3 Reasons Why Diet Rules Don’t Work
Have you ever tried a diet plan with restrictive rules?
”Don’t eat carbs”
”Don’t eat fat”
”Don’t eat after 6 pm”
Most, if not all diet plans revolve around DOs and DON’Ts.
If you’ve tried any of these plans, you will know that while you might have some success in the short term, you‘ll eventually return to your previous habits and diet.
This might cause you to feel like you’re just not disciplined enough like other people, and long-term dieting just isn’t something you can achieve.
Well, it’s really not you.
It's the way diet plans work, or DON’T work in this case.
Here’s 3 reasons why you’re not able to stick to your diet plan, and 3 reasons how you CAN!
1. Diet rules become a punishment
Our brains don’t handle rules well. That’s because there is a negative association tied to rules.
Rules are a punishment. And nobody likes a punishment.
The more we tell ourselves to stick to a rule, the more we want to break that rule.
When you try to adhere to diet rules long enough, not only does the rule start to become a punishment, but slipping-up starts to become a reward.
Let’s take “Do Not Eat Fast Food”, as an example.
Every time you deny your cravings for fast food, you feel like you’re being punished. It feels BAD.
But you do it anyway because you want to keep to your new diet plan and you want to finally reach the body you’ve always dreamed of.
But sooner or later, we all give in to our cravings. And when we do, it feels GOOD.
Even if we beat ourselves up for the slip-up, it's too late. We’ve already formed a positive association with breaking the rules, and all our brain wants us to do now, is to break more rules.
Hence, our willpower and streak of ”good behavior” become more and more short-lived, until eventually, we give up on our diet plan entirely.
Another diet attempt went bad. We’ll try again in a few months (years) time.
2. Diet rules create an all-or-nothing mindset.
When we try to adhere to restrictive rules, we create a completely black and white scenario in our minds. That’s the all-or-nothing mindset.
With the white area being complete adherence and discipline, and the black area being complete binge eating.
The problem arises, as pointed out earlier when we eventually give in to our cravings. And we swing widely from NOTHING (adherence) to ALL (binge eating).
When we think in absolutes, we deny ourselves the opportunity to do damage control.
Instead of acknowledging our cravings and making reasonable concessions, we rationalize that since we’ve already messed up and gone over to the dark side, we might as well go all the way.
That’s like giving in to your cravings for ice-cream, and instead of stopping at one scoop, we finish the tub instead. It’s either all or nothing.
3. Diet rules have an expiry date
Whether consciously or unconsciously, every time we attempt a new diet with restrictive rules, there is always an end date to the diet.
Hardly ever anyone starts a diet thinking that they will eat this way for the rest of their lives.
There is always an end goal in mind.
So even in the best-case scenario, we adhere strictly to the rules for a few months or maybe even a few years.
But when we reach that end date or that end goal, then what?
When there is an expiry date on our diet, we‘ve actually failed before we’ve even begun.
We never attain a sustainable healthy lifestyle. All we do is cycle between seasons of dieting and seasons of not dieting.
So are all diets bad? Do none of them work? Is dieting a hopeless cause?
The truth is, most diets have at least SOME truth in them, otherwise they wouldn’t be so popular in the first place.
The problem lies in the restrictive rules, not the diets themselves.
Here are 3 ways you can make diets work for you, instead of just failing and moving on to the next thing.
1. Try nutritional displacement
Instead of trying to SUBTRACT bad foods from your life, try ADDING good food into your life instead.
In doing so, you unknowingly push out the bad food from your life without it feeling like a punishment.
Say you really like to drink sweet drinks. Conventional diets will tell you to subtract sweet drinks from your life. Leading to you feeling restricted and uncomfortable.
Instead, what if you focused on adding more water, tea, black coffee, or other non-sugared drinks into your diet. You can still drink that sweet drink if you'd like.
Chances are, you would naturally decrease your intake of sweet drinks, simply because you’re increasing your intake of beneficial beverages.
2. Dieting isn’t black and white. It’s varying shades of grey and white.
Instead of living in an all-or-nothing world, live on a spectrum.
This way, when you give in to your cravings, you don’t have to binge, but you can decide what is acceptable to you that balances between your diet and giving in.
Say you‘ve decided to give in to your cravings to have some ice-cream. Conventional diets would mean you’ve failed, and you might as well finish the whole tub of ice-cream. You can always get back on the horse tomorrow.
Instead, what if you made the conscious decision to fall somewhere on the spectrum of grey, as close to white as you possibly can.
You might then decide to just go for one scoop, satisfy your craving, and now return to your life of awesomeness. Instead of seeing it as a failure, you were actually successful in choosing a lighter shade of grey than you could’ve.
3. Focus on habits, not rules.
Instead of adopting restrictive rules that have an expiration date on them, focus on building good habits into your lifestyle.
Some examples of habits from the KN1 program include:
Eating to 80% full
Recognizing your hunger cues
In doing so, you build sustainable habits that aren’t a chore to stick to and ultimately fail at, but something so ingrained in you that you barely notice it. Like breathing or brushing your teeth.