Stay The Course – Why Dieting Makes Us Fat
By Dr. Alexander Chernev, Author of The Dieter’s Paradox: Why Dieting Makes Us Fat, the following is an excerpt from the book. Dr. Chernev is a psychologist who is studying how people make choices.
Our weight-loss efforts are often derailed by our focus on short-term results and lack of commitment to a particular course of action. Even when we are devoted to the idea of dieting, we seem to have trouble staying loyal to the chosen dieting plan. The following strategies can help curb this consistency bias.
Control Mindless Habits
Mindless eating has become ingrained in our lifestyle. Too often we eat out of habit, grabbing things just because they’re out there in plain sight, waiting to be eaten. To get a grip on these subconscious impulses, make indulgences less frequent, less prominent, and less convenient. Avoid temptations by banishing them from your daily routine.
Our myopic focus on immediate results makes us seek drastic solutions, downplaying the effect of incremental changes. We fail to visualize the long-term impact of our short-term actions and refuse to believe that skipping a 400- calorie muffin every morning could reduce our annual calorie intake by as much as 150,000 calories (equal to the recommended calorie intake for 60 full days). Over the long run, small changes produce big results.
Set Actionable Goals
Having the vague goal of “dieting” without a defined action plan can hardly help one lose weight. To be actionable, goals need be specific: they must pinpoint the desired outcomes and set a time frame for achieving these outcomes. Writing down goals makes them easier to share, which further strengthens our commitment and makes us more accountable for reaching them. Set actionable goals and fortify your commitment by writing down and sharing these goals.
Variety can both facilitate and hamper weight-management efforts. Abundant variety makes us eager to try all the different options available and in many cases leads to overconsumption. Not enough variety can lead to boredom and increased consumption because lack of novelty blunts satisfaction and delays satiation. Introduce variety into your menu while controlling total consumption.
Think Carrots Not Sticks
Diets based only on inhibition are short-lived: they produce short-term results and are often followed by a rebound. (This is why many crash diets create repeat customers!) The goal is not to conquer the indulgent urges but to pacify them with sensible rewards. Focus on what to achieve, not just what to avoid.
Thinking about food in terms of consumption episodes makes us vulnerable to the “what-the-hell” effect. Once we break our diet, we consider the entire meal or event “spoiled” and consequently overindulge in the very behavior we’ve been trying to avoid. Break away from the “what-the-hell” mentality.
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