You know how it goes, you get motivated for your new diet, set out a plan and get started. It seems like for the first few days or weeks things are going great, then little by little you notice you’ve come completely off the tracks. It seems like it doesn’t matter what diet or changes you make, somehow, each and every time you seem to get derailed.
There are a number of reasons why one diet or another might fail. Sometimes the utter denial of a simple indulgence is too much. Other times, the diet itself is unrealistic to begin with. However, more likely than not, the reason your diet keeps failing could have everything to do with your mind. There are a number of psychological factors that could be preventing your ability to see your diet through. The first step is to be aware of what thought processes might be getting in your way of your success.
Let’s take a look at 5 key ways your brain might be defeating your efforts.
1. The Infamous Hidden Persuaders
Have you ever noticed when you’re on a diet the dessert options always seem to be ten times as appealing? Or how about finding all of your favorite guilty pleasures at the front of each grocery aisle? “Hidden Persuaders” is a term coined by author Vance Packard to illuminate some of the tactics marketers use to “trick” your brain into wanting to purchase an item. These messages come in a variety of ways, it could be painting the picture of a better life, a more desirable persona, justifying some indulgence, or simply living in the moment. Whatever the message is, the outcome is that we get thrown off our diet and make spurious decisions. Up to 70% of what ends up in your shopping cart is unplanned. Your best bet to beating the hidden persuaders is to make a list ahead of time and stick to it no matter what.
2. Limited Options
There will be times when you find yourself in a situation where it seems that you only have bad diet options to choose from. Maybe you’re working on a special project and there is a catered lunch, or you’re on vacation and the only food choice are poor ones, or you’ve been so busy that fast food seems to be the only option. By trying to plan out your day, and your diet, ahead of time you can help fight this, but in the end you are responsible for what you eat, always.
3. The Name Game
Which would you prefer: “Grilled Salmon” or “Wild-Caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon”? What if I told you it was the same dish? Obviously, the second description is way more enticing. A fancy, elaborate name, beautifully brilliant artistic plating, and exotic pairings to compliment the dish all work toward one thing…breaking down our diet defenses. You know that your diet won’t allow red meat, but it’s hard to say no to a farm-raised, grass-fed, 7oz Black Angus filet, but it’s easier to say no to steak. Both when you are eating out and when you are shopping you have to be alert as to what you are buying, the name might be very enticing but the nutritional value is the truth you must seek out.
4. Deceptive Packaging
Let’s face it, you’re going to feel better about eating something with “natural” written on the label, and the problem is that may make you think you can eat more too. Post-purchase dissonance, or buyer’s remorse, is the feeling of regret we sometimes get after we make a purchase. If marketers plan to overcome that remorse from the beginning, then not only will you be happy with your purchase longer, but you are more likely to buy it again. There are many terms or descriptive titles used on food packaging to make you feel better about the purchase, and many will also make you feel safer for indulging. However, the truth is that indulgence is still indulgence, and eating more of something just because it says “home made” doesn’t mean it fits your diet goals.
5. Your Inner Circle
They say you can tell a lot about a person by looking at the company they keep. This is true for any aspect of your life, but it is especially true when it comes to your diet. When dieting you have to be intentional about the changes you are making, and that means disciplined choices at every meal. If you have someone coaxing you to go against your diet then the fight just got a lot harder to win. It’s important to let your close friends know what your diet entails and what are your absolute no-no’s, and then if your friends are still trying to sway you, leave. Your health and your goals are for your future, no one can build that for you, but they may unintentionally take it away from you. Sadly, sometimes the best choice is to avoid the people that will try to tempt you, at least when you’ll be around food.
Even though it may seem as if your own brain is working against you sometimes, don’t get discouraged! Those old habits will take some time to break, but you can do it. Once you have replaced them with healthy habits you’ll find yourself on auto-pilot (with a hand on the wheel and an eye on the road of course!). Some of the diet threats listed above may be more of a weakness to you than others, being attentive and aware is the first step to taking action and hitting your diet goals.
To your best, healthiest body!
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5 Psychological Reasons Your Diet Fails