This is a familiar complaint. It can be so frustrating, demoralizing, perplexing, . . . when people feel like they are following the rules and they JUST AREN’T LOSING WEIGHT. I’m going to share a secret, the reason behind most of the situations like this I see.
You may be seeing only a part of the picture and denying the other part, and it makes perfect sense why you would.
Let me explain. Many people tell me they have been following a strict plan – “to the letter” – and if that were the end of the story, it would be perplexing indeed. Yes, 1200 calories (or a very low carb diet, or a completely “clean” eating plan) will cause quick weight loss for almost anyone, if they can consistently follow it. That’s the catch.
Any extreme diet will not be comfortable enough to follow for very long. When the plan will simply not allow for enough food to satisfy hunger and/or enough flavor to avoid excessive cravings, healthy people will find ways to meet their needs – often without even being aware of what they are doing. Usually this means following a plan flawlessly all day or all week until later in the day or on the weekend when selective memory kicks in. A blind nibble of this, a mindless handful of that . . . all the while remembering only their feeling of extreme sacrifice. It’s a setup for disappointment, because only a dramatic weight loss would make the suffering seem worthwhile when the significant exceptions are not fully acknowledged.
We are capable of tricking ourselves into believing that a cup and a half of rice is really 1/2 cup, or that a restaurant meal loaded with calories is really within our plan limits. Further, we can (kind of) believe that many small “insignificant” handfuls of candy do not add up to a large amount of candy or that a boatload of cookie crumbs are “just a few crumbs.” Whether the highs and lows occur as daytime/nighttime variations, weekday/weekend cycles, or the roller coaster ride of on and off dieting in general, it is easy to selectively remember only how hard it feels.
I completely understand that when a feeling of sacrifice and deprivation is not followed by impressive weight loss, there is disappointment. Perhaps more importantly, there is also no logic, causing a feeling of complete confusion and despair. “I just cannot lose weight.” Hope is often lost in this crazy pattern.
Lest you think my message is “Just be more diligent about following your plan and it will work,” you are mistaken. My message really is:
“This is a crazy plan you are trying to follow. You are not following it consistently, and I understand why you are having trouble. You are creating your eating highs by continuing to revert to your deprivational eating lows. Let’s find a plan you can follow most of the time with acceptable comfort. It will be much easier to be honest about what you eat. Try it for a while, not just a week or two. Tweak it as needed to make it real. It will take some effort and some time, but it will work if you can stay with it most of the time.”
A realistic plan eliminates much of the reason for drastic swings in eating. In my experience, almost everyone consumes fewer calories overall when they eat more consistently than when they create intense hunger and cravings by depriving themselves excessively.