Striving for perfection doesn’t lead to success. And this especially includes nutrition.
In this study, researchers found that people who went on restrictive diet plans, specifically low-carb and intermittent fasting (IF), showed higher levels of binge eating, food cravings, cognitive restraint, and cognitive restraint toward carbohydrates when compared to non-dieters.
On the flip side, the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) has reported that a list of more than 10,000 people who have lost weight AND kept it off for years tend to eat carbs, enjoy breakfast, and avoid extreme restrictions and gimmicks.
The message is this: if a diet isn’t sustainable, if it doesn’t fit into your life, it will fail.
Diet challenges fall into this category. These challenges typically consist of 6-8 weeks of restrictive eating. Sure, you see the impressive before and after photos, but what about the after-after photos? Most people who went to extreme measures to lose weight actually gain the weight back..and then some.
From a psychological standpoint, when someone on an extreme diet messes up, they are more likely to binge, basically just saying “eff it.” Or, when the challenge is over they go off the rails because they were so deprived for so long.
I am in a Facebook group for a popular nutrition program and I routinely see confessions of binge eating. Often, it’s with “authorized” foods. For example, a post last weekend was of someone admitting that she ate eight-plus servings of nut butter, which is the equivalent of six or more donuts and she also mentioned if she did eat the donuts, she probably would have stopped at four.
Don’t get me wrong. Good nutrition absolutely matters. But, so does enjoying all types of foods in moderation. So does socializing and finding joy in food. I believe when you don’t see foods as completely off-limits, you don’t develop a scarcity mindset towards those foods. If you know that the cookie isn’t going anywhere and you can have one every now and then, you may not be as apt to binge on it. And that can lead to a healthy relationship with food.
BUT, realize that many people do have triggers. So, don’t set yourself up for failure with those trigger foods. Here’s a real-world example: Rob LOVES (and I mean LOVES) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. He might love them more than he loves me. He won’t keep them at the house, but once a month or so he takes a trip to the convenience store and buys some. He thoroughly ravishes (er, I mean, enjoys) them and then he gets back on track. No harm done.
So, before you decide to take a 180 with your nutrition or embark on a restrictive diet, heed this warning. The most successful people I’ve seen make small changes over time. This could look like ditching the soda or nixing the nightly ice cream or foregoing the nightcap. Make that a habit and then conquer the next. With this approach, the weight doesn’t come off super quickly, but the small changes compound over time and they lose the weight and most importantly, keep it off.
It doesn’t matter how much weight you lose in a few months; it’s keeping it off so you can live healthy for years.
So, don’t try to be perfect. No one is…and, frankly, perfect is boring!