Consider Jane. Jane was my coworker for many years. Jane is a bit overweight and sedentary. She has never really exercised for any significant length of time in her life, which is to say that she has limited knowledge of exercise physiology. I’ve watched her over the years come in on Monday after Monday declaring that, “this is day 1 of my diet!” I’d watch her unpack a salad with no dressing as a snack and describe her exercise program to the girls in the break room who listened intently. She’d say how she wasn’t going to eat after 6pm, how she planned to walk around the hospital with her pedometer at lunch, how her family would be “on their own,” with regard to dinner during her diet, how her aunt’s friend lost 80 lbs on this diet, and on and on.
One Monday it was someone’s birthday and a cookie basket was delivered in their honor. Jane was stricken. The girls were giggling and eating cookies and celebrating a birthday together in the afternoon and Jane looked like her dog had just died. I asked, “Why don’t you have one? It’s a special day” She didn’t want to have one, because it meant the end of her program. If she ate that cookie, and joined in that party, she would officially be “off her diet.” It meant giving up. It meant failure. It meant restarting.
Jane’s focus was restriction. She believed that the she could change her body by reducing calorie counts. I am here to announce to all of the Janes (and Dicks) in the world, that that way of thinking is absolutely, categorically, and unquestionably, FALSE. You have not reached the end of diet programs because that is not the way. I submit to every trainer, every nutritionist, every fitness expert in the world, that the changes people are looking for can only occur during rest, and that a different way of thinking (a way that allows for that variable intensity and an occasional cookie) is warranted to finally overcome this widespread history of repeated failures.
Three overreaching themes will prevail in any new way that leads to success: No dietary restrictions, no going backwards, and no perfection goals. Long term transformation hinges on dynamic scheduling, and piecemeal progress, not perfection.