Top 5 Common Mistakes for New Year’s Diets

January 3rd, 2013
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cookies‘Tis the season! Well, not that season.  It is the annual season after the “season.” Post- New Year’s Day is when we awake from our national eight week collective stupor and remember that diet and exercise are actually kind of important. Gyms are now overflowing with new zealous members, and Wal-Mart is completely sold out of Slim Fast and Shake Weights. So, why is it that so many eager new dietary Cinderellas turn back into pumpkins in February and March?  Here are 5 common mistakes that dieters make:

Turning It Up To 11

I love people who give great effort. Growing up, I always admired the ball players who gave it everything they had every play rather than the extremely talented individuals who succeeded on their skills alone. And while I do admire new dieters often extreme efforts in the first few weeks of January, I also know that it is a very big reason that they ultimately fail to achieve their goals. Far too often people look at a “diet” as a project; something that must be accomplished.  The fact is that a sound diet and exercise plan cannot be accomplished, because it is never over. Focus on the process, not the results.

Taking Their Diet Too Seriously

I overheard a lady today standing in line at the checkout at my local pharmacy lamenting about a poor decision that she had made at lunch. Being the interested party that I am about nutritional matters, I happened to overhear that she felt bad about eating some carrots on her salad at lunch. She was on an “Atkins” type diet and was afraid this had completely thrown a monkey wrench into her diet.  Whatever was wrong with her figure had nothing to do with carrots.

Being too zealous with extreme elimination diets doom many dieters to failure. Many of these folks spend many weeks eating Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies, egg nog, and New Year’s Champagne but feel like a failure if they eat 35 grams of carbs in a day instead of 30 on January 5. Dietary compliance is about doing what you are supposed to do in PRINCIPLE most of the time and 10% of the time not worrying so much about your diet at all. The dirty little secret from those with nice physiques is they don’t sweat the small stuff nearly as much as you think they do.  Follow your diet, but also live life.

Not Planning

The first time most New Year dieters think about their diet plan is usually when they are drinking their first weight loss shake on January 2. Even then most of their thoughts usually are consumed more with “I’m miserable” and “when will this diet be over”, rather than the actual diet. The stark reality is your diet is crucial to your health, and what you put in your mouth not only determines what you look like but how long you may be around. Low calorie diet shakes and frozen 200 calorie meals with ingredient lists three paragraphs long are not what your body is designed to consume. Educating yourself on WHAT to eat is much more important in the long term than HOW MUCH to eat. Admittedly, some are just people of action who really don’t want to know the “why”, they just want results. In that case I suggest letting a either letting a nutrition professional do the planning for you, or investing in a high quality  pre-designed program like our 12 Week Start Up Plan.

Lack of Accountability

When you boil it down to its bare essence, long-term dietary success really comes down to establishing accountability for your nutritional decisions. Those who have the greatest success are usually those who establish guidelines for themselves which hold their feet to the fire on a regular basis. Whether it is weekly trips to the bathroom scale or measuring your waistline with a tape measure, those who adopt accountable habits are those who tend to have real and lasting success.

obese womanOne of my favorite methods of accountability is a simple wall calendar. Every year, I buy a calendar for the expressed purpose of tracking my dietary and exercise compliance. For a given day, I make a left slash if I have met my diet goals for the day, and a right slash if I have met my exercise goals making an “X”. Each night there is a tremendous sense of accountability when it is time to mark your calendar for that day. As time passes and habits form, you will make sure that you have done what you needed to do that day for the satisfaction of marking your “X”.  Give it a try.

Unrealistic Expectations

fat bellyI blame this one on two culprits; our instant gratification society and deceptive but very well-funded marketing campaigns by the weight loss industry.  You simply aren’t going to look how you want to look in eight days eating cabbage soup, two weeks on a “Hollywood” diet, or 3 weeks using the latest ab gadget. Most everyone knows what they would like to look like, and that look is simply the result of long term sound nutritional and exercise principles.  Of the 5 mistakes, this one is the most difficult to overcome due to the massive marketing machine constantly hypnotizing individuals to spend their hard-earned money on junky exercise gadgets, cheaply made but expensive supplements, and fad “quick loss” diet books that have more advertisements than information. A novice dieter would be much better served by spending their discretionary fitness dollars on a little expert nutritional guidance and a lot of wholesome, natural food.  After all, quality food and the knowledge about what to do with that food IS what dietary success is all about, no matter what the supplement guys say.

And there you have my five quick observations. Whether you are starting a new diet or are a wiley old veteran,  I hope your New Year and new goals are off to a great start. Keep your eye on your objectives and a positive attitude, and success will come your way.

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Matt Poteet, Pharm.D.

About Matt Poteet, Pharm.D.

Matt Poteet graduated with a B.S. in Biological Science from Lee University in 1998, and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Mercer University in Atlanta in 2004. Professionally he has been fortunate to hold positions on staff at two of the leading private, academic teaching hospitals in the southeast; Emory University in Atlanta and Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  - Read more about Matt Poteet, Pharm.D.