People who diet incessantly are rarely all that lean.
Seems counterintuitive, right? Like, shouldn’t they be in the best shape of all? I mean, they are always “on a new diet” so why do they have the hardest time losing fat?
And on the other hand, the leanest people are the ones who do the same stuff, day after day, year after year, rarely needing a “new meal plan” or a “jump start.” They barely offer a second glance to New Years Resolutions because their only promise to themselves is to keep doing what they do. They don’t need complete “lifestyle overhauls” and never make drastic changes to their eating.
Simply put, the leanest people are the most consistent.
You may have heard that if you want to be something, you have to start acting as if you are already that. The same mentality applies to getting and staying lean. If you want to lose body fat and live a lean LIFESTYLE, don’t wait until you are lean to do that, start right now.
What I’ve noticed is that there are several things that people who chronically diet do differently than people who simply stay lean and fit year round. These supposed “healthy behaviors” are actually the exact reasons that they are not achieving the results they desire.
So, instead of looking for the next diet or the newest program, start right now acting like a lean person. Start to slowly implement actions and behaviors that lean people do without thought. No drastic measures, no big overhauls, just consistency and patience.
Things that chronic dieters do that lean people do differently:
1) Chronic dieters have a deadline by which they need to achieve a certain goal.
When you’re thinking about the way you eat and exercise and have the thought that at some point you will be able to stop eating and exercising that way, it’s a signal you are on a diet. Lean people adopt and implement a lifestyle way of eating and exercising that they could do forever. There’s no deadline by which they need to achieve X goal because they see healthy living as their operating system. Something they can and will do forever.
2) Chronic dieters see eating only in black-and-white.
I was having a conversation with my mom yesterday and was explaining that once I stopped seeing anything as “off limits,” feelings of I NEED TO EAT ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW simply fell away. I adopted a more moderate approach to eating and all of sudden, I was free to taste anything I wanted. And implicit in that freedom came the ironic outcome that I didn’t actually want all the things I thought I did. Seems strange, right? But the leanest people don’t have to make hard & fast rules around food because they are already eating in a way that they enjoy. They are already not feeling deprived or stressed. They don’t need to be perfect with their eating because they don’t have huge binges that would make them need to double down and get strict.
3) Chronic dieters have a “lack” mindset (as opposed to an “abundance” mindset) around food.
This is similar to above. You’ve probably heard of the concept of an “abundance” mindset vs. a “lack” mindset–maybe in business or finances–I find the same is true with food. If I have a lack mindset, then I think things like, “Ooooo, I’ll never have an opportunity to have this treat again! I have to get it!” or “I’m at the fair, I have to get fried dough!” or “Going out to eat at restaurants is a special occasion so I need to order something yummy that I wouldn’t normally have!” or “I don’t know when I might get the opportunity to eat this again, so I’d better have it now,” or even simply thoughts of “Will there be enough?” or “Better get more just in case,” etc. It’s a genuine anxiety around food that I had for many years. Once I realized that I can have anything I want, anytime I want, the need for all those things simply diminished.
I know you are probably rolling your eyes right now, like “Jill, great, that works for you, but it would never work for me!” and that’s fine. I get that. I was in that place for a really long time. Ask Jade, he still teases me about hoarding food and being genuinely scared there wasn’t going to be enough and where are my treats and what if I never have the opportunity to eat this ever again??? :) I get it, I do. And it took many years and a lot of self-TRUST to try things a new way. To give up the idea that I needed to be perfect with eating. To simply let my best be good enough. And not get scared about gaining a pound or two if it meant I was able to be less anxious about food. Am I in contest shape? No way. But I’m also much smaller than I was in some of my off-seasons when I competed. And I hardly think about food anymore.
The leanest people just eat. They eat what they eat. It’s automatic. But realize it takes time, patience and a level of TRUST. Ironically, the leanest people are the ones who relinquish control the easiest. They relinquish the need to control every single scenario and circumstance. They TRUST that they will be able to make the best decision wherever they end up, and they let that be good enough. But it starts with a choice to trust the process.
4) Chronic dieters think it’s all about “the plan.”
I hate to tell you this, but the actual food you eat and the exercise you do is the LEAST important part of this process. Sure, you need to make the right choices more often, but the ability to actually MAKE those choices consistently starts with your MINDSET. Not the meal plan. Not the workout routine. It’s about YOU. YOUR MINDSET. Your mindset informs your choices and your choices–one by one, over time–become your HABITS. And habits, by definition, are automatic. Which is why the leanest people eat and exercise like lean people with very little effort. It’s just “what they do.”
So ask yourself, where is my head at? Am I still looking for that Magic Meal Plan? Am I still looking for the answer in the newest supplement or Dr. Oz’ latest cleanse? Am I still going from coach to coach trying to find the one who finally–finally!–has the perfect program for me? Or, are you looking inward? Are you asking, what foods seem to work for me, and which ones don’t?
5) Chronic dieters need it to happen all at once or they’re on to the next ‘diet’.
THIS is the precise reason people who incessantly diet are not lean. Because engaging in the crash dieting cycle, month after month, year after year actually makes your metabolism LESS responsive. Whether it’s full-blown metabolic damage or simply slight weight loss resistance, the losing and gaining of dozens of pounds year after year is doing more harm than good. Dieting actually makes you fatter. Every time you lose lots of weight quickly, you are losing fat, yes, but also losing muscle. And then when you regain it quickly (as is the case with crash diets), you gain back only fat. Thus, now you have less muscle and even more fat than you started with (even if your weight is the same). Can you see how engaging in this process dozens of times is making things worse?
This also has to do with expectations and patience. If you expect to get a certain result within a certain time frame, then you’re already setting yourself up for failure. Fat loss is not linear nor predictable. And any coach or expert who guarantees a specific result in a certain time frame is an irresponsible coach. Fat loss works in fits and starts. It’s up, it’s down, it’s backwards, it’s forward, until finally you begin moving in the right direction over time. There are zero guarantees and the leanest people buckle in for the long haul. The leanest people surf the waves. They weather the ups and downs and TRUST the process. They give up their expectations and simply do their best.
6) Chronic dieters haven’t spent time developing the MINDSET necessary to be successful long term.
Ask any lean person if it’s a struggle to avoid the McDonald’s drive-thru regularly and they’ll probably look at you sideways and say “no” without hesitation. Why? Because their subconscious, automatic mindset of “I’m a lean person, I do things lean people do” is so ingrained that certain habits have been built to the point of effortlessness. Your mindset determines your actions (to binge or not, for example). And your actions determine your outcomes (to get and stay lean or not). And your mindset drives your habits, and habits, by nature, are easy.
Chronic dieters on the other hand may have the mindset that, “I need to lose 20 lbs and I’ll do anything necessary to get there,” or “As soon as this ‘diet’ is over I can finally relax.” Much of this is subconscious by the way. And it’s not a judgment, it’s simply what is. And I know because I crash dieted, losing and gaining the same 20 lbs half a dozen times between the years 2006 and 2010. I’ve been there, and it sucked. But I realize now that what I was doing back then was always “needing” to have a show or shoot on the docket to spur me to get “in shape.” And then I relished those times I had nothing on the calendar, because Game On! It was not only unhealthy physically but it took me years to unravel my mindset struggle to the point that 2012 was the first year I stayed the same weight all year. Success!
7) Chronic dieters think the answer to their fat loss is ‘out there’ and often hold coaches, experts, books and programs accountable for their lack of results.
One humungous difference between chronic dieters and people who are successful long-term is taking responsibility (or not) for your results. Sure, experts and coaches can guide us, but ultimately, we need to be ready to put forth the effort to not only do what we need to do, but more importantly, struggle through to figure out what works for us. No coach, program, diet book or expert can possibly know your body better than you. Yet, we are always quick to shove the onus on them. If we don’t get results, we blame the program. People who are successful long-term taking 100% responsibility for not only their results, but their actions and their mindset.
You can complain and blame OR you can take action and be successful. Not both. Like Jade says, “There’s no room for blame in change,” so stop using experts and diets as a crutch. Own your process and open up a new world of possibilities that you’re in charge of. You never have to rely on someone else, ever. How empowering!