When Smart People Do Stupid Diets
How come smart people repeatedly fall for stupid diets? How come we try the same thing over and over again and still somehow expect a different result? Einstein would call that insanity.
I’m not immune. I’ve dabbled in my share of nutritional numbskullery. In our new-year-positive-change mindset, it’s easy to get caught up in a wave of excitement over the next diet scheme: Juicing. Fasting. Special timing of food. Special ingredients or supplements. Detoxes. Cleanses. Low-carb, no-carb …or just no food at all.
If we were to take a step back for a moment though, we’d realise it’s all pretty stupid.
“But it worked before!” some people protest.
Really? If it worked before, why do you need to do it again?
Let’s be real. If you lost weight on a diet, then gained it all back when you stopped the diet, it didn’t work. If you have more body fat now than you did before the diet, it didn’t work.
All weight loss diets are, at some level, the same. They are a way to eat less food. I don’t care what your diet is; the only reason it appears to work short-term is because you’re eating less food. Eat less food and you will lose weight. Starve yourself for a period of time and you will lose weight.
But surely we’re smart enough to recognise we cannot starve ourselves forever. The diet inevitably comes to an end. And by the time it does, we’ve primed ourselves for fat gain …or worse. Diets that demonise certain foods (or food groups) can lead to disordered eating.
I’ve been there with the super-strict ‘clean eating’ diets. If the rules of your diet mean you cannot sustain it forever, the chances are high that you’ll blow up when the diet ends. It took me a while to realise that fighting to go even stricter is less a cure, and more a cause of binge eating.
Why does it always have to be about extremes? Why are we always ‘on’ or ‘off’, all or nothing? Super-strict or reckless abandon?
It’s stupid. It’s stupid because it gets us nowhere. It’s stupid because the initial hint of success we see lures us into thinking it works. When our house of cards collapses, we blame ourselves. You did it wrong, the diet guru says. I need to do it better, you tell yourself.
Wrong. We need to do it differently.
- Not more extreme, but less.
- Not all or nothing, but consistent.
- Not ‘fixes’, but fundamentals.
We don’t need a better diet; we need a better approach. Above all else, your diet should be sustainable. To be sustainable, it needs to be both enjoyable and nourishing. If weight loss is your goal, yes, you need a calorie deficit. But a subtle calorie deficit over a longer period of time is smarter than four weeks of starvation followed by two weeks of binging.
Remember, the diet industry is there to make money. Don’t be fooled by the sales and marketing and celebrity stories. You’re smarter than that.
BIG IDEA: Smart people repeatedly fall for stupid diet mistakes.
TAKEAWAY: We don’t need a better diet; we need a better approach. Do the fundamentals, consistently, over time.
Always Keep Reaching!