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The mindset of YOYO dieting and how to beat it - Nutrition Series

I’m sure we’ve all been there. Most of us who have an interest in trying to stay in shape or make ourselves healthier, probably have done some kind of fad diet in the past.


I’ve done my fair share for sure. When I was a teenager, I remember doing a cabbage soup diet for a few weeks…. Yes it is what it sounds like, just cabbage soup for 3 weeks. Not only did it stink out the kitchen to high heaven, but it also made me smell. I did lose weight on it, but do you know what, I then proceeded to put it all back on and more.


I imagine that’s a similar story to you guys who have yoyo dieted before. For those of you don’t know a yoyo diet isn’t any particular diet, it’s just the term given to diets when you lose weight just to put it all back on again.


Jenny has had a similar story as well about a melon diet, that she’s mentioned on the podcast before. Similar scenario, she could only eat melon for a couple of weeks… Guess what happened. Yep, exactly that, she lost weight, just to put it all back on again and more.


These are two very extreme examples of diets, but the concept is the same, when you prescribe yourself a very restrictive diet that you MUST follow, and which makes you go hungry, doesn’t provide fullness, and especially in the cases above – doesn’t provide ENOUGH calories or nutrition, then you will just go straight back to your old ways. It’s unsustainable and teaching you nothing.


Why are we so attracted to these diets and why they are no good!


All the research in the world on psychology will bring you back to this one simple fact. We want a quick fix and we want it now. We are always striving to be the most efficient we can be and short-term goals are always easier to stomach (excuse the pun) than long term goals.


When we look at a diet plan, we think OK I can do this very restrictive diet for a few weeks/ months then… I can bare the torture of it to lose the weight I want to lose. ßThat right there sound familiar?? That’s the really damaging mindset. Each time you do this, you’re reinforcing the idea that the bad foods are rewarding and make you happy, and the healthy foods are not rewarding.


We are not lazy… just trying to be efficient, and what’s wrong with that? Only that short term “efficiency” results in long term inefficiency. What’s more efficient is not putting the weight on in the first place, and when you do lose the weight, if you already have it, losing it for good – to never have to yoyo diet again! Sure there might be times you want to do a cut / bulk if that’s what you’re into. But the idea is you stay around the same healthy weight.


Often, we will start a diet because we think oh no, I’ve put on this weight, I NEED to get back to my previous weight quickly because I’ve got two months till holiday, or because I’ve got two months till my wedding or whatever it is. We wait until we really can’t put it off any longer, then it requires some ridiculously intense diet to temporarily lose it.

However, you’ll often end up not losing the amount you want, and as I said before, will end up putting it on AND MORE. Resulting in each time you go to lose weight, it being more and more difficult, eventually ending up resigning to yourself that it’s just because you’ve got older, you can no longer be as healthy as before etc.


Alright “Einstein” you’ve vomited some basic psychology at us, but how do we get out of that mindset and change for good?


Firstly, let me tell you, age is just a number. At my gym, there’s a lovely guy who’s 68 and deadlifting 250kg… he’s clearly not letting his older age get in the way.


There are plenty of examples of amazing people making healthy transformations at ALL ages. Young, middle age, older, there’s always time to make a change for good.


Stop associating bad food with rewards and healthy foods with non rewards – What happens when you can’t have something? You want it more right? That’s what happens when you put yourself on a restrictive diet. Because you say you CANT have it, you end up wanting it. You need to shift that mindset to you don’t WANT it. That is a huge difference! How do we do that? We need to not do the restrictive diets, and start just doing healthy eating as a lifestyle. You need to really dig deep to find your WHY and remind yourself of it.


Also, when people offer you chocolate or something like that, don’t say “I can’t, im on a diet”. Simply say no thank you, I don’t want it. It’s been shown if you start telling yourself and others something enough, then you genuinely start to fulfil it and believe it. On the odd occasion as well, allow yourself to have it, and think about whether that really bought you joy. Over time of repeatedly saying I don’t WANT it, and occasionally having it, you’ll find yourself stop craving it and the occasions you have it will be less and less.


By allowing yourself to eat it every now and then, it stops being the “forbidden fruit” (I’m sure there could be a pun here somewhere), and your healthy eating starts becoming a way of life


Old habits die hard – This isn’t going to happen over night. You’ve spent a lifetime in this mindset. It will be a gradual, but sustainable process. That doesn’t mean you’ll lose the fat gradually… nope, you can do that quickly, but changing your habits to make your lifestyle a healthy one will be gradual, so don’t let it get you down if in a month you’re thinking oh but I do still crave bad foods and do still struggle a bit to go the gym.


You’ve got to trust the process, but over time, it will become a way of life. Imagine getting to the point where you don’t have to constantly think about what you can and can’t eat. Imagine when you don’t have to worry about losing or gaining weight. That’s the goal, and THAT is worth it!


Start associating healthy foods with healthy mind and body– When you find yourself having that healthy food, celebrate it. Cherish it. Reward yourself for rewarding your body. When you think about bad foods… do they ACTUALLY make you feel good? Hell no – you have the pang of guilt, and that greasy salty taste actually leaves a disgusting feel in your mouth. Even if it tasted good in the moment, did it truly make you feel good?


FYI, you can make healthy food taste good too. That’s what we love to do. There’s ways to making healthy food taste good. Seasoning is your friend… but that’s a whole other blog post.


But here’s a little hack. You’ve heard of Pavlov’s dog right? His specific idea was that you could make a dog salivate by the sound of a bell, through associating the bell with food, to the point of not needing the food anymore to make the dog salivate. Well I’ve got news for you, we’re no different. We can train ourselves to start actually feeling good when we eat good food, through conditioning and rewards. One way to start to do this, is through rewarding yourself each time you eat healthy food. What do you consider a reward (other than food and drink). Do you like reading? Do you like watching TV? Whatever it is that truly brings you joy, reward yourself with it. I.e if you have a day where you’ve eaten only healthy foods, then read 30 mins of your book, watch 30 mins TV, sing for a big – whatever it is you TRULY enjoy doing and gives you happiness, do that AS A RESULT OF eating healthily. The important bit is to do less of it/ don’t do it on the days you don’t eat healthily. Over time, you’ll start subconsciously associating the joy of the thing you truly enjoy doing with eating healthily. Eventually, you’ll just end up eating healthily and doing the things you enjoy doing, without even thinking about it!


Mindset is so key. That why we’ve included a mindset module in our 12 week transformation programme. In this module we delve deeper into your mindset about exercise and food, and give you actionable things to start doing to create new good habits and stop old habits. Changing your mindset is the ONLY way to stop the constant yoyoing of putting on weight and taking it back off. It’s the only sustainable way to lose weight for ever. Also, at the end of the day, it’s the easiest. Food and exercise no longer becomes a battle, it becomes a way of life.


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