DR. SCOTT COOK: Why 'diets' often fail
November 19, 2013 11:00 AM

What causes people to burn so brightly with enthusiasm and motivation and then burn out just as quickly?

Why do so many people reach their fitness goals but struggle to maintain them?

The answer is simple: Health and fitness is for life, not for “12 weeks.”

We all need to avoid the on and off, yo-yo cycle of fitness ups and downs. You can get in great shape and stay in great shape. You can even get in shape and keep getting in better and better shape year after year, but it’s going to take a very different philosophy than most people subscribe to.

The following tips will help guide you:

• Don’t “go on” diets. When you “go on” a diet, the underlying assumption is that at some point you have to “go off” it. This isn’t just semantics, it’s one of the primary reasons most diets fail.

By definition, a diet is a temporary and often drastic change in your eating behaviors and/or a severe restriction of calories or food, which is ultimately not maintainable.

If you reach your goal, the diet is officially “over” and then you “go off” (returning to the way you used to eat). Health and fitness is not temporary; it’s not a diet. It’s something you do every day of your life.

• Eat the same healthy foods consistently, all year round. Permanent fat loss is best achieved by eating mostly the same types of foods all year round.

Naturally, you should include a wide variety of healthy foods so you get the full spectrum of nutrients you need.

• Rather than making huge, multiple changes all at once, focus on changing one or two habits/behaviors at a time. Most psychologists agree that it takes about 21 days of consistent effort to replace an old bad habit with a new positive one.

• Make goal-setting a lifelong habit. Goal-setting is not a one-time event, it’s a process that never ends.

• Allow a reasonable time frame to reach your goal. It’s important to set deadlines for your fitness and weight loss goals.

It’s also important to set big, ambitious goals, but you must allow a reasonable time frame for achieving them.

Time pressure is often the motivating force that helps people get in the best shape of their lives. But when the deadline is unrealistic for a particular goal (like 30 pounds in 30 days), then crash dieting or other extreme measures are often taken to get there before the bell.

The more rapidly you lose weight, the more likely you are to lose muscle and the faster the weight will come right back on afterwards.

Start sooner. Don’t wait until mid-May to think about looking good for summer.

As always, before starting any type of fitness program, you should have a thorough physical examination done by a professional health expert.

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