Why You're Not Succeeding at Your Diet and What to Do About It
You get a shiny new plan or program from a coach, the internet, wherever, and you are SO ready to go. You look everything over, prepare yourself in whatever way you can, and then start your new plan. Things go well for a few days and then...you’re out of the food you prepped, work stress happens, schedules get wild, the weekend happens, and before you know it, you’ve taken a few steps back. Rinse and repeat this cycle basically every week.
Does this cycle sound familiar?
If that hits a little close to home, I promise you, you are not alone. I have always struggled with this because I’m a super planning oriented and an overthinker. I would spend HOURS writing out diet plans for myself, calculating all sorts of numbers, and making the plan of all plans, only to have Monday come around and screw up my plans. I would forget something or have an unplanned event come up or just be a giant ball of stress. I felt like if I couldn’t execute the plan perfectly, then what the fuck was the point?
What is the issue?
One of the hardest things about making changes is making the actual changes. Planning and preparation is wonderful (and an important part of setting yourself up for success) but all the planning in the world doesn’t mean shit if you can’t execute your plan. Simply stated - you have issues bridging the gap from point A (plan) to point B (working the plan).
In order to break out of this cycle, you first need to identify where the hang up is. This requires a lot of honesty with yourself - you have to be willing to be uncomfortable and accurate in your assessment. Some of the issues I’ve experienced most often and seen my clients struggle with include:
Paralysis by analysis: Focusing too much on the small rocks when you don’t have the big rocks in place.You focus on all of the details and get so overwhelmed that you freeze. You can’t start because you aren’t sure what direction to go.
Lack of ownership: You’re waiting for the “right time” to start or you feel as if things happen TO you and that you are not in control of your eating. You feel like you can’t say no to treats in the office or not have a drink when you’re out with your friends. Basically, life or others are sabotaging your efforts. (This can be a really complex issue that at times is best addressed with a mental health professional and I highly encourage exploring that option!)
Letting perfect be the enemy of good: You feel as if executing the plan to absolution perfection is the ONLY way to execute the plan. Things must go perfectly or else it is a total waste. This leads to what I call the “fuck it” mentality. Things don’t go 100% accordingly to plan so then you feel as if the day is a waste and go way, way off plan.
Being wishy washy on goals: If you’re actions aren’t lining up with your goals, ask yourself: are my actions the problem or are my goals the problem? Do YOU, just you, really want what you say you want? Or do you feel like it is something you SHOULD want because your friends, mom, society, etc. told you you should want that? This is a subtle distinction but a major game changer. If you’re not 100% invested in the goal you are trying to achieve, it’s easy to go off the rails and make excuses when any minor inconvenience pops up.
Managing expectations: It's easy to feel like throwing in the towel after a week when you are bombarded with "lose 10lbs in 7 days!" messaging via social media. It's important to remember that it didn't take 2 weeks to get to where you are, and it may not take 2 weeks to get to another place. Having realistic expectations helps you know what to expect and keep things in perspective.
Identifying what is causing the issue is a critical first step to being able to figure out a solution. This is obviously not an exhaustive list, and there are several layers to each of these components, but taking the time to sit down and identify the pattern of hang ups is so key. This is also where having a coach, mentor, or accountability buddy can be incredibly helpful. It can be hard for us to see the issue because it is too close to us. Discussing it with someone else can help bring some clarity.
The only way around the obstacles is through them, so breaking them down and being prepared to do the work to break through them is absolutely key.
So what do we DO about it?
Add IN, don’t take away: Add in behaviors, items, or habits that help you move through the obstacles you’ve identified. These are a few of my favorite strategies:
- Have trouble with figuring things out on the fly? Try tracking your food the night before so you have a roadmap of what the day looks like. If things change during the day, it is easy to make adjustments and keep it moving.
- Rather than focusing on taking away certain foods or food groups, add IN more of the stuff you want like veggies, fruit, water, etc.
- Instead of feeling out of control, add in a daily practice that reminds you that you are in control of your actions and reactions. This can be something like exercise, meditation, or just even writing yourself a little note on your phone or planner and keeping it handy.
Practice the hell out of it: The only way to get better at a certain skill is to practice it, and dieting and habit change is no different! Do something that moves the dial closer to your goal every day and view it as practice. You don’t walk into the gym and squat 315 if you’ve never squatted before - you have to practice. The same principles apply when it comes to dieting.
Track it: I’m a giant data nerd so I like to track everything. Find a way to track your daily wins, skill practice, etc. so you can have some accountability and incentive to complete the task at hand. As totally dorky as it may sound, I use stickers in my planner to help me institute new behaviors. If I drink all my water for the day, I get a sticker. If I’m 100% compliant to my diet, I get a sticker. If I navigated a tough situation by using a new skill I’m trying to build, you guessed it, I get a sticker. If you’re not into stickers, there are apps like HabitBull that help you track various behaviors and habits as well. You can also check in with an accountability buddy and share your wins with them.
Find a way to win everyday: Dieting is a bit of a long game (as in, it's not a 2 week process, but it also isn't a lifestyle - it should start and end) so it is helpful to find ways to "win" throughout the process. Find some small daily and weekly goals that are relevant to you and focus on winning at those items.
What are some of your favorite reflection strategies?
What are some tools you use to help yourself get through roadblocks?