Photo Credit: Todd Chandler
It’s a typical Saturday night. The whole world is getting dressed up and ready to go out, but where am I?
Getting ready to settle into a fun-filled evening of…perusing holistic health and weight loss groups on facebook.
Ok, this may be a wee exaggeration, but I do spend an embarrassing amount of my free time browsing these groups.
I love reading the advice that people give, understanding what allows some people to succeed while others continue to struggle, and seeing how people support each other.
Anyway! While perusing one particularly interesting facebook group, I came across a post by a woman named Nora.
Nora had struggled to lose weight her whole life, trying one failed diet after another.
She had completely given up when she stumbled upon a life changing insight that made all the difference.
And it really worked! In Nora’s post, she shared that she has lost over 100 pounds to date!
Reading her story was so powerful that it honestly moved me to tears, but I also found it compelling for two specific reasons:
- Her story has the common elements of every weight loss story. The yo-yo diets, the experience of constant failure, the negative self talk, making progress only to be sent back to square one.
- Her real breakthrough didn’t come from just finding the right information. It was an important part of the puzzle, but to let go of her old patterns and really move forward required something more: A mindset shift.
The Great Diet Hoax
One of my great joys in writing this blog is making fun of our weird quirks — all the ways that human beings are irrational, divided and well…pretty much insane.
And I’m not just making this up!
Psychologists have identified 168 of these cognitive biases — systematic errors that every human mind has a tendency to make.
Einstein must have been familiar with this human weirdness when he offered this little gem of wisdom.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
It seems so obvious, yet this is exactly what the vast majority of us do when we try and lose weight.
We jump from diet to diet, expecting that this time it will be different. We somehow think that if we can only find just the right diet, recipe, tip, or trick, this time we’ll be successful.
So the next fad diet rolls around, and we decide that the grapefruit diet is the one!
We tell our friends, turn down the cupcakes, push away our plates at the right time.
We eat grapefruit till the cows come home, endure the pain and suffering, see some results, yo-yo a bit, and then the inevitable happens.
All the deprivation and restriction catch up with the fact that every human being is what psychologists call a cognitive miser.
This means that our willpower is, by nature, limited. You can’t live a life of constant restriction and deprivation. And so the unavoidable outcome is crash and burn.
Now I don’t have an issue with crash and burn. The path to optimal healthy isn’t of the straight and narrow variety, and we all face challenges.
In fact, this blog’s strange moniker is derived from my passionate belief that it doesn’t matter how many times we spill the milk as long as we don’t lose the cow.
Instead, the real heartbreak is this: Every diet has a beginning and an end. And post-diet we almost always end up right back where we started. Or worse!
All that effort and no progress.
The Little Twist of Thinking That Makes All the Difference
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to ride the merry go round of continual failure! We don’t have to star as Bill Murray in weight-loss Groundhog Day!
We don’t have to…insert some other terrible metaphor here!
Instead, we can make real sustainable progress towards health, happiness, and our goal weight, but it requires one little insight, one little twist of thinking that makes all the difference.
In fact, I found Nora’s story SO interesting, because this was the exact insight that ended up tipping the scale for her.
Drum roll please…
The best way to sustainable, long-term progress towards better health, well-being, reducing or eliminating meds, looking and feeling younger, AND reaching your goal weight?
Don’t try and lose weight. Focus on getting healthy.
That’s the key to the whole affair. Stop trying to lose weight. Instead, build the foundations of a healthy lifestyle; become a healthy person.
Now maybe this is revelatory new information.
More probable is that you are questioning why the tremendous power of the universe would conspire to have you read such obvious commentary.
But Yar Maties! Before you threaten mutiny, hear me out. More is at play here than we may think.
See, there are tremendous differences between these two goals. Losing weight is an outcome goal. Getting healthy is a process goal.
Trying to lose weight is like going on a camping trip and pitching a tent. You leave your normal routine, make a temporary change in order to get a specific result, and when vacation is over, it’s time to go back home.
Deciding to get healthy is like buying a piece of land, pouring a foundation, and building a house. It’s a change that lasts a lifetime.
Losing weight is about doing something. Getting healthy is about becoming something.
Click here to open a bigger version of the image in a new window.
Do you see the difference?
And on a more practical level, trying to lose weight brings so much worry and concern about eating.
Counting everything, deciding whether or not the extra serving is worth the calories, thinking about much time you’ll have to spend on the treadmill to make up the difference.
Dieters worry incessantly about eating, and this makes it much harder to develop a healthy relationship with food.
Healthy people eat when they are hungry, enjoy as much healthy, nutritious food as they need to feel satisfied, and don’t really sweat the rest.
I used to groan and roll my eyes at the concept, but there really is an important distinction between a plant-based diet and a plant-based lifestyle.
But where it really gets fun is how this one little mindset shift cascades into other fundamental life changes.
Since going on a diet is temporary, it will always take motivation and willpower to sustain. But when you decide to get healthy, your energy goes towards creating healthy habits.
And once these habits are in place, they no longer require willpower or discipline to maintain.
And this, dear friend, is the key to getting off the diet merry go-round and creating long-term, sustainable health and weight loss.
The Key To Long Term, Sustainable Weight Loss
Ok, deciding to ditch dieting and instead focus your efforts on building healthy habits is all well and good. But there is one HUGE question that we’ve yet to answer.
What does it mean to get healthy, and more importantly, how do you do it? What are the these healthy habits and how to create them? How do you become a healthy person?
Seriously, I have no idea. Please tell me how!
Just kidding 😉
In this article, I get minutely practical and share with you the six elements that almost all healthy people have in common.
I also share a little tool with you that I use to determine the single most important step that you can take to build (or improve) your healthy lifestyle.
I’d bet my finest grapefruit that you’ll find it simple and intuitive.
Until then, leave me a comment and let me know the following:
Do you think there is a meaningful difference between going on a diet and deciding to get healthy?
Has a mindset shift played an important role in meeting your health goals? I’ll read and respond to every one.
We will never sell your information or spam you, ever.
Matt Jager is a wellness activist, yogi and co-founder of True Wellth. His life mission is to transform the healthcare and food system in this country, so that every single person has access to the tools and support they need to look and feel their best, control their health, own their happiness and revolutionize their well-being.