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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Beware of dieting

Image from Flickr, by Steve A Johnson
Dieting is bad.  There.  I said it.  It's a hard truth, but it's a truth.  Dieting is, actually, a bad thing.

Did I just say that?  Yeah, I did.  You know what?  It's true.

"But Tom, didn't you say diet was the biggest chunk of losing weight?  Are you backing off of that already?"

No, I'm not.

You see, your diet is important.  Dieting is a bad thing.

Still scratching your head?

That's fine.  You see, your diet is made up of all the things you eat.  If you eat pizza and ice cream, then that's your diet.  If you eat lean steak and organic vegetables, then that's your diet.

Dieting, on the other hand, is an activity you engage in to lose weight.

"Uh...Tom?  Isn't that kind of the point?"

No, it's not.

You see, the point is that you've got to change your life, not just eat a few different things.  Dieting is an activity, which is something that is easily changed.  People can engage in dieting as a hobby, which isn't bad in and of itself.

Unfortunately, dieting is accompanied by a mindset that this is a temporary arrangement.  Even if there's no intention to quit, dieting is just something you engage in.  That means dropping it has a minimal impact on your psyche.

Instead, your healthier diet needs to be your default.  You need to established your own norms and then program them into you. 

There's a reason you're unlikely to see an article written by me, based on experience, about how to get back on track after pulling away from a more fit lifestyle.  That reason was that I programmed the changes into me.  Even when getting sidetracked, I tended to default towards paleo-friendly foods.  I had slipped, and for four and a half months, I didn't eat clean.  I gained 14 lbs during that time...but that was just over three pounds per month.  While it's not good, it wasn't nearly as much as it could have been.

I had embraced paleo as a lifestyle, not a dieting kind of thing.  It had become part of how I identified myself.  This kept me slippage from being far, far worse.

In one of his podcasts, Abel James spoke with Chris Ballantyne and touched on how setting rules for yourself helped you define yourself as a healthier person.  While I didn't go quite this far, the results were still noticeable.  After all, because eating paleo had become part of my personal identity, I never actually stopped being paleo in my mind, even though my fridge would have begged to differ.

If you're dieting, then you're not in this mindset.  You haven't made the mental shift that this is who you are, and this is critical.  Anyone can screw up, but having your identity tied to a healthier lifestyle means will help you right the ship.

Ballantyne notes that if you alter your rules so that you are simply a person who doesn't eat X, then willpower is taken out of the equation.  It makes sense.  However, I'm here to add that if you actually do go against your rules, those rules will help you right the ship.

If you're dieting, you're following someone else's rules.  Not your own

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