Depriving yourself of treats is a major reason diets fail, according to a leading nutrition consultant.
Avoid the cycle of restrictions and guilt by making room to eat things you really enjoy.
Consistency, rather than perfection, is the best way to get results with diet and exercise, she said.
If you want to lose weight and get healthier, lighten up on your dietary rules, according to a nutrition writer who has worked with stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and LeBron James.
Adam Bornstein is a former fitness editor for Men’s Health, bestselling writer on nutrition and health, and editor-in-chief of Schwarzenegger’s email newsletter. He says being too harsh while trying to lose weight or get healthier can backfire, causing frustration and guilt instead of results.
In his new book, “You Can’t Screw This Up,” he offers tips on how to find a meal plan and exercise routine to stick to for life. Many diet plans fail because they push people to make extreme lifestyle changes, and then feel guilty when they inevitably fail to live up to unrealistic expectations, according to Bornstein.
“You wouldn’t throw someone in the deep before they learn to walk on water. We give people complex and difficult things to do and we act surprised when they drown,” he told Insider.
The advice in her latest book is the distillation of more than nine years of research, including interviews with behavior change experts and her own personal experiences struggling to find balance in a sea of health misinformation, she said in an interview. .
“Start with what makes you happy, then build the other healthy behaviors around that,” Bornstein said. “This is the cheat code in life.”
Your diet should include foods you love, especially treats
One of the biggest dietary mistakes is assuming that all delicious foods should be off-limits, according to Bornstein.
Whether it’s cutting out carbs, eliminating sugar from your diet, or forgoing takeout meals like pizza or burgers, too often people assume they need to be strict about their eating to get healthier or lose weight.
In fact, the restriction can make you bankrupt, Bornstein said.
He likens dieting to pulling back on a slingshot. Every rule or forbidden food on a diet creates more and more tension, until something has to give. This slingshot effect can lead to yo-yo dieting, periods of restriction followed by binges, and then even more restriction to compensate.
To break the cycle, he says a stop trying to deprive yourself and instead make room in your diet for foods you actually enjoy, regardless of whether they may be deemed “unhealthy” by wellness gurus.
For Bornstein, that means indulging in a bowl of Frosted Flakes several times a week. Despite the fact that sugary cereals aren’t particularly nutritious, he said eating them had no ill effects on his health and benefited his diet by making it easier for him to stick to other goals.
As a bonus, you may find that once you stop thinking of certain foods as forbidden, it’s easier to enjoy them in moderation, she said.
“When you leave this cycle of thinking that you have to live in restrictions, you find a lot of the things you’ve been craving, you no longer crave,” Bornstein said.
Don’t panic if you miss a workout or overeat for a day
Too often, people try to be “perfect” with their food or exercise routines and respond to any setbacks by doubling down on incredibly strict rules or giving up altogether, Bornstein said.
For example, someone trying to diet might have a so-called “cheat meal” by starving themselves the next day or by deciding to go all-in with junk food binges.
Instead, the solution is to stop letting one small mistake derail the whole plan and instead jump right back into the rut without trying to compensate, according to Bornstein.
“Error is not the problem. Bodies can tolerate imperfections, what we don’t tolerate are extremes,” he said.
Aim for consistency, rather than perfection. To get lasting results from a healthy routine, it has to be something you can see yourself doing and enjoying for years to come.
“Health shouldn’t be a prison that prevents you from living,” Bornstein said.
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