It is true that if you aren't willing to put in the effort to make a change that no change will happen. That doesn't mean though that any plan can work for you. You need to do your research up front. It is easy for anyone to go online and get a nutrition certification, offer a new product, or sell services and there is consequently a huge menu of options. What isn't always clear is that many of these services are generalized with limited options for customization. You sign up, plug your numbers into a formula, print out pre-made worksheets, count your points, maybe buy pre-made meals, and you're good to go, right? So why are you back in front of the TV with that tub of ice cream right now?
Diets and meal plans are typically designed to help a person reach a temporary goal. It isn’t as hard to deny cravings or give up social opportunities when there is an end in sight. The problem is that once that end date has passed, there aren’t any new habits to stop you from washing down an entire cake with a keg of beer or crushing that whole plate of wings on a football Sunday if you believe that is what makes you feel good. Pretty soon you are back where you started.
We all react to food in our own unique ways. What makes one person feel great may make someone else feel awful. We also have our own unique set of goals and activities of daily life. Ask the next person you talk to if they believe that a marathon runner should be on a diet designed for a body builder? You won’t find many people who would say yes.
Knowing that, we still put pressure on ourselves to succeed on plans designed for other people. We pay for expensive programs that don't take our individual needs, goals, and realities into account. We don't question hired professionals when we run into issues. We run out and buy the newest book advertised on our morning TV program. Most of us have even had to deal with friends, family, and others who adopt one or another fad diet and try to drag us on board. We end up wondering how they ended up with a beach body while we are looking for pants with stretchier elastic. After cycling through a few of these experiences it is easy to feel like a failure and not see that maybe the plan itself wasn't right.
What if instead, you find a strategy that works for YOU?
As the end of the year approaches and you start thinking about your New Year's resolutions, first make a list of your goals. Have that list next to you as you evaluate plans and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it designed for the goals you've listed?
- Does your life realistically allow you to follow it?
- Is there any flexibility to account for special needs?
- Do you think that once your time on that plan is complete that you will be able to continue on your own?
Eliminating the mismatches up front will give you a better opportunity for success.
Whether you tackle your nutrition alone or with help from a professional, don’t accept any cookie cutter rules that your body tells you feel wrong. It isn’t ok to be tired, sick, have trouble concentrating, etc. If you learn that you feel and perform best if your breakfast includes a piece of toast, don’t let any mass-produced worksheet or even your anti-carb co-worker shame you out of it.
Lastly, building new habits takes time. A day with less than 100% perfection does not equal failure. Accept that some days a meeting may run long and lunch is the half eaten protein bar you found at the bottom of your bag. Learn from that day to stash better emergency provisions and move on. Give yourself permission to learn through trial and error and you'll find the right path to success.