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diet - a four letter word?

When it comes to make long-tem changes in habits for better health, more people fail than succeed.  Even when some succeed for a little while, they end up failing in the long run and returning to their unhealthy habits. If I had a dime for every person I’ve met who has lost weight on a fad diet, just to put the weight back on and then some…

Let’s look at the statistics.  Ninety eight percent of us fail to keep health resolutions.  Only one in twenty obese dieters are able to lose weight and keep it off for at least a year. 108 million Americans (about a third of the population) are on some type of diet this year, and dieters typically make 4-5 attempts per year. Despite the ready availability of health information, a multitude of programs and all the medical and psychosocial advancements of recent years, the percentage of overweight/obese people and chronic diseases associated with obesity has continued to increase exponentially over the last decade.

Recent studies of various popular weight-loss programs show that all of the programs worked – if people used them consistently, but people rarely did.  The National Weight Control Registry reports that there are a variety of ways that successful people lose weight and keep the weight off. Most report using a low calorie, low fat diet and doing high levels of activity.  They also found that 45% of successful people lost weight on their own, and 55% used some sort of program. Some of the common success behaviors:

  • 78% eat breakfast every day.
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
  • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

So if success can be achieved with any good program or without a program, and we have the knowledge to nourish our bodies and eat less calories than we burn, why is it that so many fail to achieve lasting weight control? 

According to the authors/researchers of the recent book Change Anything, we need to understand more than the science of weight loss, like burning more calories than you consume.  We need to understand the social science of weight loss: the study of you, your unique life, your particular environment, and your personal quirks. Researchers and programs give you generic hints that apply to the general population, but this type of advice serves only a small percentage of people a small percentage of the time.  ‘Changers,” people who are successful in losing and maintaining weight loss or changing anything else in their lives, study themselves and build a plan that is uniquely suited to them. They take into account all of the areas that influence their lives and behaviors.  The authors of Change Anything refer to the “Influencer Model” to cover each area of influence, a 2×3 matrix that including motivation and ability in personal, social and structural areas.

Here are 4 steps listed in the book, and steps that I utilize with my coaching clients, to help you develop your own change plan and achieve your weight loss and health goals:

1.) Identify Crucial Moments

Focus on only a handful of moments when you are most at risk of behaviors that sabotage your goal.  These are the moments of truth that would lead to the results you want – if you could get yourself to do the right behaviors. You probably can think of some of these things right off the top of your head – certain times or places, being around certain people, or in certain emotional states. Maybe you know that you have trouble resisting the doughnuts that are brought into the office by a coworker, or sitting down to watch TV in the evening inevitable involves mindlessly downing an entire bag of chips or a big bowl of ice cream.  The crucial moments vary from person to person, so it is imperative to study your own behaviors and identify what moments put you at risk.

2.) Create Vital Behaviors

Once you’ve identified your crucial moments, create the rules you’ll follow when temptation comes. Crucial moments tell you when you’re at risk; vital behaviors tell you what to do.  For instance, if your plan is to exercise after work but you know that once you come home and sit down you’ll feel tired and won’t have the motivation to exercise, your vital behavior could be to stop at a park on the way home and walk for 30-60 minutes before you even get home.

3.)  Engage all 6 Sources of Influence.

Develop a change plan that helps you to recognize the crucial moments and engage in vital behaviors. Consider each area of influence and prepare a plan in advance. A study of addicts cited in the book showed that 80% succeeded in reaching their goal when they had a plan prepared in advance for their crucial moments and vital behaviors. Also, write your plan down. Writing your plan can increase your likelihood of following through by more than 30%.

Influencer Model: 6 Sources

Personal Motivation Personal Skill
Social Motivation Social Skill
Structural Motivation Structural Skill



4.) Turn Bad Days into Good Data

Be a scientist in the study of you. Will you succeed 100% with your plan from day one? No. You’ll have good days and bad days. When you face failure, you’ll have a choice – become depressed or become curious. First option: blame yourself, get discouraged, binge and lower your self-esteem even further, Or, choose the second option: get curious and examine what just happened, adjust your plan and try again. The goal is not perfection, but progress. And one success will lead to another success, getting you to your goal.

As a health coach, my role includes coming along side you to help you identify your critical moments and vital behaviors, create a plan uniquely suited to you, and adjust that plan as needed to reach your goals. Step by step, you can do it!  Let me know how I can help.

To your health,



ABC’s 20/20 5/11/12
Change Anything, Paterson et al, 2011 by VitalSmarts, LLC

About Tamara

Tamara Golden is a wife, mother of 3, board certified Holistic Nurse, whole health educator, board certified health and wellness coach, and ordained minister. Her passion is helping God's people overcome lifestyle-induced health challenges and align their habits with His divine design for health and healing so they can fulfill their calling, unhindered by poor health and chronic disease.