In my practice I've observed behaviors and ways of thinking that lead to success in achieving lasting weight loss, and oh, boy, have I seen a whole lot of behaviors that inevitably lead to failure.
One surefire way to fail at your weight loss goal is to apply what I call On/Off Thinking. Individuals practicing On/Off Thinking cycle their eating patterns in one of two ways: They're either "On," which means dieting, typically on highly restrictive plans, including low carb diets, shakes or plans like Whole 30; or they're "Off," which means eating whatever the hell they want whenever they want it with zero boundaries.
Meet my hypothetical friend Charlie. When Charlie is "On," his sole focus is what he is "allowed" to eat and what he is "not allowed" to eat. Friends, family and coworkers all know when Charlie is On because he is constantly announcing what he can and cannot have. He is often optimistic, even euphoric, when he first goes On. At any given moment, Charlie can tell you exactly how many calories/points/carbs/macros he has consumed. He makes commitments to get to the gym, and regularly keeps those appointments. He often sees movement on the scale in the right direction--at first. But then he gets frustrated by the all-consuming effort it takes to stay On, all the obsessing and restriction. He gets irritable, resentful and sometimes just plain sad.
After a while (could be a week, a month, a year), he stops seeing results, and he is doubly frustrated: He's "been so good"--why isn't he getting results?! He "deserves" a treat. Charlie may begin building in "cheat" meals, and he obsesses over them all week until they finally arrive when he can finally eat what he wants.
At some point he breaks, and that's when Charlie goes "Off."
When Charlie is Off, he is the life of the party. Charlie loves food, LOVES going out to eat, and nothing is off limits. Seconds are a given when Charlie is Off. Portion control is dead. Charlie brings all kinds of treats to the office, stops for fast food, and makes jokes about his shitty way of eating. When Charlie is Off, he gains weight. He feels lethargic and crappy, and doesn't go to the gym because A. he has no energy, and B. he is embarrassed. He eventually comes to feel guilty he has let himself go in this way, and obsesses over that one time when he was really fit. It will only be a matter of time before Charlie goes On again.
And the cycle repeats.
On/Off Thinking is highly destructive, not just for our bodies, but also emotionally. The roller coaster of success/failure is highly demotivating, and the framing of the way we eat as either good or bad is exhausting.
What's the alternative? If the pendulum swings hard both ways, and restriction inevitably leads to a binge, remove the restriction part of the equation from your life.
I coach my clients to phase out On/Off Thinking--no easy task, especially since so many of us have practiced it for years--and instead to shift the focus on common sense healthy choices most of the time, leaving room for indulgent treats on occasion. The process can begin by simply changing our vocabulary, removing phrases like "I did bad," or "I cheated," when it comes to food choices.
It takes time and commitment to change your thinking, which is why working with a health coach like myself can be extremely helpful. But if you make that commitment, and do the work to build new healthful habits that support a new way of thinking, the physical and emotional results are lasting.
Need support in dropping On/Off Thinking? Let's talk.