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Why Emotional Dieting Leads to Never-Ending Dieting


All learning has an emotional base. – Plato

You wouldn’t think the acts of dieting and losing weight would bring heavy emotions and questions to the table. After all, it is just “eat less, move more” right? The tricky thing is you need to set aside all emotion in order to achieve your goals, but in order to do that you have to change your emotional response.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be. If you embrace this idea, it will help you achieve your fat loss goals, and you can apply the same principle to multiple areas of your life.

How “You” Set Goals

I am going to cut to the chase. You are reading this hoping I will share how to go from point A (unhappy fatty) to point B (ecstatically lean) as fast as possible. You want to be lean. You deserve to be lean. You are tired of dieting, thinking about dieting, and your life being ruled by dieting. You are tired of trying to figure out if you should or shouldn’t eat carbs. You are tired of trying to figure out if you should do intense or moderate training. You are tired of trying to figure out if your training should be full body, splits, or a routine out of Men’s Health’s latest book.

You don’t care, you just want out and to get on with your life. Sadly, you lack crazy motivation that only exists in those who win Oscars or one-way tickets to institutions. Some of you even did that and it didn’t work.

The Real Problem?

You have been doing this for so long, thinking about this for so long, and worrying about this for so long that it should count toward your goals.

Yes, you think past and present thoughts, obsessions, compulsions, effort, and intensity should factor into your timeline for achievement.

So what do you do? You make a timeline, a goal sheet, a resolution…a proclamation! This proclamation has you achieving your goals as fast as possible. Perhaps 10 pounds in 4 weeks or 30 pounds in 12 weeks. After all, that is just a little over 2 pounds per week and a goal well within reason according to physical standards. You’ve seen other people do it. You have seen endless transformation photos and contests showing even higher rates of loss.

You say to yourself, “I have the willpower and self-control, because I want this!” So I ask you, How has that been working out for you?

Depending on Willpower Is Like Depending on the Lottery

Willpower and self-control are not only overrated by the average individual, they aren’t even understood. To understand self-control you have to understand the mental and physical properties behind it. Self-control requires a complicated cognitive, societal, and physical investigation. If you depend on the “I want it, so it will happen” model to get you through life, you are going to be met with mixed results at best and at worst, complete societal failure and solitary confinement.

A 2010 study titled, “Ego Depletion and the Strength Model of Self-Control: A Meta-Analysis,” examines the issue of self-control and particularly the strength model. In it though, it highlights multiple reasons behind our daily actions. This goes way beyond eating. Want to understand why you didn’t punch someone in the face today? Want to grasp the concept of self-monitoring in society? In short and brash terms, this is some heavy s**t.

When we look at the physical properties needed for self-control that influence our mental state, it is very clear why we fail at dieting from a willpower standpoint. For example, the prime meal for self-control in the body is glucose. If you don’t get the subtle subtext here, it means the less you eat, the less self-control superpower you possess.

Even single acts of conscious self-control work to deplete glucose. The more you are someone who worries, tries to resist temptation, and overthinks life and scenarios means you are likely depleting your energy faster than others.

We also see the more we use it, the less it works in the way it did before. For example, a 2007 study looked at the depletion of self-control with extension of use. They pitted a group of people who had to exert self-control while watching a movie (not showing expression, not laughing, etc.). Then, they followed that test with more demonstrations of self-control (Stroop test, not eating cookies, etc.). As the exercise for self-control went on, it was harder to maintain. This raises questions about fatigue and motivation, but it can all come back and link to energy. Less energy, less control.

Less food, less energy. Less carbohydrates, less glucose.

Now, things are not black and white, and there is such a thing as self-control training which involves working on your bodies glucose response and how diet and fasting can affect this response. This goes beyond simple motivation and a night of watching the Biggest Loser. The main point is not to build a house of cards on a seesaw.

What Is the Best Model for This?

It’s easy to say to yourself, “I will be happy with 1 pound of fat lost per week.” It is easy to say to yourself, “I will be happy with .75 pounds of fat lost per week.” It is another to truly accept the concept and set up your dieting strategy to fit that model.

I speak often about goal setting strategies and loss methods. A recent 2+ hour audio focused on nothing but this topic and has supplied hundreds of members with the “A-ha!” they needed. My dieting philosophy is one of cyclic dieting, and I will be speaking on this in more depth as the months go by. The notion of cycling isn’t new, but I have been working on testing and research for years now. Fast, slow, up and down. From research to anecdotes, it is clear being too hard on yourself and relying on pure self-control to maintain loss is a losing model.

The winning model? True patience and strategy. Not lying to yourself by saying, “Okay, a pound a week is good!” and then complaining when you hit a week where you actually lose a pound or have to make up for a week where you lost 3 or 4 in water. You aren’t being logical, you aren’t being strategic—you are being emotional.

Quick Points

  • Don’t rely on self-control, it physically fails you when you don’t eat.
  • Don’t lie to yourself in goal setting. Say, “This is what I will be happy with!” and mean it.
  • Know what your goals really are. If you need more help, this article is a great start.
  • Cycling solves the problems of any dieter, if they get out of their own way and do it right. If you want to see what a quality program looks like, check out the Beta 6C-Cycle for members here.
  • The more you express worry and concern about what you aren’t achieving, it is like a dose of failure right into the brain.
  • Don’t buy a lottery ticket, invest in a sound portfolio. Your life is a lottery if you let yourself win.
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