It’s January, and everyone is talking about diets and cleanses and detoxes. First let me say, that's a great thing! Many will start on a new journey to improve their health, and that is a great way to start the year! However, the joke around most gyms and diet clinics is it lasts about two weeks, then people get frustrated and give up, then go back to their old lifestyle and eating choices, not really better off.
Why do they get frustrated? What makes them feel it isn’t worth it, or working? For some it is just a huge transition from where they started (“it’s just too hard”); for others it can be their expectations were not met (“I didn’t lose much weight, and I gained it right back!”). Usually it's both.
The Turtle and the Hare: Who Won the Race?
In the story of the turtle and the hare, the turtle just plodded along, not making impressive gains, while the hare made huge gains, then stopped to rest. You know who won that race, and why. I don’t believe it was just pride, I think it takes a lot out of us to make huge gains. The turtle just put one foot (it’s an illustration) in front of the other, and continued on.
Last year I wrote an article on the Fast Diet Trap. Basically, this is what I was saying, huge gains take a lot out of us, and sometimes we can’t maintain them, so we either lose the benefits we have gained, or give up entirely. Some people love the huge gain approach, and there is nothing wrong with that. What you have to remember is: you will need to take a break eventually. However, you can take a break and then continue on again, either as the turtle or the hare. Just don’t get discouraged that you lose much of your ground because you can’t keep it up. Remember, the hare did make it to the finish line, and never changed his strategy. But the turtle got there first, and I believe it was a lot easier for him. They both worked according to their nature, and there is nothing wrong with that, but ask yourself, who won the race?
Why Diets Don’t Work for Us: Diet Loopholes
Some of the diets, cleanses and detoxes are great things for our health. I heartily recommend any of these, if they are common sense and come from trusted resources. Juice or bone broth fasts; Paleo, Vegan, Whole Food Plant Based, Traditional or other diets; liver and gall bladder cleanses; these are all great things unless you make no other changes. Most of us need to make physical, lifestyle, attitude and emotional changes as well.
We are smart, very smart. Probably all of us are great at finding loopholes, and don’t really realize it. Every “diet” has one. Food rules that we can live within, but don’t help our cause. Like the vegan who eats pasta and bread for most of their meals, the person measuring ketones that finds “Fat Bombs” fit into their rules, so they partake in abundance. There is the raw vegan who finds so many yummy raw vegan cookies to make and enjoy. The person counting “macros” who finds they can have the junk foods they love fit just into their macros. In fact, most of the advertisements for these diets is “you can still eat the foods you love!” The reason I know this is I have done all of these over the years. The problem is, we are so good at finding the loopholes that we don’t realize we are sabotaging ourselves and our success.
If this is your story, you know you aren’t alone. Something like 98% of diets fail, the people on The Biggest Loser tend to gain all or most of their weight back, you and I struggle with trying every diet known to man just to prove they don’t “work for us”. When in fact, I believe we are just excellent loophole finders. We also usually need to make other changes in our lives as well.
Should I Just Give Up?
Absolutely not! If you want to improve your health and maybe lose some weight, I suggest you take a step back and look at the whole picture. If you are starting a great new diet, have you already found the loopholes? Can you maintain this diet for the rest of your life, if it works? (turtle), or will you understand that if you lose 10 pounds in a week that you will gain back 5 or 6? Will you be discouraged that you did all that work for nothing? (hare).
Take a long term assessment. If you are doing a one or two week intensive restricted diet, realize this is a great short term approach, but you can’t keep it up for long. Realize that the benefits may be worth it, but will only last short term, or you will get discouraged. You need to plan to transition to a longer term approach that you can stick with, and look at other factors in your life you may need to change.
If you are trying to make a long term change with your diet, realize you may fail from time to time, or there are things you can’t stick with. Figure out what changes you need to make to keep this a long term change. Then look at other factors you need to change in your life.
Also know that you can change from hare to turtle and turtle to hare at any time. In fact, you should have both strategies available to use when you need to. For example, many people feel pretty bad after feasting after the holidays, and feel a need for a deeply restrictive diet for a short term. Great, but they need something to transition to right afterwards, or they will be stuck between extremes, from feasting to fasting to what? We need long term solutions, not just quick fixes.
I keep talking about other factors in your life you may need to change. If you have been around me for long, you know that if you have a body full of toxins and heavy metals, weight will be a problem. If you have constant stress and don’t know how to deal with it, weight will be a problem. If your life is out “out of control”, you will have problems. These all severely affect our health, not just our weight. Other factors include everything else in our lives; that’s why it’s called “diet and lifestyle changes”.
Let Health be the Goal
If you manage to lose a few pounds without addressing the other factors I mentioned, you won’t really be improving your health. This people get sick just as often as “fluffy" people. There is a lot of pain associated with excess weight, but there are so many factors at play in our health, I believe we need to have an approach for all of them. This is why I focus on “having health at any age”. I believe that just stressing just weight loss misses the long term goal of feeling great and being healthy. If I never lose those ten pounds, but can climb trees when I’m 80, who cares? If I have a nice thin body, but am miserable, what is the point? Just let health be the goal, and I believe the weight will follow.
It sounds like we can be very passive when I say let health be the goal; as if we can just take some supplements and try to eat a bit better. If that is all you can do for now, it’s a start. The journey to health, however, is an uphill battle all the way. Toxins come into our lives on a constant basis; stress is part of our lives; family members can cause us heartache and crush our hearts. The sandwich affect of taking care of a family, as the aging ones need support can tax us beyond belief. Toxic friends, not being able to say no, not feeling supported; these things can really try to defeat us. It’s no wonder we turn to food for support, it’s no wonder we find the diet loopholes. We need to learn to deal with all aspects of our lives, even the ones we won’t let ourselves admit to. Be diligent, don’t stop trying, don’t give up. Ask for help if you need it.
One of the reasons I started the Girls Gone Kale community is to have a place for people to reach out to. A place where there are others accessible, where we can learn from each other. Most of you are very busy and like me, don’t have time to read many Facebook posts. I just want you to know, we are still here, this community is for you. We have talked and written about the factors we all need to address in our lives. Isn’t it said: “It’s a journey, it’s not a destination.”? I believe it is a journey we should all take together. A cord of three strands will stand unbroken, imagine hundreds of strands? I also believe community is one of the things we have left behind in our busy lives. Sometimes we even feel alone in a group. Just know, we are all vulnerable, and we are all in this together.