Ever wondered why you never finish a diet? Curious about why you lose 10 pounds, only to put 15 back on? Maybe there’s a thing or two you can learn from religious fundamentalists… here’s the top 7 reasons successful dieters are like religious fundamentalists.
1.) There is only one true diet
Much like a religious fundamentalist recognizes only one true religion; a successful dieter recognizes only one true diet. This is especially true if they’ve had any success whatsoever in losing weight on the diet. It doesn’t actually matter what the diet is – just be sure that the successful dieter will have found a diet that works for them, and will stick to it like glue.
This is helpful to the individual – after all, if you find something that’s working then stick to it. But it can be remarkably unhelpful for everyone else. Because the dieter believes that their diet is the only way to lose weight, and will recommend it to friends and family irrespective of whether or not they would actually benefit from the approach.
Remember, we’re all individuals. Find the diet (or religion) that works for you and stick to it like glue. Success comes from dedication.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Dr Atkins, Pierre Dukan, Mark Sisson or anyone else in between. The successful dieter will blindly follow every single instruction issued by their “Messiah” to the letter.
Why is this important? Because too often people want to change a programme that works. You get a fat guy with no experience in training or diet thinking he should put a few “tweaks” into something proven to work with a lot of research behind it. Sure, there are spinoffs and tweaks that can be made (just like there’s dozens of different versions of Christianity) to suit individuals, but that shouldn’t be your starting point.
If you want to make wholesale changes to the diet you’re on, maybe it’s not the right diet for you in the first place. Find one you agree with, can stick to, and enjoy. Then follow that diet to the letter.
3.) You gotta have faith
The whole point in religion is to have faith in the absence of evidence. You can’t see God, so you need to have faith to believe. Just the same reason people have to have faith in their diet. Luckily a diet will manifest itself in lost inches around your waist, so you only need to keep the faith for a few weeks to check whether it’s working or not.
The blind faith that some people put into their diets is fantastic. Let’s face it, Atkins, Paleo, Dukan, The Zone… even Weight Watchers – the only reason these diets work is they restrict the total number of calories that a person eats. But the followers of these diets will tell you it’s something magic about their specific diet. And you know what? Who cares whether they’re right or wrong – that blind faith leads them to better overall dietary adherence.
Believe in your own diet and have faith you’ll succeed. Without either of those ingredients you will be doomed to fail.
Much of religion is set up to lead us away from temptation – normally from the temptation to do something enjoyable (sinful). Successful diets have this within them too.
Take a look at the Paleo “caveman” diet, by way of example. By forcing people to eat natural, unprocessed foods you remove a huge portion of the calorie-dense fast food options that we’re saturated by today. Atkins chops out carbohydrates – so no snacking in the candy jar or gorging on biscuits. Low fat diets force people to give up ice cream, fast food and cake. By putting red lines around certain food groups, these diets are actively stopping you from acting upon your temptations.
The best long term diet for you is often the one that restricts your ability to over-consume food. If there’s a particular food group you crave more than any other, perhaps you’d do well having a break from it for a while. Or at least cutting back on your intake. Which leads me to…
5.) They work harder when their faith is tested
If you find a religious zealot and tell them God doesn’t exist, they work even harder to prove that He does. The more we refute someone’s faith, the more they entrench their views.
This is the same thing you see with successful dieters. They realise that the path to being thin is far from straight. They know there will be challenges and obstacles on the path to leanness. Occasionally they get tempted and break their diet (just like religious people sometimes fall from grace). But the successful dieters are those that realise temporary setbacks are nothing in the grand scheme of things. The successful dieter goes right back to their diet as soon as possible after a slip up.
What’s the take-away message from this? We all get tempted and we all make mistakes. It’s what we do afterwards that sets apart the winners from the losers.
6.) Their Dogma and Rituals keep fat at bay
The heavily religious have a series of dogma and rituals within their organisation that keeps people “within the fold”. Similarly, successful diets have a series of rituals that help keep you on track.
Whether it’s the instruction not to eat past 6pm, or the idea of a “cheat day” or even the nutrient cycling and intermittent fasting approach I use, these rituals make it easier for people to stick to their diet. And that is extremely important when looking for a long term dietary solution.
Do these rituals make the diet work? Of course not! No more than celebrating Christmas makes you a Christian. But these aspects of dieting are very important in letting people enjoy the diet they are on, and in stopping you from over-consuming calories in the first place.
7.) Even zealous atheists can be compared to successful dieters…
Atheists are there in the background, demanding that religious folk put up evidence to demonstrate the claims made in the Holy Scriptures. And some are just as zealous in this drive for evidence and reason as any religious zealot is about their chosen path.
Similarly, some people refute all the claims of the diets above and insist it’s only calories in vs. calories out that matters. They cry foul whenever a diet “guru” makes outlandish claims to the contrary and use science to bash other diets over the head.
As you can tell from reading around this site, I fall into this latter category of dieters. I won’t waste my time with anything unless it’s a way to reduce calorie consumption. And this approach works just as well for those of us who want to use it. As I point out in the article “Why Intermittent Fasting is NOT a Magic Bullet for Fat Loss” you can sometimes get too delusional, believing that the dietary protocol you’re using is somehow delivering benefits over and above those you’d get from normal calorie restriction. That said, provided that your choice of diet is a way to restrict your calorie intake and you enjoy it, does it really matter why the diet works?
The most successful diet is the one you can stick to for the longest. If that’s Intermittent Fasting, training with weights and following the calorie/nutrient cycling and timing I propose here, great. If it’s the Zone or Atkins or Dukan or Paleo – great. Find a diet that works for you – one that you can stick to. And remember to be flexible enough to keep going even if you fall off the wagon occasionally. After all, religious people don’t stop being religious just because they forgot to go to church one Sunday morning, so you shouldn’t quit your diet just because you occasionally break the rules.
Let me know what’s worked for you in the comments section below.