The Psychology Behind Why Diet's Don't Work
I have a lot of conversations with people about diets. When I ask them to tell me what is going on, they almost always say “I know what I should be doing, I am just not going it”.
I then proceed to ask them more. “OK, so tell me what you should be doing?”
Then they respond with how many calories, carbs, protein and fats they should be eating each day and how many times per week they should be going to the gym, but they are just not doing it.
This response is what I expect, but it also pains me to think that people I talk to really fully believe if they were only doing what they were told, their weight-loss or health problems would go away. This leads to self-blame, decreased self love and confidence when their “diet” doesn’t work out.
I believe that weight loss, dieting and health are a very complex subject and that no two people are going to reach their goal the same way. There are so many factors to consider, but one that rarely gets recognized is the psychology behind dieting and why it doesn’t work.
Here are 3 ways that our brain plays role in dieting:
1. The all or nothing approach: Have you ever been told not to do something? It makes you want to do it right? That rebellious side of us says, I am going to do what I want. It makes food that is restricted seem irresistible. How long do you think cutting out all the ‘restricted’ foods is going to last? It usually lasts 3-7 days before people cave. I even hear people say after that they didn’t even really enjoy what they had, it was just the build-up of not being able to have it that made it irresistible.
Your brain and body are signalling to you that you want the forbidden food – and eventually they will win over your willpower.
2. Our Modern Culture: I really do believe that a major role in why modern cultures are seeing the rise of weight is because of the way our society is ran, the way we are raised and the lack thereof education around food and taking care of ourselves.
First of all, we come from a society where people applaud you for working overtime. All at once having a baby, doing your Masters and still working part-time is a do-able option. “Good for her, she must be ambitious – she has such good work ethic”.
When you look at other cultures, life is slower. Eating meals together and spending time to prepare food and learn about cooking is a staple of life. It is passed down from generations of knowledge. Walking to appointments, going to fresh markets to buy food and taking afternoon siestas are the norm. Most of the people I work with, we need to get to the level of beliefs and values in order to make lasting changes.
3. The Bigger, the Better: It is normal in modern culture, especially North America, to have the mindset- the more the better. How much food can I get at the lowest cost. This is another belief that we were raised on – that food should be cheap and easy – how much bang for my buck? Cities are now lined with big box stores selling mass produced food.
What happened to quality over quantity? The problem with focusing on quantity is that bit portioned meals are filled with fillers such as sugar, salt and fat. Our brain gets stimulated from too much of these foods and causes us to crave them, like a drug.
When you go our for really nice French dinner, you will notice that the portion sizes are small and that meals are spread out throughout the evening. It is all about the experience, the pleasure, it is an art. It isn’t about getting overly full of your enormous meal, it is about leaving feeling satisfied by the quality fresh ingredients you ate.
If you are tired of the diet roller coaster you are on, and even more tired of shaming yourself for not sticking to your macros each day, then I want to gift you with a discovery call. This call is where we dive in and really see what are some of the root problems that are going on that are keeping you from reaching your goals.
I like to take a “whole life’ approach to working with people. We look at every element of you as a person and every area of your life, to really asses and create a plan that works for you.