’s what we want the most.

Those who diet and keep the weight off for the long term think not only about how they will look, but also the action they are taking and how they will keep it up in the future.

In the beginning, visualise how you want to look in 6 months/3 months/ X period of time. When you have hit your goal, you have to visualise how you’d want to be living in weeks to months ie the lifestyle choices you’d need to have to maintain it.

This is a sticking point for alot of people – to a typical dieter the idea that you have to exercise for the rest of your life and watch what you eat sounds like torture or punishment.

Not to a successful dieter – they know that it will take some changes in the beginning but it gets easier over time and becomes so natural for you because it becomes who you are. They also focus on small sustainable changes to avoid getting overwhelmed and quitting.

Make the habits part of your everyday by imagining the “future” you as now – that’s how you make it normal. Visualise visualise visualise.

They care what others think

In the times we are living in, a person who makes conscious effort to improve their health is sadly going to be a minority. When you are in the minority, living your life can become the talking point of others, even those close to you.

An aunt can comment on how you didn’t put enough on your plate, or how you don’t have to go to the gym on a Saturday and just “take a rest”. You may be told or you’re getting too obsessed – when you’re really just being consistent.

I recall a time when I was a student when I brought my homemade lentil salad for lunch whereas most bought cafeteria food, and a senior student looked into my Tupperwear container and commented “what is that? that looks so boring”.

Successful dieters know to ignore what others may say about what they choose to eat, exercise, and when they forgo a night of heavy drinking to sleep early. They know that their path is their own and others may not understand what they are trying to achieve – and they take it in their stride and move along towards their goals.

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The “Be The Best” Mentality Is Wrong – And It’s Killing Your Progress

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We know we should eat less processed food and more vegetables, and probably hit the gym more.

It’s a common decision to cut it all off – no carbs, no sugar, no cake, so sweets, no eating out. Because we know that being healthy means no cake, or KFC and no pizza.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. The concern is not the food, its not the sugar or the candy. There are no good foods and bad foods. There are only good eating habits and bad eating habits. All foods are good within context.

It’s not the one thing that you do that matters, its the sum of the things you do over a long enough period of time that matters. Not in the fact that not eating cake is the reason why someone is healthy – but more that the healthy person doesn’t :

  • Overdo it and eat half the cake at once – everyday.
  • Feel guilty about it to the point where they decide to give it up and toss it all in because all is lost – and proceeds to skip the gym for good.
  • Have cake for breakfast (not the issue in general), then have pizza for lunch and a bowl of cereal for dinner (lacking nutrients all day).

It’s about how one goes about the eating of the cake and how the rest of their lifestyle ties in. Is there a balance?

You Need Only 51% Of Good To Be In A Positive Balance

The good habits (eating well, drinking water, staying active) need to be at least 51% to make positive movement. This means you can screw up 49% of the time and still make some sort of headway.

This means that having cake on occasion or that drink with the colleagues after work doesn’t have to be detrimental to your progress. However it’s most important not to look at the things you can get away with and be happy about it.

Instead try to see it as having celebrations, missteps, binges and cravings and falling off the wagon – as part of the journey and to get back up on the horse.

To have the perfect day and perfect meals – and NO urges, cravings or binges – is imaginary. The world tells you that nothing is perfect and we know ourselves as not being perfect – yet we want to hold our life source – nutrition, health to a perfect standard. It’s setting an unfairly heavy burden that sets you up to fall short inevitably.

If anything, that’s being completely unfair on yourself. It is one of the reasons why self-acceptance is a critical part of any transformative process – because you will definitely be human and have things go off plan. It’s part of the journey of life.

“All Or Nothing” Is Making It Harder Than It Needs To Be

This isn’t to say that you can slack and do what you want while putting in minimal effort. It’s more about putting in effective effort in moderate amounts. You don’t have to go to the gym 6 times a week and eat salads every day.

However you do have to be conscious of the food types and quantities you eat on a regular basis (calorie and nutrient awareness), have some physical activity at least for 150 minutes a week and drink enough water. Minimise activities that HURT your progress such as alcohol intake, smoking and just generally health avoidant behaviours.

It just has to be MORE of the good things than the bad. Don’t feel discouraged when the “bad” moments happen, simply move on from it as if it didn’t happen.

The ultra-successful people have mastered a better percentage of good – 90-95%. You don’t need to aim for such high figures because it is usually a rigid, programmed and usually restrictive way of living – and is usually for a purpose (eg competing, professional bodybuilders).

It is also completely unrealistic. Especially for everyday life.

I’d rather focus on keeping things realistic and sustainable – for the majority of us who simply want to improve our health. It’s not our job to be healthy, but improving our health can improve our relationships, job and self confidence, so it’s something definitely worth working for.

Aim for 70-80% good, start where you are and work slowly and sustainably, allow for slip ups and get back up each time.

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