Sunday, September 8, 2013

Messing with your mind (again), why diets don't work and Louis Vuitton

Quite a while ago now, I promised my friend List_Addict from Fur Earwig fame (20.000 hits and counting, congratulations List_Addict) that I would write a post on why diets don't work.  It has taken a while, but she has inspired me to get back to the laptop with a recent post inspired by Louis Vuitton.

I loved the look so much, I copied it myself, although, due to my recent thyroid surgery, I have added a scarf to it.  Needless to say, scarfs will be a standard feature of my look for the next few months, and depending on how well the scar heals, may perhaps become a permanent feature.

I loved the mix of silk, wool and (fake) fur, not that you can make out the fur collar in this picture.

Back to the psychology, and bearing in mind a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, here is my theory on why diet's don't work.  It stems from the theory of "cognitive dissnance", which, basically says that people feel highly uncomfortable holding two conflicting ideas at the one time, so they adjust their attitudes to bring everything into alignment.  So here's my theory:

The events:

1. we read / hear about a diet that makes you lose weight quickly and easily - we see pictures, we hear people (possibly people on TV that we have never met, possibly people who are trained actors paid to recite a script) talking about how much weight they lost, etc, etc, etc;

2. we get excited about the diet and commit to it and for a week or two all goes well;

3. we then get really, really hungry and stray from the diet, possibly at a social outing;

The result:

1. On the one hand we "know" this diet works and is easy to follow, but

2. on the other hand we have not followed the diet.

We have these two "facts" that conflict with one another - we are in a state of cognitive dissonance.  Then, for some reason, we hold tight to the first thought, that the diet works, and conclude that there is something wrong with us because we cannot stick to the diet.  We have no willpower, we are a "fat person".  This leads to a downward spiral to eating poorly, dieting - which makes us feel worse, then eating poorly and so on.

The last diet I went on was the Michelle Bridges 12 week body transformation diet.  You are provided with a 1,200 calorie per day diet and are then required to do one hour of exercise a day with a target to burn 500 calories.  I stuck to it for a few weeks and got to my lowest weight in years, but I was so hungry I was ready to eat my own arm off.  Needless to say, I put all the weight back on in no time at all and felt like a failure.

Then I heard about the idea of cognitive dissonance and some suspicions started creeping into my mind.  What if it's not me, what if it really is true that diets don't work?  Recently, I listened to a podcast in which David Allen of Getting Things Done fame interviewed Charles Duhigg, an expert on habits, who said the absolute worst way to try and change a habit, the method that is absolutely bound to fail, is to say "I'm going to start doing this" or "I'm going to stop doing this".  For example, if you do no exercise and you say "from now on I'm going to get up early every morning an exercise", you will most certainly fail.

So what does work ... well I did come across another podcast with a possible answer, but I'm going to have to test out the theory before I can confirm that it works.  That will be the subject of my next post.

In the meantime, here's a song I really like, "Pride" by Syntax:

Oh, and because it happens to be Monday, I'm joining up with my favourite blog link up party over at Not Dead Yet Style.