The first Monday of every new year, hundreds of millions of people embark on a diet as part of their New Year’s resolution to achieve a healthier, slimmer version of themselves. For many, however, this goal is short-lived.
Within one month, a large number of ambitious dieters will have given up altogether. There’s always next January 1…
But even for those who do complete the too-common 30-day challenge or 12-week diet, the success achieved is short-lived. By the end of the year, 80 percent of those who were able to successfully lose weight earlier in the year will have regained the weight they originally lost.
I’ve had the privilege of working one-on-one with hundreds of men and women aspiring to lose weight and keep it off, many of which I began working with around the turn of the new year. What I’ve observed in my own work, as well as throughout my education and own research, is that most people diet for all of the wrong reasons.
- I want to lose 20 pounds
- I want to wear a size 4, 6, or 8
- I want to see my abs
- I want to look good for ______ (insert event, date, or person here)
And my response to each reason I hear regarding one’s desire to lose weight is always the same:
Why, why, why!?
You see, the issue with the many eager beavers who aspire to lose weight at the turn of the new year is that they have a surface level goal that society or someone else has influenced.
- My spouse wants me to lose weight
- My kids want me to lose weight
- My doctor wants me to lose weight
- My friend just lost 30 pounds doing _____ (insert terrible fad diet here)
These individuals don’t have a concrete reason “why” or strong grasp on a driving factor(s) that will influence their thoughts, actions, and ultimately, their outcome.
Consequences of Not Knowing Your “Why”
The absence of a clear “why” leads to many consequences. For starters, your actions and motivation have no fuel. When challenges present themselves – and they will – you’re left with no fuel to push through and beyond and instead often succumb to peer pressure or surrounding temptations. The result: you’re immediately thrown off track and take a step or two backward because you fall back on your prior habits (the one that put you in this position where you need to lose weight in the first place).
Secondly, when you lack a true purpose or “why” to achieving a goal, you’ll often resort to extreme measures to achieve short-term results. This lack of purpose clouds your view and narrows your vision so that you become blind to what lies ahead after achieving this goal.
- How are you going to maintain your new lower weight?
- Are you going to order bunless burgers the rest of your life?
- Are you going to always skip out on food-centric social occasions (by the way, all occasions revolve around food…)?
Second only to the lack of weight regain prevention education and support, I believe dieting without a “why” to be the single biggest reason so many people struggle to maintain their weight and thus have the same New Year’s resolution of weight loss year after year.
Know Your “Why”
I developed an action plan that I require many of my clients to complete before embarking on a diet (or when they begin to struggle during a diet) that has provided a profound impact on their motivation, compliance, and progress.
It’s called the “Why” questionnaire (clever name, I know).
But the name is intentional. That’s because each letter in the word “why” serves as an action-based acronym.
- W: What are your current obstacles to sticking to your nutrition plan?
- H: How will you overcome these obstacles? Brainstorm specific, actionable steps.
- Y: Remember that you’re doing this for YOU. What will it mean to YOU to accomplish YOUR goal?
W: What are your current obstacles to sticking to your nutrition and exercise plan?
The purpose of this question is to get you to brainstorm a list of potential challenges you may encounter so that you’re aware and able to prepare to overcome them. Common challenges include:
- Lack of spousal or family support
- Lack of education
- Lack of accountability
- Breakroom treats in the office
Taking the time to acknowledge these potential barriers to success is invaluable for short- and long-term success.
H: How will you overcome these obstacles? Brainstorm specific, actionable steps.
Once you identify your specific challenges you can then formulate a plan to overcome them. For instance, if you struggle with consistency and accountability, you can seek out an accountability buddy or hire a coach who truly cares about your well-being and success.
Additionally, if you lack the education and strategies to navigate the expected hunger and cravings or to prevent weight regain once your diet ends, you can seek out specific resources catered to providing you with the education you need.
An example I commonly employ with those who report struggling to maintain consistency on the weekends is coaching them to formulate a plan that prioritizes meal prep for Friday – Sunday to ensure it’s convenient to stay on plan.
Y: Remember that you’re doing this for YOU. What will it mean to YOU to accomplish YOUR goal?
Lastly, it’s important to pinpoint exactly why you want to lose 20 pounds.
- Do you want to feel confident in a bikini?
- Do you want to feel confident to ask your co-worker out on a date?
- Do you want to look and feel good naked?
- Do you want to improve your health and enhance your longevity?
- Do you want to have the energy to play with your children…and your grandchildren?
- Do you want to be a good role model for your children?
These are just some of the reasons I regularly hear related to “why” someone wants to lose weight. And they’re great! They serve as the literal fuel to push you through social occasions and weekend challenges that may have otherwise derailed you.
To help you find your “why” before dieting this year (or at any point in time), I’ve created a handy PDF that will help you organize your thoughts and answers to each question of the word “why”.
You can download this document by clicking the link above or by clicking HERE.