On Why Diets Fail - Pt. 2
This is the second part of my series - 'Why Diets Fail' - Click over to "Why Diets Fail" for the first part!
In that, I felt that there are some subconscious reasons why people allow themselves to inadvertently fail at dieting. It's like the episode of Sex and the City where the therapist tells Carrie she chooses the wrong men. No one wants to hear that they are the cause of their own sabotage, but there it is, hiding just below the surface.
But today, I think it's time to talk about some of the more practical reasons why diets fail. There's an age-old saying that goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." And that can't be any more true when it comes to dieting.
You fail to meal plan.
It couldn't be any simpler than that. It's lunchtime at the office and you didn't pack a lunch. Someone brings in catered BBQ. It's sitting there, right in front of your face. What's one bite? And then suddenly, you've finished off two brisket plates because it was so convenient. And this happens all too frequently. It's easy to rely on pre-paid work lunches (and all, if they are going to provide, shouldn't I take advantage?) to supplement your diet. But, these are some of the biggest traps.
Being able to control what you eat throughout the day should be one of the simplest forms of staying on the diet track. But, in my experience, it's traditionally been one of the hardest elements to stick to. It simply comes down to a matter of planning. What does that mean?
You have to make meal prepping a priority. I've written about it more extensively here, but how much time you take to plan your week will directly correspond with your ability to stay on track. Meal planning (or prepping) doesn't have to take a long time. If you go in with a detailed plan, many things can easily be done together to make cooking more efficient. Meals can be pre-planned ahead (for the week or month), allowing you to make grab-and-go meals for yourself that don't require hours in the kitchen.
Everyone has the same twenty-four hours in a day. You can choose to use them accordingly, or you can choose to waste them. I'm full of motivational quotes today, but another one of my favorites is: "If it is important to you, you will find a way. If it isn't, you'll find an excuse." This takes me directly back to Part One "Why Diets Fail" of this series. You have to ask yourself why you can't/won't/don't make meal prepping a priority. Are you too busy? What are you doing that makes you too busy? Do you work late? Perhaps you could try getting up earlier in the morning before work. Is the answer that you are too tired to cook? What if someone showed you some simple, easy recipes that you could do in under 30-minutes? Maybe the answer is that you just don't want to do it. And that's okay, because, at the end of the day, that's an honest answer. But, if you don't want to do it, then it isn't a priority. So, be honest with yourself when you step on the scale and it isn't moving. You have to want to change before the change will happen. Take the time to plan; your body will thank you for it.
Lack of creativity in recipe planning.
Maybe it's not that you don't have the time, but rather, you don't know what to do with the time that you have. I don't believe in overly complicated recipes. Cooking, for me, is fun, but it is also time-consuming and, as a busy human, I have too many other things I could be doing than standing in a hot kitchen. Lack of creativity is always a struggle, no matter how much of a chef you are. I'm sure we've all looked into the fridge at one time and said, "Nothing sounds good in here." It happens. It's akin to looking at your closet and saying you have nothing to wear.
The difference is that the internet is full of recipes that you can choose from. I have some favorite food bloggers that I like to follow and I keep a compilation of all of my favorite recipes on my blog. Boredom with food is going to happen, but I like to offset that by looking through Pinterest or food websites and picking one new meal to try each week. It can absolutely seem overwhelming to try recipes when there are so many choices. So, I like to break it down into pieces to make it easier.
I create my normal shopping list each week, with foods that I know I like. Maybe this week I'll get extra chicken breasts and search for a creative way to use them. I usually limit myself to buying 1-2 items I wouldn't normally buy (or have never cooked with). By doing this, you don't buy a bunch of ingredients for a recipe that you're not sure you would like. I know I like chicken; I know it will get used. If I don't like how the dinner turned out that night, that's fine, but I didn't spend $50 on exotic spices and seasonings for something I've never cooked before. It also prevents you from spending a ton of money on something that might get scraped into the garbage. I'm only speaking from experience.
And, keep it simple. Again, I can't emphasize this enough. It can be an even more frustrating cooking experience when the end product takes forever to get to. If it's a weekday night, don't pick a recipe that takes an hour to prep and an hour to cook. You'll find yourself snacking through dinner, completely throwing off your diet. If you don't normally cook with certain ingredients, do a bit of research before you jump right in. Save yourself the heartbreak of tough pork by knowing ahead of time how it should be cooked!
And I'll bestow upon you one final nugget of wisdom: Cut corners when you can. I like to think of everything in relation to the amount of time it takes and at what cost I value my time. Take, for example, the butternut squash. Sure, the whole squash is pretty cheap when purchased in its whole form. But, how long does it take to skin, remove the seeds, and then roast? How much more does the pre-cut squash cost in relation to the whole squash when I factor in my inevitable ER bill when I slice my hand open? These are all important questions. But -in all seriousness- if the reason you don't buy a food (such as my relationship with most large squashes) is because the prep is inconvenient and time-consuming, look to see if there is another option! Many times, your favorite food can be found in a frozen variety, pre-cut and prepped! Frozen foods are actually higher in nutrients than some store-bought varieties because they are frozen when they are the ripest, whereas fresh fruits and vegetables get to you days/weeks after being harvested!
You're not enjoying the food you're eating.
Lastly, we come to what I consider to be the pinnacle of why diets fail. You're just not eating food you like. WHY??! I get it. Sometimes, healthy food isn't glamorous. But it doesn't have to be tasteless. I didn't like sweet potatoes for a long time, until I realized how I liked to prepare them. Guess what is pretty tasteless? Broccoli. Try a dry seasoning. Most have no to few calories. Chicken breasts. Try a brine! There are many ways to make some healthy foods flavorful and fun and I don't mean by frying it or dipping it in ranch! Equal to looking in the fridge and declaring, "I have nothing healthy to eat!" is "I don't want any of this food!"
And if you don't like a food, stop trying to make it happen. You set yourself up for failure by only keeping food you hate in the fridge. Not only will you not eat it, you'll eat everything else in sight to avoid having to eat it! Or, you'll revert back to the reward/punishment system that I talked about in my last post (See "Why Diets Fail Pt. 1"). If I eat this broccoli that I hate, then I can have a slice of cheesecake. No! Break the habit. Make your diets full of fruits and vegetables that you like and you won't find yourself reaching for the junk food.
As always, there are many reasons why diets fail, but these are some of the most popular reasons! I'd love to hear of any others! Leave them below!
Photography by David Lemon Photography