Why so many people never stick to a diet
There’s a story about a woman who attends a weight loss seminar, and complains to the keynote speaker that, despite trying everything, she can’t lose weight.
“You’ve tried everything?” asks the speaker.
“Everything,” the woman replies.
“What were the last fifty things you tried?” asks the speaker.
“Well,” the woman admits, “I haven’t actually tried fifty things.”
“Then what were the last twenty-five things you did?” asks the speaker.
“I haven’t tried twenty-five things, really, either,” the woman responds.
“So how many things have you actually tried?” asks the speaker.
“Well,” says the woman, sheepishly, “maybe five or six.”
When Sara first signed up, she told me she had tried everything and couldn’t stick to anything for many than a few weeks. Naturally that excited me. It’s always fun to see if MBT is as effective as I believe/know it is.
After a couple of months of working with her she wanted to quit! And remember before Sara started, she had told me that no matter what she’s done in the past, she couldn’t stick with it and reach her goal. (Her goal is to lose 40 pounds.)
Remember: It’s very easy to start all kinds of diets. But, it’s very hard to stick with them!
I was astonished.
You know why?
She lost 12 pounds already. And all along she kept telling me how she’s never been able to stick to anything for more than a few weeks.
This is fascinating to me.
This is all part of human behavior. This is what keeps me so interested in this. I love exploring the psychological reasons behind our actions. After all, it’s ALL psychological.
Let’s talk about cognitive dissonance…
This happens when we have two conflicting desires. Let’s use smoking as an example…
It is well known that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer yet every person I’ve ever met wants to live a long, healthy and active life. But the short term / irrational mind of a smoker enjoys it, and wants to smoke.
The uncomfortable tension caused by these two opposing desires is known as dissonance. As humans, we look to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling. This is known as dissonance reduction.
The only way to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling is by a) quitting smoking b) denying that people actually get sick from smoking or c) justifying and rationalizing.
For example, a smoker could rationalize their behavior by believing that few people get sick from smoking, it only happens to people who smoke more than they do, if smoking doesn’t kill them something else will, they’ll quit next year, they only live once (YOLO!) and they deserve to smoke or it’s too expensive to quit (it’s amazing how cheap people are with themselves when it comes to their own health and fitness. Yet, they’ll spend tons of money on restaurants, stuff, activities, etc. Everything means NOTHING without our health and fitness).
In essence, they either need to take action (quit smoking and get whatever help they need <—- this is very hard!) or they need to make themselves feel better by rationalizing their smoking, and do the easiest thing of all — do nothing at all. (<—-this is much easier and that’s why most people do it).
Knowing this, let’s talk about why Sara who has “tried everything” to lose weight, and finally is with MBT, wants to quit the program.
I’ll tell you why:
It comes down to either fear of change, fear of failure or fear of success.
Everything she says boils down to fear.
There’s an old saying that I love:
“The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.”
In this case because Sara is actually succeeding, she realized she was going to change for the long term. And unfortunately, real change is uncomfortable.
She got scared.
Because deep down, Sara wasn’t ready to really change. She didn’t think MBT would actually work. So she wasn’t really prepared to let go of emotional eating (even though she’s made big progress). She wasn’t really prepared to let go of ‘using’ food.
In her mind, she needs to emotionally eat and she can’t imagine life without doing so.
Her success made her fear the change. (Hint: This is why focusing on ALL the benefits of eating well is so powerful. Not the discomfort of not eating junk. It’s one of the reasons why we ask what you’re grateful for every night. We certainly know that focusing on what we DON’T have is a great way to be unhappy. This is also why taking this day by day is so important.)
So now, Sara is coming up with all sorts of excuses because she fears the change. Her main excuse is that now is not the right time to lose weight.
Because she wants to change – but sorta doesn’t want to change – that’s causing a lot of dissonance or tension or discomfort (whatever you want to call it).
She has to get rid of that discomfort somehow…so she’ll find anything and latch on to it so she can ease the tension.
(Ahhh yes…I’m too busy to focus on my health and fitness. Now is not the right time. I’ll wait until the stars are aligned. Yes!!! Whew. Now I can rationalize my excuse – and not feel as bad and quit the program so I don’t have to change…because I’m really scared to change.)
The real problem ISN’T that it takes so much time to be and act healthy. We make time for what’s important to us.
The real problem is that she is scared to change. Like many people, it appears she’d rather just talk about changing. But she DOES want to change. She’s just scared of it. (We’ll work on this!)
Instead of criticizing or shaming her like so many people out there would do (because it’s the easy thing to do), it’s far more effective to help her understand her own behavior. (Shaming or criticizing never leads to long lasting change.)
If all it took was tactics to be healthy and fit, 2/3 of America wouldn’t be overweight. There are real mental roadblocks we all have, and this is one of them. This is why so many people go from one diet to the next without ever sticking to any of them.
Fighting human nature is silly.
Instead, when we understand what’s going on around us, it makes it a lot easier to call it what it is and move forward.
P.S. I’m happy to report this was a big breakthrough for Sara and she’s keeping on keeping on. 🙂