How to deal with diet failures

Have you ever been on a diet and thought or said these dangerous two words: “I’ve failed”?
Most of us have. And most of us have been mistaken. We only fail by not starting again after a setback.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
— Nelson Mandela

There are many challenges in pursuing weight loss. Some are external, and some are internal. All of them are surmountable — what it takes is attention and compassion. If you are observant regarding diet challenges, and compassionate with your thoughts and feelings, you can overcome all obstacles.

“Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.”
― Marilyn Monroe

External Challenges

The modern world was not designed for weight loss. The food industry in America produces more calories than we can consume. It also makes foods that are more caloric and more tempting — sweeter, fattier, saltier and more addicting — than our brains evolved to handle. Restaurants prioritize aesthetics over health, and retailers prioritize profits over nutrition.

This means we need to be vigilant about our choices every day, and to plan ahead to make sure we have healthy options at hand when we are at work, traveling, and at home. We can’t assume there will be a safe choice unless we take responsibility for providing it.

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road… Unless you fail to make the turn.”
― Helen Keller

So if an emergency or unplanned event causes us to be caught without a healthy option, don’t interpret it as a failure. Simply note what happened, and reframe the situation as a learning opportunity. Each “failure” is a learning opportunity in disguise. If you’re paying attention, next time, you’ll know what to do.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
— Maya Angelou

Internal Challenges

How forgiving are you? If a friend makes a bad choice, do you judge them, or do you help them? Now, if YOU make a bad choice, do you judge yourself, or do you compassionately note the opportunity for self-improvement? Many of us have a stern voice in our heads that’s quick to judge but slow to forgive. We absorb and internalize voices of authority while growing up, and as a result, we can be a bit harsh with ourselves.

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
— Henry Ford

Again, a mistake or a passing weakness is nothing more than a momentary event. It’s not a moral failure, nor is it a sign that you’ll never succeed. It’s just a reminder that you’re human and living in a world with temptations all around. Avoid black-and-white thinking, which leads to self-punishing thoughts. Remember what airline pilots and ship’s captains know — you arrive safely at your destination not by moving in a perfectly straight line (which is impossible), but by making an infinite number of tiny course corrections while you travel in approximately the right direction. Airliners do not fly with their noses pointed 100% at the destination runway, and yet each landing is considered a success by 100% of the passengers.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
— Albert Einstein

Pay attention

Do you count your successes, or your failures? We only see what we look for. Try to celebrate each of your good choices throughout the day, and you’ll quickly find that not only are you doing better than you thought, but that it becomes easier to do better over time. If you focus on your mistakes, that will quickly send you down a despair spiral that you likely do not deserve.

Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.
— Dale Carnegie

Preserve willpower

We only have a certain amount of willpower each day. Willpower is depleted by decisions, adversity, and fatigue. Try to plan ahead to prevent the need for decisions, limit the number of diet challenges each day to reduce adversity, and get enough rest and “me time” to reduce fatigue. Each time you notice a challenge, devise a solution to eliminate it next time. This will help you maintain your willpower all the way to bedtime, and avoid losing control or midnight snacking.

“Success . . . seems to be connected with action. The successful keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”
— Conrad Hilton

Control hunger

Hunger will quickly deplete your willpower as well. On a well-designed weight loss plan, hunger must remain under control. You need a wide variety of tasty, filling, lower-calorie foods to keep hunger at bay with fewer calories.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
— Thomas A. Edison

Compelling, positive vision

Remember why you are doing this. Write down your reasons for dieting and put them somewhere you’ll see daily (bathroom mirror, refrigerator, office desk). Make them meaningful. “Run with my grandchildren” is more powerful than “Lose 10 pounds”. Avoid negative thoughts and language in all forms. “Get slim and sexy” is more powerful than “feel less ashamed”. Move towards a positive vision, not away from a negative one. Banish negative language, even in your goals.

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
— Benjamin Franklin

Proceed from love

Have you ever said “I’ve been battling my weight for X years”? Try to replace that with “I’m taking better care of myself.” And rather than being a person who’s battling with your own nature, consider instead that you are becoming a person who makes different choices. When you shift your perspective, you find that replacing old foods and old habits becomes easier and more joyful. It’s easier to crowd out old foods with new better foods when it’s a choice, not a punishment.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”
— Winston Churchill

Measure progress

Continuous improvement will not be possible without careful progress tracking. Be sure to weigh yourself each day (directly upon waking is best), and take stock of what might have positively or negatively impacted your weight the day before. Then make adjustments — again, compassionately, without beating yourself up.

“A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”
— B.F. Skinner

Celebrate small victories

A big goal can seem daunting and distant. It can seem impossibly far away. But setting interim goals such as a 10-pound loss, or one clothing size, is achievable in a reasonable amount of time. Break your weight loss journey up into many small goals, and celebrate each milestone.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
― Maya Angelou

Don’t punish yourself

It may seem virtuous to cut calories severely. Feeling hunger might feel like you’re accelerating your progress. Restricting food after cheating might seem like you are making up lost ground. But these are all illusions. Anything that increases hunger will also increase the likelihood of surrender. Slow and steady wins the race. Start each day anew and mentally prepared to succeed, with a solid diet plan in place to support you.

“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”
— Julie Andrews

These principles are a taste of the coaching you receive in an iDiet program. You can do this, if you follow these suggestions, have a solid food plan, are kind to yourself in thought and deed, plan ahead, and take things one day, one meal, one moment at a time. If you’d like more of this, iDiet has a variety of plans available, including our new independent online video course (iDiet OnDemand), and our live online interactive group support and education program (iDiet Engage). Learn more about both of them here. And be good to yourself.