If your yearly resolutions repeatedly fail, especially when it comes to weight loss or sustaining weight loss once you hit your goal weight, then there can be a variety of explanations. Unfortunately the most common and pervasive reason for diet failure is “lack of honesty or lack of compliance.”
Are you really being honest when it comes to what you’re eating?
If you are on a sensible, balanced diet, then you are well ahead of the pack trying to lose weight on the many bizarre and trendy diets that populate the dieting industry. A sensible, balanced diet (think DASH, Mediterranean, Volumetrics, and Flexitarian) includes most food groups, but considers portions and calorie counting as part of the program. These diets can be personalized and are healthy enough to sustain long term. From a behavior perspective, individuals who diet usually begin with strict portion measurements and a very solid and committed attitude, but over time start “to fudge” portions and food choices a bit. It might be some extra mouthfuls while cleaning off plates at dinner time, or extra tastings while prepping and cooking food, or some innocent spoonful of desserts that others order at a restaurant. When you move into the gray zone, you can easily start to accumulate extra calories that snowball into weight gain. That’s when honesty starts to segue into denial. That’s typically when you feign disbelief as the scale reading skew upwards.
How do you become more honest with your self-reporting?
Studies suggest that keeping concrete records or a food diary has worked for many people because it offers concrete information. Of course, if you decide to “forget” to enter all the foods you eat – the diary won’t work. But if you do keep a food diary faithfully, it can help to keep you honest. If you know you have to “write it and own it if you eat it,” the diary may also help to keep you from giving into cravings when the urge comes, and keep you committed in general, especially if you are planning to share it with a health professional or support group.
Certainly research shows that keeping a journal on your smartphone likely means you will commit to the process because most of us have our phones close by 24/7. Apps like calorie trackers can also help to keep us honest, though currently not all of the apps are precise. Still, it’s a great idea to use simple technology like a food scale so you keep checking portion sizes on an ongoing basis. That’s the area of control that often goes first.
In the end, you have to decide that your commitment to a lifestyle change will have honesty at its core. If you do lose a grip on your diet, consider still maintaining the food diary. It may prompt you to re-connect with your commitment, especially if you’re eating significantly more and keeping honest track of those eating experiences. Seeing it in print can be a huge wake up call. If you don’t write it down, it’s almost like it didn’t happen. That’s human nature.
Do you tell your doctor you are compliant, even when you’re not?
If you have been diagnosed with obesity or diabetes, or have several lifestyle-related health conditions, you may have quite a load of work required daily, in order to be compliant. The daily commitment would require that you make specific food selections, measure portions, take your medications, weigh yourself, check blood sugar levels, log exercise minutes and more. In a recent MedPage Today discussion, the notion of constant and consistent compliance was considered unlikely among most patients. An equally important issue is whether the non-compliant patient will actually share that fact with their doctor.
Doctors know how hard it is to manage and stick to a restrictive diet, especially in a world where fast food and junk food are the foods most commonly consumed, constantly advertised and round-the-clock available. They also know that life can “get in the way” of a true commitment. Healthcare has made it nearly impossible for doctors to spend adequate time with their patients. This reality can be a very challenging problem for the individual managing several lifestyle issues who requires support and education. It’s also critical for a doctor to reassure a patient, letting them know that the examining room is a “no judgement zone.” That means that even if the patient has periods of non-compliance, they can share the information with their doctor without shame or embarrassment. If the patient is non-compliant and hides this information, it’s likely that diseases like obesity and diabetes will progress and there will be a higher risk of complications.
How can you be more compliant?* ** Share challenges with your doctor.** If you are struggling to find the foods being recommended, your doctor needs to know. If you are caring for someone let your doctor know. If you are struggling at work with food timing or storage, being allowed to test your blood sugar, or being allowed a lunch break to work out, you need to let your doctor know.Brainstorm and figure out manageable solutions.
Share depression or stress with your doctor. Depression, stress and anxiety are common culprits that can interfere with compliance. Let your doctor know if these conditions arise so he can help to create an action plan to address these comorbid conditions.
Use the food diary technique and apps on your smartphone to keep you committed. Have the menu plan of the day written down or on your smartphone so you can have a concrete reference for your daily diet. Use phone alarms or reminders to signal when it’s time to take your medications or test blood sugar.
Use a seven-day pill box to set up your medications. There are versions of pill dispensers that will also separate pills with time slots for individuals who have to take pills several times daily, and single day multi-dose pillbox options as well.
Make sure you have a “team” available. If you have been diagnosed with obesity, you should have a doctor and possibly a nurse practitioner, personal trainer or exercise specialist and dietician or nutritionist all working together to help you. If your insurance doesn’t cover this, at minimum find a support group to help you to troubleshoot and to stay motivated. If you have diabetes, you may also need many of these team members, as well as a diabetes educator who provides additional education and dietary advice.
Be brave enough to be honest and commit to strategies that support compliance. Your mental and physical health will reap the benefits and you will be more likely to achieve your health goals.
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Known as The HealthGal, expert contributor Amy Hendel is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, columnist, and brand ambassador, as well as a health coach. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, you can find her on Twitter @HealthGal1103 and on Facebook at TheHealthGal. Her personal mantra is “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”