Did you know that all diets get about the same results? If you are currently on a diet, I can predict the outcome.
This year, Consumer Reports National Research Center polled its readers who tried 13 weight loss plans – four popular commercial plans and nine well-known do-it-yourself plans, such as Atkins diet Paleo diet, and South Beach diet.
Consumer Reports concluded that significant weight loss was possible on all of the plans. However, most respondents said they were able to take off weight, but were having trouble keeping it off. This is where most weight loss programs fail.
Medical and scientific research verifies Consumer Reports’ poll. Research results show: for every 100 individuals who start out on a weight loss plan, only five are successful. This means that traditional diets have a dismal success rate of only 5%. Why do so many fail? What is the secret that you need to know to be successful?
Number One Reason You Are Unable to Maintain Your Weight Loss
The results of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology perplexed me. Canadian investigators examined the lifestyle of more than 9000 cancer survivors, those that have completed and are free of treatment, and found that only a few had made the switch to a recommended healthy lifestyle. Although most had given up smoking, only one out of 20 survivors was following three recommended principles of healthful living – to quit smoking, to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and to engage in regular physical activity.
Anyone who has been through cancer treatments will tell you, the fear of cancer returning never goes away. What group of individuals could be more motivated to change their lifestyle? Yet, their ability to reduce their weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle was no different – only 5% were successful. I wondered about this for a long time. Why were most of those in the study able to quit smoking – a hard habit to overcome – and yet were unsuccessful in making the other two lifestyle changes? What is the secret that sets the 5% apart in making successful lifestyle changes?
The answer to why so many fail becomes apparent when you ask them. Do you know what these people say is the number one reason they are unsuccessful in maintaining a weight loss program? They say, “I don’t have enough willpower.” This is the number one reason!
And therein lies the answer – and the pathway to the solution.
The Secret of How You Can Change Your Lifestyle, Lose Weight, and Keep It off
It is not a matter of knowing what to do. We have all been told over and over that we need to change our lifestyle: eat healthily and increase our physical activity.
But you will not succeed if you are counting on willpower. No general ever won a war by counting on willpower; no team ever won a national championship by counting on willpower; no athlete ever won an Olympic medal by counting on willpower.
When it comes to success, willpower is vastly overrated. Although, it serves a purpose, you may use it to make your initial decision to make a change; such as, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds.” But what is it that you need to to do to actually achieve success?
I had the privilege of serving our country as a pilot in the United States Marine Corps. Throughout my training, I never received any training on willpower. Perhaps it took willpower to make the decision to join the Marine Corps; but from the first day in boot camp, and then throughout flight school, I was taught discipline. That is how generals win wars – their troops must be disciplined!
It has been said that Jerry Rice, football Hall of Famer and pro football’s greatest wide receiver, said: “Yes, I was gifted with speed and the ability to catch a football; but also, I did 1000 situps every day.” Discipline!
What You Need to Do to Maintain a Weight Loss
This is the answer; This is the secret. You change your lifestyle by replacing bad habits with good habits. You change a habit by discipline. Changing a habit takes effort and it takes time, about 30 to 45 days or more.
This is how Charles DuHigg, author of The Power of Habit, describes what it takes to change a habit:
At the core of every habit is a neurological loop with three parts: a cue, the routine, and a reward.
There is one rule: a habit has to deliver a reward that you actually enjoy.
For example, if you want to start an exercise habit, according to studies, it is essential that you take advantage of the habit loop. Take, for instance, creating a habit to go running each morning. Studies say you must choose a simple cue (like always lacing up your sneakers before breakfast or always going for a run at the same time of day) and a clear reward (such as a sense of accomplishment from recording your miles or the endorphin rush you get from a jog).
But, at first, the rewards inherent in exercise aren’t enough. So to teach your brain to associate exercise with a reward, you need to give yourself something you really enjoy – such as a small piece of chocolate – after your workout.
This is counterintuitive, because most people start exercising to lose weight. But the goal here is to train your brain to associate a certain cue (“Its five o’clock”) with the routine (“Three miles down!”) and a reward (“Chocolate!”).
Eventually, your brain will start expecting the rewards inherent in exercise (“It’s five o’clock. Three miles down! Endorphin rush!”), and you won’t need the chocolate anymore. In fact, you won’t even want it. But until your neurology learns to enjoy those endorphins and the other rewards inherent in exercise, you need to jumpstart the process.
And then, over time, it will become automatic to lace up your jogging shoes each morning. You won’t want the chocolate anymore. You’ll just crave the endorphins. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, will start triggering a craving for the inherent rewards to come.
I agree that a three-mile jog may not sound appealing to most of us. But the point is, to establish a habit of daily physical activity, you need to establish the habit loop: a cue, a routine, and a reward. I suggest you start with a 30 minute brisk walk each day.
To change your lifestyle you must replace a bad habit with a good habit. Creating a new habit takes discipline. There is a set, proven scientific method of creating new habits which has three parts: a cue (such as a set time each day), a routine (the new habit you want to form); a reward (something you enjoy).