Monday, August 23, 2010

Throwing out the standard approach to diet and excercise Part 1.

Diet and exercise, diet and exercise, diet and exercise...

That is all I can remember growing up as an obese kid and then into adulthood and still hear it today. Before even venturing into the subject of what the diet and exercise regimen should be (low fat/high fat, high carb/low carb, processed/organic, free weights/machines, cardio/strength, ad infinitum......) I believe from my experience and reading/observing  others there is a fundamental problem with the way almost all of the regimens are administered.

It came to me as I was examining how I got to my super-super obese state. I had a history of repeated attempts at diet and exercise (of differing varieties) with the same result time after time. An all out effort on the diet and exercise front with clean eating and regular exercise for some period of time - a real commitment because this time "had to be the last". The initial results and consistency were outstanding!

But you can only burn a candle so brightly for so long and eventually there would be a burn out - a special occasion that would lead to a poor food choice, or a business trip that precluded the normal workout, then after such intense effort up to that point it was the almost an immediate reaction to punish myself for throwing away the prior efforts I had so diligently exerted.

This is typical of a lot of the various discussion board's "I fell off the wagon" posts. Great starts, a little slip up and then they were off to the races in the wrong direction.

The first chart below is my depiction of this typical approach - drilled into the hearts and minds of all the obese in the country. There is no start up period - just a program of diet and exercise bundled together that you must do from the start and forever more if you are going to be successful and stop allowing yourslef to be so unhealthy.

Somewhere along the way you are not perfect and suffer what I call a "Failure Crash" - basically overwhelming guilt for being so incompetent as to not be able to follow a simple diet and exercise program.

Here is the key that came to me as I examined my typical results with the standard approach. After my first failure I would actually end up at a worse baseline than before doing anything, I had failed so why not fail harder, poorer food choices, less physical activity, etc.. This is the "Failure Penalty" so many people assess on themselves when they fail the standard methods.

Then the cycle starts over - now the next time you decide you have had enough you are starting from a worse baseline and when you have another failure you asses yourself another "Failure Penalty" down to a lower state...this quickly becomes the road to an out of control health spiral.

Looking back at my trip to super-super obesity I had gone through this cycle of all out effort -> failure -> degradation -> all out effort -> failure -> degradation......many times.

Coming up in Part 2 - What I decided to do to break the cycle.


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