In this series, we’ve covered several tips that can help make eating well simpler and easier. From meal planning to food prep, these strategies can help you make the most of your time. There is one more thing that is absolutely vital to finding the most efficient, time-saving way to be healthy. Without this, you may be able to bumble along, finding some success along the way, but never truly be healthy or happy, and certainly not save yourself any time.
When I work with clients, I always try to help them find skills and strategies that are sustainable for them in the long term. By long term I mean lifelong (or at least until a major life change comes along). To do that, we test changes one at a time to make sure that they actually fit that client’s life/personality/budget/preferences/family/etc.
I encourage clients not to commit to new health changes right off the bat – don’t get married, date first! There are several ways to approach being healthy, just as there are many fish in the sea. Don’t just find any old fish and marry it! It might be smelly or taste too fishy or its scales may clash with your décor. You have to get to know it first and spend time with it in a lot of different situations before you know if that fish is the fish for you. If it’s not, toss it back and find another. This process of trial-and-error is key to your long-term success.
You might think:
“That sounds much more time-consuming than following a plan I found online/10 years ago/on a commercial/from my co-worker, friend, or family member.”
You might be right, in the short term. Complete ready-made plans are very appealing. You don’t have to think about them – just follow the meal plans they give you and it will seem so, so simple. You’ll start moving toward your goals and feeling well. You can fight, claw, and scratch for weeks, months, or sometimes even years. But then…the meal plans get boring or expensive, you get tired of making yourself different food than your family, or you just want a single darn slice of bread! Following restrictive plans designed by strangers (who didn’t have you in mind) only works for so long.
I can not stress this enough:
You can not succeed forever with a cookie-cutter plan.
You must test drive individual changes to see how well they fit all of the factors that make up your individual life. Date them. Don’t get married blind!
So now you’re thinking:
“Okay, I get what you’re saying, but how is this going to save me time? Test-driving individual changes sounds like a long process.”
It certainly can be, and I won’t sugar-coat that. But I can promise you that in the long run, it is a straighter line to lifelong health, happiness, and weight maintenance than using diet plans that you can’t (and shouldn’t!) continue forever.
The effects of these diets on your metabolism and your mindset can create a physiological cycle that works against you for the rest of your life. Unsustainable restrictive diets are training your body to store fat,1 and training you that being healthy is a miserable process. I can’t even begin to count the clients that I’ve seen who are chronically undereating (a sad lesson taught by a myriad of ill-fated diet plans) and have lost x numbers of pounds and gained x + 20 over and over again throughout their lives.
Research documents this. Restrictive, not-tailored-for-you “diet plans” consistently lead to weight gain.2
So how does fiddling around with these diet plans save you time in the long run?
Resist the temptation for a “quick fix.” Daily at my practice I see the results of years and years of “quick fixes” that never actually fixed anything in the long run. It takes work to heal their metabolisms and get them on a healthy, realistic track. One of my clients spent years exercising and following a low-carb diet (that he despised, by the way). It is taking months of proper eating to get his metabolism convinced that it’s safe to lose his 80+ pounds of extra body fat. I am certain that he would not say that his time on that diet saved him any time in the long run.
In fact, I am certain that every single one of these clients would tell you the same thing:
Stay away from restrictive diets. Test out individual, realistic, and sustainable changes that work for you.
If you need help finding realistic changes to make, stay tuned! I’ll be posting tips about finding changes to test drive that are most likely to work with different personality types. If you’re still overwhelmed, find a dietitian to help guide you through the process! It’s what we’re here for. Don’t waste your time with tantalizing promises of quick weight loss that are ultimately followed by disappointing regain and a messed-up metabolism. Invest your time now in a life that is much healthier and much happier down the road.
It can save you years – and that is quite a lot of time, don’t you think?
- Cooper, E. The Metabolic Storm: The science of your metabolism and how its making you fat. Seattle Performance Medicine. 2015. 2nd edition.
- Lowe, M., et al. “Dieting and restrained eating as prospective predictors of weight gain.” Front. Psychol. Sept 2013. Accessed August 12, 2018. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00577/full.