I spent over two decades on what I call the diet-go-round: jumping from one diet to the next to the next, hoping that this next one would be the answer. It never was though because diets have a failure rate of anywhere from 40-99% after two years depending on which study you read. But I kept myself going in circles anyway until, at my heaviest, I weighed 304 pounds.
As of this writing, I weigh 128 pounds. I didn’t starve, take pills, or have surgery to get there. I eat what I want as long as I’m not allergic to it. I don’t exercise like a maniac. I don’t weigh and measure what I’m going to eat, count calories, keep a food journal, or anything else that many diets tell you to do. I do not diet anymore. Period.
I’ve kept the weight off for eight years by doing intuitive eating, which is eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re comfortably full. I have no fear about the weight coming back and not knowing what to do about it. I got free. You can too.
Here’s what I’ve learned about why weight-loss efforts fail:
1. Your motivation is someone else.
When you’re trying to lose weight (or do anything else, I would argue) you need to check your motivation, first and foremost.
- Who are you doing all this work for?
- Who are you sacrificing your time, money, energy, focus, etc. for?
- Who are you living your life for?
The answer matters. The answer is likely the reason that you find yourself unable to keep the weight off afterward and/or jumping from one diet to the next to the next, trying to find something that works.
If anyone else is your motivation, all your efforts won’t work in the end. Why? Because people are fallible. They push your most painful buttons, leave your life when you least expect, don’t do things they said they would, and on the list goes. At some point, you’re going to hit a rough patch, and you need a rock solid foundation you can count on.
You are the rock solid foundation you need (oh yes, you are).
So always (always, always) check your motivation before you embark on a weight-loss program (or anything else for that matter). You are doing it for you and you alone.
2. You don’t know your reason why.
Take the time to find the reason behind why you do what you do. Your reason why is that strong foundation on which to build your life.
Many times when you give up or back down or keep yourself tucked inside your comfort zone, the reason why behind your actions has something to do with that particular event/activity/person/goal/etc. not mattering deeply to you. And whenever you’re doing something that doesn’t matter deeply to you, you don’t have a vested interest in seeing it all the way through to the end.
Define your reason why as clearly as possible.
When the temptation to quit comes (which it will, that’s not a matter of if but of when), you need that reason why to hang on to. You need to let it be what pulls you along and keeps you going and gives you a light in the darkness that shows you the way out.
Knowing your reason why will give you something to come back to, a soft comforting place to land, whenever you have challenges, setbacks, doubts, and the like. Your reason why will keep you going because it gives meaning to the things that you do.
And it’s meaning, I would always argue, that you need to make yourself content and your life fulfilling.
3. You’re not dealing with the root cause of abusing food.
There’s a reason behind why you’re abusing food (overeating, bingeing, purging, starving, etc.), and I can pretty much guarantee that it has nothing to do with food. I know that because food is fuel, and that’s all it is. Any other connotation or emotional attachment or power that food has in your life, I say kindly, is because that’s what you gave it.
Because I abused food for a long time, my guess is the raging and insatiable hunger you feel is caused by the hole (or wound) inside you that you’re trying to fill with food. The wound is the something (or somethings) that you feel/think/believe is (or are) lacking in you.
Food will never heal that wound. Never. Taking the time to answer this question honestly—What is that wound for me?—starts you on the path to figuring out what will.
Taking action to address that wound and heal it is the first step on a way to creating a life and a body you love: a life that matters to you and a body that feels like home to you.
Have you fallen into one or more of these traps? If so, will you free yourself from them today?
Let 2020 be the year you make peace with your body and with food.
For more information, check out the Start Where You Are Weight Loss page.