If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, odds are that you started with a diet plan. When I say “diet plan”, what I mean is a system that contains:
- advice about what to eat (and what not to eat)
- to be followed for some specific period of time (e.g. 30 days)
- perhaps while incorporating exercises of some kind, and
- during which measurements may be taken (e.g. weight, body shape, the food itself, etc.)
- in an attempt to achieve a target (e.g. lose 50 lbs, fit into a special occasion dress, etc.)
There are all sorts of diet plans out there. Some people have been successful following them, and if you have a friend, colleague, or family member who’s benefited from one, they’ve likely recommended it to you, especially if you’ve mentioned struggling with some extra pounds. You may have even tried the same diet plan as that person, but for whatever reason, you had a different experience.
Since I’m in the business of helping people improve their health and well-being, I often investigate the latest and greatest diet plans to see what’s out there. It helps to understand the perspective most of my clients have when they first come to see me.
Recently I decided to look into Keto. Because my goal isn’t to disparage or shame anyone, I won’t say which specific website or plan I’m talking about. But I want to share with you my experience and point out a few important things along the way.
A Customized Plan May Still Not Be for You
If you’ve ever picked up a garment marked OSFA/M (One Size Fits All / One Size Fits Most), you might know what I’m going to say here. The Keto site I investigated offered to provide me with a customized plan. Which is very good! I specified what my goals were, and I was particularly delighted when the site asked how much time I wanted to spend preparing meals. (Personally, if I can’t make it within a 30 minutes, it probably isn’t happening.) The same is true for most of my clients, who are professionals, entrepreneurs, and other busy people who want to eat well but don’t have hours to spend grocery shopping or chopping in the kitchen. The site also asked about my exercise level, which is good because this impacts how much energy I need.
Here are some things I noticed about the diet plan I received:
- It was extremely repetitive, especially for a 4-week time period. over Wasting food is bad and leftovers are good, AND there are only so many times one can the same thing without feeling deprived. Taste buds must be happy too!
- In my plan, sometimes a handful of seeds or nuts was considered “dinner.” If you haven’t heard me talk about the benefits of receiving pleasure from your food via your senses, check out How to Break Free of Emotional Eating.
- The measurements were so strange that even a pretty good cook might get confused. While this was technically customized, it was exactly that: technically customized. The quantities were dependent on my answers to the quiz and obviously substituted into the recipes, I ended up with measures like “1/24 cup” and “1/32 oz”. Even more fun was “1 spoon” or “1/2 spoon” of ingredients. (When I asked whether they meant Tbsp or tsp, I was told “it depends”, and that I should message support for specific questions–which I had on nearly every recipe!)
- I couldn’t really specify that I didn’t like an ingredient, and sometimes said ingredient was the staple of the recipe. At a recipe level, I couldn’t say that either. And as I said in #1, the same recipe was repeated throughout the 4-week program.
The Truth Is . . .
Diet plans like this don’t work. Here are some other reasons why:
- You are subscribing to someone else’s model of what you should and should not eat: for many people, this sub-consciously triggers the “rebel” response.
- You are keeping the diet plan in your rational, logical, thinking brain. You’re counting, measuring, weighing, doing the math. Yet the reasons we gain weight usually have more to do with our emotional side. Diet plans like these provide a great distraction from the work that must be done to change our lifestyles. This is part of why I see clients who have been dieting for 20+ years.
- Continuous thinking about food, sticking to the plan, guilt over cheating, and insistence on making progress on a (often unrealistic) timeline increases stress chemistry in your body, which results in it holding onto fat, thus thwarting even your best efforts. I talk about this in How to Break Free of Emotional Eating as well.
- You may be eating foods you don’t enjoy, or that may not be nourishing for your mind-body system at this point in time. You may be restricting yourself from foods you really do receive pleasure and satisfaction from, because you feel that otherwise you’d be “out of control”. (This is a sure-fire way to start binge eating, by the way!)
- You’re bored. Variety is the spice of life! It’s nice to have a few comforting foods and dishes, but the more you expand your horizons and your palette, the easier it is to make healthy eating a natural part of your life.
Transform Your Diet Plan into Your Nourishment Plan
I believe the ingredients to an effective nourishment plan include:
- Foods you enjoy
- Ease (feasibility in preparing and cooking)
- Actual, real meals
- Curiosity and experimentation
- Time and patience