Diets Don’t Work. Do This Instead.
We women have been at war with our bodies ever since the first bathroom scale hit the floor. Most of us began our personal battle some time in our teens and it was usually in response to a comment from a mean girl, some other jerk at school, or a “well-meaning” adult.
How many well-meaning adults have we known in our lives?
“Oh honey, don’t eat that. It will make you fat. Eat this salad instead.”
“No one will invite you to the prom if you keep eating that way.”
“You look like a boy with all those muscles, lay off the weights.”
Want to know why diets don’t work?
How do I say this succinctly while keeping my PG-rating? Diets don’t work because all in all, they suck. They’re essentially a punishment, a form of self-flagellation. Diets are all about what you can’t have. Bottom line: they extract every single drop of joy out of life.
And to top it off, diet dogma is mostly wrong.
I propose an abrupt shift in the narrative. That shift is the KNOW >> FEEL >> DO Methodology.
Here’s the gist of this methodology. The “KNOW” is the thinking part of this equation, the intellect. The “FEEL” is the feeling part of this equation, the emotions and beliefs we have toward our bodies, food, exercise, and the perception of deprivation as synonymous with “doing it right” and being a “good girl”. The “DO” part of the equation is simply what we do and don’t do.
You’ll often hear me say, “the better you understand your body, the better you can care for it”. This is a true statement no matter the topic.
When it comes to eating your proper diet most women start with the “KNOW” part of the Methodology. They read a book, or an article, or watch YouTube videos to see what the latest trend is, or to search for something they’ve not yet “tried”. They may even go to their doctor and ask if they can take something to suppress their appetite or some variation on that theme.
They then proceed to the “DO” part of the Methodology. They put all their “hopes” in their basket du jour and when they don’t see the results, which they expect to be instantaneous mind you, they dump the contents of said basket and return to the noisy hunting grounds of the internet or pop culture yet again.
All the while, they “FEEL” like a failure…again. The mounting nausea from the diet-go-round intensifies. They continue to feed the negative emotions that now run the show, in fact they’ve been at the emotional helm since she heard that first nasty comment from the mean girl, the other school jerk, or that well-meaning adult in her life.
In contrast to that scenario, in my circles, we start with the “FEEL” part of the KNOW >> FEEL >> DO Methodology.
And it’s not how you feel about going on a diet, that is not what I’m talking about. What I’m referring to is how you feel about yourself. How you feel about food. Are you using food to cope with emotions? What are the underlying emotional factors when it comes to your relationship with your body and more specifically, what it looks like?
Like many things, we look to conventional wisdom for our answers.
Unfortunately like many scenarios, this so-called “wisdom” has it all wrong. In following conventional wisdom or the status quo, we mistakenly focus more on what our body looks like than what our body does for us.
One of the first exercises I work through with clients or members and what I am convinced is the most critical factor for getting off the nauseating diet-go-round is for them to list out what their body helps them do in a day, a week, a month…a lifetime. It doesn’t have to be Athena-level feats mind you.
Think of the things your body does to allow you to accomplish whatever it is you set out to do. I refer to the body as a brain-transport system. Your body protects your brain as it transports You:HQ (your brain) from Point A to Point B. Without our body protecting our brain we wouldn’t get very far, let alone be able to do the things that make us…us.
Things like thinking through and solving complex issues, growing a child inside of us, birthing that child, protecting ourselves and those around us, creating beauty through a chosen artistic medium, nourishing ourselves and others through food, from growing it to serving it up.
The list of things your body allows you to accomplish through her is lengthy.
Our body serves at the pleasure of our every whim.
How many times have you run her ragged or to the point of exhaustion…and she kept coming back for more? She can’t just quit, and she is wired to continually adapt to your shenanigans, until she can’t. That’s a discussion for another day.
All in all…I don’t care what you weigh. That is between you and gravity. What I do care about and what matters, is what you’re made of.
The reason diets don’t work is they set us up to fail with their Us Versus Them approach. The “us” side of this equation is what we want our bodies to look like no matter what our structure is. The “them” side is our body. You cannot be an enemy and an ally simultaneously. In other words, conflict and cooperation cannot and do not co-exist. Let that sink in.
For illustration purposes, I have muscles and at just shy of 6 foot, I’m a rather sturdy chick. I even have big feet to support my stature, size 10. I will never be petite. And if you can ever describe me as “skinny”, there is something seriously wrong. I am not designed to be either skinny nor petite.
I have an athletic build that I reinforce with regular activity. Mainly in the form of lifting heavy things and putting them back down. I keep my body strong and flexible. As a result, I am able to do things that many others aren’t able to do, even those half my age of 50. To top it off, I’ve trained correctly over the decades so I have no major injuries whatsoever.
I exercise to improve my ability to do the things I need and want to do.
At one point I had it backwards. I was following conventional wisdom to a “T”. I would workout to “burn off” my chosen indulgence, I’d focus on the pucker or the pooch. It was all about how I looked versus my philosophy now. It saddens me to see women punishing themselves with exercise. The very thing that could be utilized to mitigate their stress or help them build strength both inside and out gets used as a weapon.
I established my body care habits early on because I saw women deteriorating as they aged. And I wanted no part of that. I’m living until I hit the 107 mark or higher. And if my math is right, I’m not even halfway there!
My self-care habit-set includes a regular restorative yoga practice. Nothing fancy, no guru required. After years in this body, I know her pretty well. I’ve taken the time to listen to her and offer her what she needs. I watch YouTube videos and attend the occasional yoga class to refine my repertoire. SImply moving from pose to pose while challenging my body to sit a spell is working wonders for me both physically and mentally. Making my monkey mind sit still used to be torture, now I just toss her a banana and tell her to “zip it”.
To round it out, I build in specific times for recovery and change up my exercise regimen often. The body likes change, it is wired to adapt and wants to be put to the test on the regular. The way I approach my body and her care now has taken me decades to cultivate. And it happened on purpose, nothing just fell into place.
I don’t “diet”. You’ll never, ever, ever hear me say, “I’m on a diet”. I eat to nourish my body. My body and I are not at war. We are lifelong allies. It took me decades to embody that belief; to feel it deep within. And it’s taken me years to heal our dysfunctional relationship, but I can honestly proclaim we are on the same team now. And I promise you this, you and your body can heal your dysfunctional relationship too.
I take care of my body so it can serve me. It works for me. It is my instrument for doing good in the world and experiencing the goodness the world has in store for me.
Ask yourself this question, “If I wear out my body, where will I live?” Give real thought to that.
I am not my body; you are not your body. Our body is the physical form of us, but we are not it, and it is not us. We aren’t our thoughts and we certainly aren’t our emotions either. Our body, our heart, and our mind are three parts of us. They are the three centers of intelligence that make up us. This is where the KNOW >> FEEL >> DO Methodology derives its foundation.
If you’re just getting to know me you may not know this yet but I am a geek’s geek. Pocket-protector and all.
I love to understand why something works and also why something doesn’t work. I guess it’s the science training in me from way back when. I am forever curious in nature and love to figure things out, or at least attempt to. I’m a fan of deductive reasoning and I’m a fan of objective measurement. I also have a deep and profound trust for the human design…body, mind, and spirit.
Personally and professionally again, I don’t care what you weigh. That’s between you and gravity. What I care about and what matters, is what you’re made of. As my school nurse in sixth-grade said, “Honey, muscle weighs more than fat.” I was sturdy stock back then too.
Here’s some of that ol’ conventional wisdom that’s been spoon fed to us since the advent of the spoon. Well maybe not THAT long ago, but you get the idea.
The out-of-date model is the “Calories In/Calories Out” mantra. This archaic model has been proven wrong on so many occasions, I’ve lost count.
You know how this flawed advice goes, “burn more calories than you take in and you’ll lose weight! It’s just simple math!”
This “simple math” is so off-base it is ridiculous. Not to mention totally wrong.
Seriously, human metabolism is not a simple math equation, and has never been.
When I hear this “wisdom”, I can’t help but think of some dude in a super tight t-shirt with arms the size of tree trunks standing somewhere in the body, maybe at the entry of our stomach, he’s standing there with one of those handheld clicker thingies bouncers use to count people at a nightclub. (I used to go clubbin’…I was an 80s cool kid.)
He’s standing there getting buff thenar pads clicking 1-2-3-4…*bop*, *bop, *bop*, 1197 – 1198 – 1199 – 1200. He throws his tree trunks up declaring with emphasis… ”That’s it, we’re officially at capacity. Anyone else is getting thrown in the basement.” As if. It’s totally ludicrous. And not the artist…I love me some Ludacris! Fell in love with him in the Fast & Furious films.
My dear reader, human metabolism is way more complex than that. And bro-science does not have the answer. Nor does conventional wisdom apparently.
There is some truth to the “Calories In / Calories Out” model when it comes to decreasing the number on the scale. You must achieve a caloric deficit to force your body to do the work of tapping into stored energy (body fat). This part is correct-ish, but there is one big “IF” in the same breath; you must do this while providing what your body needs when it needs it. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention, you must also avoid “foods*” that wreak havoc on your biochemistry. Most notably processed (& packaged) “foods” along with added sugars. All that lovely stuff I chat about all day, every day.
*I use quotes around the word “foods” because much of that passed off as food has no real food in it! It’s riddled with preservatives, added sugars, fillers, thickening agents, dyes/coloring, flavor enhancers and a whole bunch of other things that should be illegal to put in “food”. And some of these chemical concoctions are illegal most everywhere on this planet, except in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Insert my 3-word go-to reason as to why…”Follow The Money”.
This is a topic we will revisit often. And hopefully this episode leaves you with some pondering to do and some decisions to make. Plug into the conversation on LinkedIn. You’ll find me at Dr. Sam Graber. Hit the “Follow” button and select the bell to ensure you don’t miss a musing.
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