Your Diet Plan Isn't Working? Here's why?

I came across new research by Meredith David, PhD, assistant professor of marketing from Baylor University that really supports one of our philosophies on dieting.

When starting out on a diet people tend to adopt the wrong strategies of going too hard too fast. Some are equiped to manage this intensity but where so many others go wrong is abandoning all their favourite foods(which often can be perfectly fine in a healthy diet plan) and replacing them with less-desirable options on purpose. These people often find themselves thinking of their diets as punishments (a good start to an eating disorder). Conversely, successful dieters focus on adding quality foods that they actually like. At Lifters we have found two main causes for this common mistake is a lack of education and the current fitness industry model.

“Our research shows that instead of creating rules to avoid one’s favorite treats, dieters should focus on eating healthy foods that they enjoy,” David said. “Dieters who restrict themselves from consuming the foods they love most may be setting themselves up for failure. Instead, they may be better off by allowing occasional ‘treats’ and focusing attention on healthy foods that they enjoy and making it a point to include those tasty, but healthy foods in their diet.”

The outcomes of the research – three studies and a total of 542 study participants – hinged on a person’s level of self-control.

“In coming up with plans to enhance one’s health and well-being, low self-control individuals tend to set themselves up for a harder pathway to success by focusing on avoiding the very foods they find most tempting,” David said. “Our data reveals that individuals who are generally more successful at reaching their goals tend to develop more motivating plans regarding the inclusion of healthy, well-liked items and the exclusion of unhealthy items that are not one’s favorites.”

The research found:

  • When asked to list specific rules that individuals might use to guide their food consumption, a large percentage of individuals listed rules that involve restricting and avoiding certain foods. This was particularly the case among low self-control individuals – those who generally have less success in reaching their goals. Individuals who are generally more successful in goal pursuit tended to list rules that involved things they should approach and/or consume.
  • When thinking of unhealthy foods to avoid as a part of a diet, low self-control individuals think of foods that they really like – their favorite snacks, and most tempting items. High self-control individuals think of foods that they like but could reasonably forgo.
  • When thinking of healthy foods to eat as a part of a diet, low self-control individuals think of foods they do not like, such as those that they find highly unpalatable (e.g., brussel sprouts). High self-control individuals think of foods they enjoy eating (e.g., strawberries).

“Frequent attention is given to health advice surrounding well-intentioned lists of ‘magical’ foods that everyone should eat or practically ‘poisonous’ foods that people should avoid consuming,” David said. “The next time you decide to go on a diet or seek to improve your health by altering your food consumption, opt for strategies that focus on including healthy foods in your diet, and focus specifically on those healthy foods that you really enjoy eating.”

This research heavy fits our pholisphy of longevity. We take a holistic and a sustainable approach with our nutrition and training; always focussing on what the person is achieving and including rather than punishing and denying. We believe anything worth getting and/or where most people want to get with their goals takes a long time and factor for failure is utilising unsustainable methods. So we plan for longevity, consistency and sustainability. Motivating plans that are easy to follow that you enjoy means you can do it for a long time. When I met Ed Coan someone asked him “What was the number 1 thing that made you successful in powerlifting?” he answered “I did it for 27 years” and he took an approach that was sustainable for the long term. This is not just the case with Ed, but with any successful athlete including bodybuilders and powerlifters. Those who are truely the best have dedicated years, even decades of consistency that can only be done with a sustainable approach.

One thing to understand is that everyone is different- different goals, motivation, personalities and different levels of self-control etc. A bodybuilding competitor in comp prep should not do anything other than perfect but for them, balance is meet in the off season. Some people can do 100% for extended periods quite effortlessly and some just follow general advise on eating, tracking only their performance and feeding to perform. No matter the method the result is still the same: leaner, building more muscle and stronger over time.

Kelly L. Haws, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University, co-authored the study.

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