What Works When Diets Don't?

by Shane Idleman

THRIVEnet Story of the Month - May 2001

I was active and athletic in high school, but by the time I reached my twenty-second birthday, my weight had skyrocketed to 270 pounds. I was diagnosed with borderline hypoglycemia, my blood pressure and my cholesterol levels were high, and my health was rapidly deteriorating. As a result, I was declined life insurance.

When I met with my physician, he told me that I might need to take medication for the rest of my life and that I must go on a strict diet. I was shocked! I knew that if I didn't change my life, my life would change me! I immediately drove to a bookstore and purchased a diet book, assuming that it would help me.

I did what the book said, and I lost weight at first, but only temporarily. Within a few months, I gained back all the weight I had lost. I tried different diets for many more years; all of them failed miserably.

As a result I became angry and frustrated. I realized that many of the diet books had told me what I wanted to hear, but not what I needed to hear. I didn't know that traditional weight-loss plans have been shown not to be effective, long-term. I went to the beach and spent a long time thinking about why all the diets I had tried had not led to permanent weight loss. I listed what had not worked and asked myself what I believed I had to do to reach my goal of 210 pounds. Then I developed a seven-step plan for myself:

Choosing to change from the inside out was step number one for me. I realized that in order for change to occur on the outside, it must first occur on the inside. I found that people succeed at weight-loss when they stop dieting, and focus on changing their lifestyle. I stopped blaming genetic pre-disposition and my upbringing, and started taking responsibility for my own actions.

Second, I realized how important education was, and what you don't know can hurt you. After years of dieting, I became so frustrated that I almost gave up on fitness altogether. Who wants to exercise everyday, follow a special diet, and sacrifice time for nothing? I wanted immediate results, but when the results took longer than what I had planned, I got frustrated and eventually gave up. Therefore, when I lowered my expectations, and persevered, I started seeing results. A key element of education is "knowing what to expect."

The third step I formulated was to feel the pain of discipline over the pain of regret. Discipline and regret are two important mental concepts of planning for success. One produces change, the other hinders it. Therefore, I focused on delayed gratification rather than instant gratification.

The fourth step was to be prepared. I set realistic goals, stayed focused, and looked beyond the challenge while focusing on the goal. I realized that the goal I set today, is the reward I receive tomorrow.

Step five was crucial to my success: 'Choices.' Once we make a choice, it then makes us. I knew that success and failure would be determined by the choices I made. I learned how to make the right choices when it comes to proper food intake.

Step six was prioritizing. Putting first things first allowed me to focus my energy on only those things that are productive. For people who exercise, generally only 1/24th of the day will be spent exercising. That is a very insignificant amount of time considering that many of us use seven hours a day just to rest. Success for me is a result of how I prioritize the day; it is not necessarily predicated on how much time I spend exercising.

Seventh, I discovered that fitness is not about following a diet and a special exercise program. It's about developing a lifestyle that promotes well being, not only for me, but for those around me. I knew that I had the ability to make that change, so I did.

Eventually I lost sixty pounds and reached my goal weight of 210 pounds and 7.5% body fat. My physician was impressed. He said that I would not need medication; he added that I was in exceptional shape. My life, as a result, has improved tremendously. My health, my energy, and my productivity have all increased tremendously.

From 1992 to 2000 I worked for the world's fastest growing fitness company helping thousands of people lose weight. The ones who succeeded followed a certain pattern. They overcame adversity, both physically and emotionally. Many people fail to move forward in life because they become bitter about life, and not better as a person. My experience was that they resolve, and/or release negative attitudes before they can move forward. I've learned that bad choices take us farther than we want to go, keep us longer than we want to stay, and cost us more than we want to pay.

The biggest lesson I learned was that even though I was in shape, my passion for health and fitness had become an obsession. I realized that health and happiness are not found in outer appearance, but inner strength.

For nearly a decade I have worked with personal trainers, fitness experts, nutritionists, and others who are constantly concerned about their appearance. Some are not. Those who are not obsessed are truly balanced, they focus on health rather than extreme muscular definition. Unfortunately, in the diet and fitness industry, the process of conditioning the body often feeds a very selfish sense of self. Instead, our goal should be to maximize our God-created potential for quality of life, and thus, be better able to serve the needs of others, as well as ourselves.

There is another important lesson I learned. We tend to be pressed by those with whom we associate. Choose close friends who encourage you to a higher standard. Many times, the problem isn't that we raise the standard and miss it, it's that we lower it and hit it! Constant focus on staying in shape, exercise, and physical appearance is not healthy; leading a productive, balanced, and energetic life is.

In general, the diet industry, today, still focuses on what we want to hear and not on what we need to hear. They don't acknowledge, perhaps because they don't see, the pattern between those who succeed at weight-loss and those who fail.

What Works cover

It's important to understand that weight-loss is not as difficult as we make it; it becomes more difficult when we waste time on things that do not work. Permanent weight-loss and maximum health require a lifestyle change. You are enabled with the ability to change your life, and it begins with a decision!

If you don't change inwardly (your thoughts), you cannot change outwardly (your physical appearance). Choosing to change your lifestyle from the inside out, step one, begins with a choice. Choosing today changes tomorrow!

Shane has publishes a book, What Works When "Diets" Don't, 230 pages, © 2002 (El Paso Press). To learn more about this book or his weight loss method, visit Shane Sidleman's website: http://www.whydietsdontwork.com/. (October 2013: site not loading)

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