PT on the Net Research

Getting your Clients off the Diet Cycle


Give your clients the choice of french fries or steamed vegetables and they know the healthier choice, right? So, why do diet programs focus on what to eat, when it’s the why we need to address? We need to get clients to want to make the better choice, and feel good about doing it.

Eating patterns are the result of a lifetime of experiences. We learn to eat as a response to emotions and situations. We learn that desserts are rewards and vegetables are punishment. We learn to use food as a coping mechanism, a stress reliever and a social accompaniment. We were not born with these patterns. We learned them. We are, however, programmed to enjoy food. So to ‘diet’ goes against our pre-wiring. We need to teach our clients to re-learn new, more empowering behaviours and thought processes and how to pay attention to their body, so they eat only when hungry and stop eating when full. Teach them to choose healthful foods because it will make them feel good.

When you go on diets, you make drastic changes in your eating and exercise behaviours that are well intentioned but too extreme to keep. New health behaviours should be done in small steps, so that you don’t feel deprived and it is not an unpleasant experience. Focus on what you are adding to your life rather than what you are taking away from it. Your eating patterns have been in effect for a long time. Any pattern that is repeated day after day is resistant to change. Take any habit that you do regularly and than try to switch it. It’s not easy is it? Your clients’ previous attempts at weight loss were probably unsuccessful because they tried to change their eating style all at once. Yes, they can do that for a day, a week, maybe even a year. But the only way to make lifetime changes is to make changes in your thought and behaviour processes and that takes time.

Decades ago, doctors came up with a dieting model that best exhibits the cycle your clients may be on. Basically, it says that people diet because they are dissatisfied with their body. When you diet you feel deprived. Feeling deprived leads to overeating and overeating leads to greater dissatisfaction with your body and the cycle begins again. Anytime you eliminate total food groups from your diet, you are bound to feel deprived. That feeling of deprivation leads to the next step along the cycle, “overeating or bingeing”. You feel deprived because you can’t eat a slice of chocolate cake, so you later eat a whole one. And that’s after you’ve eaten everything else in sight so you wouldn’t eat the chocolate cake. The diet cycle is a dangerous one. It often leads to disordered eating or into a full-blown eating disorder. Besides that, the effect of yo-yo dieting actually slows down the metabolism and has great health risks.

How do you get off the diet cycle? The key is to STOP DIETING! Replace deprivation with better choices. Take the focus off what you can’t have and put it on what you can! When you try to make the best choice, you feel deprived and later make the worst choice. If you want pizza, don’t eliminate it altogether. Choose vegetable pizza instead of pepperoni. If you always make a better choice, you will eventually gain a new, healthy eating style. Getting off of the diet cycle can be very scary. People are afraid of gaining weight if they stop dieting. Take that chance. Even if you gain weight at first, it will come off because you soon won’t have the need to overeat or binge. Truly going off of the diet cycle takes the power out of food and puts it back in your hands. It’s the long-term that’s important.

Here are some tips to help your clients get off the diet cycle:

1) S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting. You have probably heard of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. It means your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. But just as important is that your goals are Powerful. Ask yourself WHY do you want to lose weight? If it’s for a powerful, passionate reason, it is far more likely to influence real change.

2) Forget about that last 5 pounds. We tend to get obsessed with a certain number on a scale. But when we get there, we find that we just want to lose 5 more. Don’t ever let your client tell you that their goal is to lose weight. Because what is enough? 5, 10? 15 pounds? There is nothing magical about that last 5 pounds. Instead, focus on health, strength and energy.

3) Live with the body you want. Most of us want to lose weight because we think it will make our lives different. Maybe you think losing weight will make you more outgoing or more attractive. Try living as if you had the body you want. Walk and live as if you had that body. You will notice that it’s not the weight but the attitude that changes your life.

Remember, if any of the diets really worked, there would only be ONE. Don’t let your clients be fooled by quick fixes. It is up to you to inspire and support a healthy change in lifestyle.