The Pros and Cons of Diets
As someone who runs an 8 week program based around food and eating habits, I often question the pros and cons of diets.
My clients typically come to me because they:
– don’t know what to eat
– struggle to adopt new habits,
– feel they can’t make change on their own, without accountability,
– have a long history of yo-yo dieting, or all-or-nothing thinking, or
– have not learned to eat mindfully and trust their own bodies.
Think about all that for a minute.
These seem like the signs of someone who has all but given up hope, feels helpless, and needs support.
This prompts me to ask – can a diet actually help someone who’s struggling, or not? (I’d love to know your thoughts in comments below).
To try to get some clarity on this, I decided to write about the pros and cons of diets, based on what I’ve learned from coaching clients around eating and weight loss for the past 7 years.
Let’s look at the story from their point of view.
The Pros of Diets
A common trend in my clients is that most of them lack 3 important things that they need to eat healthily, consistently:
- guidance about what to eat and when, and
- time – they just want someone to make the decisions for them.
A diet plan can definitely help you with planning and structure.
Truthfully, planning can be a boring old chore and there are often better or “more important” things to do.
So most people skip this step or fall out of this habit because they don’t perceive any real value or benefit from it.
But like brushing your teeth, planning is a proactive, preventative habit that keeps you on track.
Guidance on What to Eat
I admit, I’ve come to the conclusion that nutrition is more opinion than science.
However, there’s a hump to get over first – and that’s the glut of contradictory facts, opinions and studies make it extremely difficult to work out where to start with what to eat and when to eat it.
Yes, guidance can be helpful – if that guidance helps you to understand your OWN body – and let go of the confusing media frenzy of information.
In this busy world, you’re time poor, maybe overwhelmed at times, so you reach decision fatigue
That means you have no brain power at the end of a day to decide what to eat.
That’s why following a diet sounds like an attractive option. But actually, doing your own planning on a day when you have clear headspace is a WAY better option.
The Cons of Diets
There are also downsides to going on a diet.
- you lack long term commitment,
- you give up your power to a third party and not take responsibility for yourself,
- you don’t do the thinking work required to change your beliefs and habits around food and eating, and
- you don’t learn what your body actually needs, experiment and understand how to rewire your habits.
It’s easy to commit to something for a defined period – like a diet.
But you want permanent, change, right?
In that case, what you really need is commitment to ongoing learning and practicing the habits that work for your body.
Not Taking Responsibility
If you are always relying on someone else to tell you what to do, and trusting what others say, then you will surely always be on the treadmill of diets, experts, and questions.
But the reason that relying on other people or diets DOESN’T work is that your natural instinct is to trust your own ideas and opinions above others.
As Philosopher Blaise Pascal said:
“People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.”
― Blaise Pascal, Pensées.
…. ’nuff said.
Beliefs and Habits
What you believe shapes the habits you do each day. For example:
If you believe that alcohol is fun and relaxing, you will be drawn to drink it.
If you believe that you need to clean the plate every night, you will eat everything on it.
If you believe that you’re no good at sticking to things, you will sabotage yourself so you can prove yourself right.
So you see, following a diet plan means you are ignoring all the essential belief challenges you need to rewire your habits.
That’s where coaching is so powerful, because a trained coach will ask the right questions to get you to challenging your own beliefs so you can decide whether or not they are valid and right for you.
(That’s also how you learn to take responsibility for your actions).
Did you get bored by the endless stream of piano, mathematics and english lessons as you were growing up?
Well, just like playing the piano, or becoming proficient at math, practice (repetition) is required to make a new habit sink in.
The key learning around becoming a healthy eater is learn about what your body needs and to do that over and over again.
Part of that is learning to trust yourself, and to mindfully listen to and respect your body’s signals.
Those are the keys to absolute food freedom and long term healthy eating.
Summing it Up
In a busy world where your mind and schedule are overloaded, it’s easy to just want to be told what to do and to follow a plan.
The truth is, the key to becoming a consistent healthy eater starts with understanding and rewiring your body and mind.
So, weighing up the pros and cons of diets:
Diets have a specific purpose for a finite period – like ‘training wheels’ to help you create focus, get support and to be a better planner and organiser.
In the long term, consistent healthy habits require you to take responsibility for yourself, and a commitment to challenging your beliefs, rewiring your habits (think neuroplasticity) and continuing to learn about your own body.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this, and on what has been YOUR most successful way to make permanent change.
Let us know in the comments below!