These days, you can’t pick up a magazine without headlines sharing how to lose inches in just days.
There are a multitude of TV shows spotlighting weight loss with personal trainers screaming in your face (while you are sitting on the couch, no less). You can’t walk into a bookstore without seeing documentation on the newest weight loss technique and, to make things even more in your face; a new movie is now a synonym for a fresh diet and fitness program that is sure to get you on the road to being a health nut.
Remember Jessica Simpson in those Daisy Dukes? Or the Black Swan inspired diet via Natalie Portman? Now the Eat for Survival plan and accompanying fitness regimen courtesy of the to-be apocalyptic blockbuster the Hunger Games promises you will slim down and strengthen up to be in tribute shape and morph into a powerhouse archer like Katniss in no time. And really, who doesn’t want to be a badass with a side braid?
Gaining fitness motivation from a popular young-adult novel or an attention-grabbing magazine cover is an example of what I call the diet game…something I am more than familiar with. People gravitate to the thought of a quick fix and instant gratification when it comes to their body and fitness routine. My past is full of trending diets that promised me a lifetime of having a bathing suit bod in just 30 days or a detox that will kick my “fat” clothes out for good. A standout: the cabbage soup diet that claimed I would lose up to 10 pounds in 7 days. The only good that came of that one is that I discovered my love for cabbage soup. (Can I have some now?)
My attitude of “what’s new on the diet bandwagon?” and [insert celeb name here] lost, like, a million pounds by doing lunges and drinking kale. And if my friends were doing something…it was a no-brainer. I had to partake or be shunned by my girls for eating (gasp) bread! And it doesn’t stop there. From Atkins to Paleo, Jenny Craig to Weight Watchers, it is no wonder that the word “diet” pulls over a half a million hits on Google.
It took me years of doing low carb, low fat and low satisfaction yo-yoing before I realized that saying goodbye to the trendy hype and lacing up my shoes for the lifestyle path was my only chance in making a permanent change. Several years back my mindset switched from what’s cool to what my body really needs and now when I am doing something for my health I want to commit to it for the long haul because it is who I am.
How do you know if you want to skip the dieting game and get on the sensible path for your long-term wellness lifestyle? Here are questions I asked myself when I said goodbye to feeling famished on behalf of a jumpstart detox and hello to an improved, healthier me:
- Are you a tortoise or a hare? This was a big one to overcome as we would all like to swallow a pill and turn into Jasmine from Aladdin, but for me it came down to not wanting to turn my life in for a chart out of a mag that was going to own me for a couple weeks. I decided I was more comfortable gradually letting go of my bad habits and slowly incorporating new ones. The truth is, most fad diets will help you lose weight but it is when the diet ends that you end up right back where you started.
- A Commitment-Phob or a Long-Term Goal Setter? If the thought of making a change that involves 24/7 commitment for the foreseeable future has you breaking out in a cold sweat, you are not alone. When I decided to forgo the 5-day diet plan for a change that would last a lifetime I wasn’t so sure I could say “I do” and actually mean it. The trick for me was to not think in terms of the 50 pounds I had to lose or running a half marathon. I found that setting short-term goals for my fitness accomplishments, weight loss milestones or shape-up changes were more rewarding than eating my last bite of cabbage soup and thinking now what?
- Do you want to be a boss or a follower? When you choose the diet route you follow in someone’s mapped footsteps until you reach the finish line and look up to see your leader has ditched you. During a lifestyle change, you are the boss. Being in charge of what you eat and when you exercise so it fits in your schedule actually provides freedom that works every day without feeling like you are cheating. Plus, who can put in a beneficial workout when you are living off of broth and lemon ice water. A healthy lifestyle is more than carrot sticks and celery!
- Self-Motivated or Need the Pressure? For me, I definitely felt motivated by pressure situations like a friend’s wedding, but I made an effort to put the heat on in different ways. For example, I started attending fitness classes that were at a scheduled time or I pulled out a meat from my menu board the night before so I was more likely to cook at home. You do not need a day-by-day plan telling you what to do when you can create your own inspiration that can work for years to come.
- Do you like having money or prefer an empty wallet? This may seem like a silly question, but the truth is a diet can cause you to go broke because the “approved foods” rack up quite a bill. And, you would have to purchase separate groceries for you family who will not be drinking protein shakes for the next 21 days. Then there is the fact that the diet you just spent a paycheck on may not even work for you and the thought of wasting money doesn’t sit well for me. The answer: buy affordable healthy alternatives from discount stores like Costco or in portioned sizes from the farmer’s market where you will be more in control of your dime. A lifestyle change definitely puts you in the driver’s seat for your food budget.
- Are you Creative or a Routine Seeker? Honestly, I am a creature of habit and can happily eat familiar foods until they start to taste blah. Cabbage soup every day? Yes please! But, then I discovered cooking and my love for the kitchen was only heightened with the invention of Pinterest. Now my creative juice is flowing and I get excited to try new things. A routine follower can still skip the dieting grind by identifying the healthy things they like and sticking to them without a celeb saying it works.
- Are you a social butterfly or a wallflower? The independent dieter is more likely to stick to a private plan and hide any potential pitfalls from their friends. This was me…until I discovered Weight Watchers. Having support for something you plan to make a part of your daily life is something to be shared. Once I got over this, my days of being a lone wolf were behind me and I appreciate having cheerleaders that back me up when I say keep the chips out of the house or that I will have to meet up later because I need to go to the gym.
- Most importantly, who are you doing this for? The answer should undoubtedly be yourself. If this is to impress your friends or appease your parents then the long-term commitment will fall through and you’ll be disappointed and unsatisfied with the results while also sprinting back to the latest fad diet that ensures results. You need to be in it to win it and discover what will keep you motivated for the long term.
Speaking of motivation, the wonderful Tamara at Fit Knit Chick hosts Motivation Mondays where I shared one of my biggest motivators today! Take a look at what my unsuspecting motivator is…
How do you feel about trending diets? What is your advice to take on the healthy living switch?