4 Metaphors That Prove Exactly Why Diets Never Work

Rachael Gorjestani

When a baby is learning how to crawl, its parents don’t say, “That’s not good enough; you have to walk!” And when that baby does start to walk – after countless failed attempts without any loss of enthusiasm – the parents don’t say, “Not good enough! You must run!”

When you want to get fitter, you don’t run a marathon straight away. That would be insane and you could seriously injure or exhaust yourself. Instead, you’d start by running for 10 minutes. That’s enough.

It’s the same if you want to start lifting weights. You don’t put the heaviest weight on the bar and try to lift it; you should load the lightest amount that seems a minor challenge, see how you do, and adjust from there.

Same as when someone starts playing basketball. If they started shooting three-pointers right away, they’d probably miss every single one because they’d have no idea what they were doing; their only ‘strategy’ would be to ‘throw and hope.’ Then they’d feel discouraged, figure that basketball ‘just wasn’t for them,’ and probably give up (especially if they have a fixed mindset).

How would this approach ever lead to success? How would this not lead to failure?

And yet…this is exactly how we’ve been told to ‘diet’. By going from one extreme to the other.

One day, you’re eating anything you want and completely over-indulging. Pizza, cakes, sweets, chips, caramel macchiatos. The next day, you’re expected to not only cut all of those things out, but to starve yourself. Because, supposedly, that’s how you ‘lose weight’.

For some reason, most of us have accepted this reality. We’ve accepted that this is the way to ‘diet’ and ‘lose weight’ – even though when we see the metaphors above we immediately know they lack any kind of strategy, are as close to impossible as you can get, and will inevitably lead to failure.

A baby isn’t born with the skills to crawl or walk. A baby has to learn them. A baby has to invest in its many, many, many inevitable failures in order to learn how to even crawl, let alone walk. A baby cannot be forced to crawl or walk. It just doesn’t work that way.

If you want to get fitter and increase your endurance, you don’t start by running a marathon. You run for 10 minutes for a few days a week. 15 the next week. Then 20. Then half an hour. In other words, you practice getting fitter. And, eventually, a marathon would be a realistic goal. A challenge, yes, but a realistic one.

When you start lifting weights, you start small. You start with something that’s a little bit uncomfortable but still doable. You don’t walk into the gym, try to lift the heaviest weight, fail miserably, and then get angry and sad and start crying because you can’t do it; it would be outrageous to expect that you could. Eventually, though, after practicing for long enough, you will easily lift weights you couldn’t even pick up before. It’s inevitable.

Same with basketball. You’d start working on your shot by going as close to the basket as possible and getting your technique right – your footwork, where you hold the ball, how you release it. Whether you scored or not at the beginning wouldn’t even matter – it would only be about developing your technique, and ingraining it through practicing it over and over.

And yet…And yet…And yet!

I mean, you can see it, right? This is exactly what dieting is. You expect, with no practice whatsoever, to change years (and probably decades) of eating habits literally overnight, and then keep this up forever.

And you wonder why dieting doesn’t work? Why you hate going on a diet?

‘Going on a diet’ is exactly why going on a diet fails.

Well, thank goodness there’s another way.

A way that involves not starving and restricting yourself, but eating enough of the good stuff. A way that involves practicing making healthy choices, that’s all about developing a healthier relationship with food.

Let me be clear: you are making it SO hard for yourself, and it doesn’t need to be.

The baby learning to walk, running a marathon, lifting weights, playing basketball. None of them happen overnight and you’re totally OK with that concept. You understand it, you get it…to be frank it’s fucking obvious!

Your relationship with food is the same. It’s a practice, not some arbitrary result you measure on a scale.

Isn’t it time to treat it as such? TC mark

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Image Credit: Rachael Gorjestani

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