Why you fail – Real people, real reasons

As we all know, there are a million training programs and a zillion diets out there all claiming to be effective with respect to fat loss and/or health. Honestly, if you think about it, even if half of these diet/training programs work even 1/4th as effectively as advertised, we would have very few fat people… at least very very few fat people lurking the internet. But this is definitely not the case. As the number of diets and programs and health foods increase by the day, we, as a population, are becoming fatter and fatter by the day. As nutrition & fitness experts, food manufacturers and smart business minds (ha!), continue to come up with simple and easy ways to lose fat, we, as a population, are continuing to head towards obesity and disease.

Something doesn’t add up right. Something is wrong somewhere. And to me, the concept of these two diverging lines – success of diets/health foods/gyms and failure to successfully reach fat loss/health goals – has always been interesting. Sure we can end this with simple answers like ‘People are not committed’ or ‘Most diets are BS’, but that would only qualify as an aloof answer from someone who doesn’t care enough to invest the time to study the “why” behind these physiological and psychological patterns. Being someone who cares, I decided to look into this a little deeper and starting today this is what I will be addressing for the next few weeks.

I will be talking you about why you fail to reach your goal, why diets work/don’t work, why certain programs produce transformations while certain other produce only injuries, why some people succeed in the exact same training and nutrition plan as yours, why you feel like dog poop when you try to lose fat, why you gain everything back, why you are unable to commit, why fat loss seems like a never ending battle for some people etc etc etc. And in-addition to that (possibly once all the whys have been answers), I’ll address the hows – how you can stick to eating right for life, how you can safely and sustainably accelerate during a 10-12 week fat loss period, how you can train very less and get very much, how you can not obsess about food and stay fit and healthy, how you can stay motivated, how you can motivate people around you, how you can make a change and stick to it for life… without having to sacrifice the little pleasures.

First step of any research is data collection and thats exactly what I did. I asked the fine folks in my FaceBook group (What the hell do you eat Raj?!) the following question…

Sticking to a nutrition and/or training plan for a very short period of, say, 10 weeks. Assuming this will produce visible results and quite literally change your life wrt health & fitness…

Why can’t you do it? Why do you break? Why is consistency a problem?

We are pretty tight community and people are very approachable, love to share their experiences, struggles, problems and knowledge and are at all times ready to help each other out. And not surprisingly, I ended up getting some truly awesome responses. I am publishing them here verbatim with only the member’s names removed to protect their identities. If you would like to know more about who said what or if you would like to contribute, please join the group and do so.

Because when I go to buy electronics at the so called ‘electronics mall’ the first shop that I see as I enter is the donut store that has 23 different kinds of donuts. and the whole mall smells of freshly made waffle.  Because my hotel management thinks I would love to see free chocolates / cookies on my hotel bed everynight.


But its all in the mind and its about giving way to temptation. If I may give an example – its like quitting smoking – I have so i know what i am talking about. Really need to focus on the reason why you want to do it and shut everything else out. I had never crossed 7 days without a cheat meal until this month (been trying for > 3 months).I have now gone 20 days of zero sugar (+ only real food) and counting. Looking to do a 30.

I think lack of time is a big one. Take my case for example: I travel on average 3 hours everyday. Minimum time spent at work is 9 hours, sometime 12. Thats 12 hours of your day gone, just spent on work. the remaining time has to pack in – spending time with family(esp in kids r involved), cooking(sticking to the diet), meeting friends, errands like shopping and sleep. And the easiest thing to sacrifice here is sleep (I have been doing it for the past 10 weeks, I should know). And running on minimal sleep and trying to catch up on weekends becomes a nightmare.

Fitness training is fine, but nutrition/eating is a problem…sustainability is the key to this, right ?? but sustainability involves cheating; so, the more I cheat the more sustainable my plan becomes 🙂

let me explain:

instead of having a big cheat meal every <watever>, I eat a small portion of ‘acceptable junk’ (e.g. chips or some dessert but not wheat) more frequently (say few times a week). This works for me because I don’t wait for the cycle to eventually break; because when it does break, all bets are off 🙂

makes sense, no ??

Raj, how we wish there was a magic formuIa! I think people get superexcited in the beginning and try to change everything all at once -eating ,exercising sleep patterns – it can get overwhelming. Too much stress on any other front in life is a barrier for most – even if it may help to reduce the stress finally.

Also people focus too much on Results (which can only be incremental ) and feel that if they have fallen off the track -its of no use. But that is so untrue.Like bad eating patterns good eating patterns also need a fair amount of time to get ingrained. As another commenter says rightly there is no premium on virtuous eating except in forums like these . We wd be major party poopers anywhere else 🙂

In my case, it all boils down to my lack of seriousness/committment. Yes, there is lack of time, stress due to too much work in a traveling job that requires me to stay 2-3 days per week in a hotel, managing a kid etc etc. But inspite of all this, I know if I was serious enough, I would get it done. I am probably living under this huge illusion that I am healthy enough. I have not yet been jolted out of this illusion with something alarming, like say I was diagnosed with diabetes or some such thing. So as long as my “normal” life goes on without a hindrance, I am too cozy in my comfort zone to even make real serious effort to change.

But I must say I have started taking efforts like exercising/eating healthy etc thanks to following your blog. Also slowly getting into the mindset that it is better to be strong and healthy instead of discovering one fine day that things are seriously wrong and out of control.

Habits, boredom & friends for me….. Let’s say you are working from home and worked out in the morning, and the tummy is grumbling for the next something to get in to you… At that instant, I don’t make a mini-decision to reach for the fruit, salad or cottage cheese from the fridge and instead reach for the cheese crackers in the pantry(that I originally got for my toddler) …. It hardwired in the brain to reach for the option you have been trained to do since you are a kid…

Or when your friends call up to meet at the Mediterranean restaurant for dinner, and it’s winter time when your other outdoor activities have been to a minimum, it’s hard to pass up on the dinner invitation ….. And ofcourse you are so busy chatting, having a good time and distracted enough to forget about your original eat-out rules you drafted for yourself( choose the better options from menu and keep it to minimum) …. If you obsess over eating clean, you are constantly reminded that there is a long list of untouchable food options around you…. If you don’t obsess over it you sometimes go with the flow and forget to remind yourself ‘at the very instant’ the decision is made to eat or not eat something…….

No problem in terms of working out. But nutrition is a big problem for me, especially in India. I have borderline Aspergers. I need my routine and alone time. Both are impossible most days here. I get worked up very easily and rely on carbs to overcome stress. Rice is my vice.

Adjusting eating patterns, for me. If I were living alone (which I was, a year ago) it’s easier to cook the sort of food I want to eat – I like cooking, so that wasn’t much of an issue. Now, when my mum is the main cook and she is cooking for 4 people (and also rushes to work in the morning), it’s hard to demand multiple food options/ get access to the kitchen in the morning. Eating the right food is made easier when there is variety and its not always easy to come by. Also, the fact that when the hunger pangs hit, I have very limited ‘quick food’ options (given I am not a big cheese fan and am not permitted to eat fruits and nuts).

I sacrifice exercise over sleep. I prepare for diet during the weekend. The wife does help a lot. Sometimes I do exercise for a few weeks, then sleep starts to get affected. Probably something to do with the Adrenal. Then I get off exercise and sleep becomes easier. The exercise goes like a yo-yo :-(.

In my case, I am just lazy and need someone to kick my behind to get me to workout. I am not sure why that is the case with workin out ‘coz my diet was relatively easy to fix and I don’t need someone constantly reminding me to eat right! Also, another thing is that I easily get bored of workouts that I do. I never ‘want’ to workout.

I think its the number “10”. No, seriously, when you embark on a short term goal, its very easy to go astray if you don’t start to see results in week 2 or earlier. It’s a psychological thingy.

I think my problem is that I do not enjoy exercising alone. I try not to effect my sleep. Gyms are not an option because they are quite bad these days, they are full of equipments with no space for exercise. Quite a bit of my time goes into tackling my baby’s sleep issue. Only way I exercise is running on stairs carrying shopping bags in the weekends. But I take care of my nutrition quite well.

For me one the following has wreaked the consistency before. (1) Marking a workout time and if you cannot do it then skip it (2) coming from work in evening feeling tired and thinking of restaurant..(3) cheating more than once due to occasions like office get together or friends get together (4) If because of too much work and deadlines if workout missed 2 consecutive days then it goes all the way downside………This has been the case till now but now since my whole health depends on me sticking to this I am trying to workout whenever time permits it may morning 7 am or eve 9.30 pm…always try to prepare some real food and put it in fridge….but still long work day+ restaurant food and cheat meals are the worst factor that shake my discipline badly…….

In my case there is no problem working out, thanks to the quad I have a proof of this as I’ve not missed a single class. Initially accepting that I had to change my diet so very drastically was a problem, I am sure you remember my whiny mails and a BIG THANK YOU to you for setting me right and telling me I had no options, after which I started enjoying cooking the new all real meals(?body=https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150405031515700.407929.571385699&type=1&l=5322fac3a0&subject=What%27s for dinner?).

My main hurdle is one that what another commenter also mentions 1. Getting late at work and coming back and thinking of alternatives to cooking a good meal, so the alternative isn’t necessary a restaurant, it’s a combination of a restaurant, easy meal such as Varan Bhaat (http://the-cooker.blogspot.com/2007/06/varan-bhaat-amti-bhaat.html) and take aways. I really like eating real food but after 12 hours at work, I just don’t have the energy to cook.

Living in a joint family with different food likes and dislikes, it becomes difficult to follow even a doctor-recommended diet when you’re recovering from an illness. So a full-fledged 10 week over-haul becomes impossible. Plus a job and two boys to run after make time management difficult. And unless someone MAKES me exercise, it’s just so easy to say, “Nah, tomorrow!”

My biggest problem is sticking to my goals / objectives. I don’t function well left to my own devices. Food-wise, I am an all or nothing kind. As long as I don’t touch contraband, I am golden. But the minute a small slip happens, I cannot put it aside and move forward – I can only go headlong into disaster 😦

 I had the whole of today away from home. Nothing but a cup of coffee before I left in the morning. Because I was doing someth I love with like minded people I never had any craving or hunger. But that’s not the case everyday. Responsibilities, worrying about my son drive me towards carbs. That plus the weekly get-togethers with friends who junk all day spells disaster. Before having a baby I made good food choices, but now very less will power left I have impulsive bad judgement in terms of nutrition.

According to me food is ’emotional’. It has the power to make/change my mood. If I feel happy, I want to celebrate with something delicious.. if I am sad, all I want to do is eat some junk/comfort food to make myself feel better. We all have plenty of memories associated with food – so it makes you give in to temptation and eat something you’ve always thought of as delicious. I remember an ice cream ad from the 80s – ‘you make me lose, lose my self control’ 🙂

Unless one has an extremely stress free life and a good support system in place, it is difficult to eat right all the time.

For me, eating right is the easier part. I hate sugar/anything sweet, so will never get tempted seeing any sweet. Fried foods are my nemesis though. Even then, as long as I don’t cook some fried stuff, I don’t crave it. I am fine eating veggies and real food all the time. The husband however loves junk, and it is on days when I make something like bajji/vadai that I go out of control as well. I am certainly not at a stage where I can cook junk and skip eating it! Working out is another story altogether. I am yet to find something that motivates me to get over my laziness.

 I think motivation is the key. I didn’t have it badly enough earlier, and its not something I could have even talked myself into, with all my reasoning and logic. A death scare or a sudden hyper love of life is an excellent motivation!

Boredom, I think. Altho, that would have been an old excuse. Nowadays, i try and snap out of de-motivation ASAP. May I recommend Rupaul? There’s nothing like a 6’4″ legendary drag queen telling you that ‘You *better* work!’. And I’m being serious.

On the exercise front, I decided to at-least try going out for a 20min walk during the lunch break. Day 1 and Day 2 were good. Day 3: Someone in my office till 12:30PM … so skip. Day 4:Meeting went on till 12:15… so skip. That’s about it. No exercise whatsoever after that. Basically this is boiling down to the priorities in life and I know I am choising the wrong one !

 I too think it’s priorities.There was a time when I would consistently workout 5 times a week. But now, running behind a super active toddler is exercise enough. Exercising ranks way below taking care of his needs. I know the two are not mutually exclusive, I just need to figure out a way to manage my time effectively to fit in exercise.

If you got up to here, you are certainly interested in the topic. What do you think? Why do you break? Why do you fail? What are your experiences? Share it in the comments section.

Peace out.

8 responses to “Why you fail – Real people, real reasons

  1. Anju November 29, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I can relate to many of the reasons you have put up here.. living with 4 other folks at home and 10 other folks in office who dont have the same interest as you can be tough tough… especially with indian snacks lying around the kitchen at home and christmas cookies in the office its a double whammy.. so i have to have extreme control over what i eat, to say no to both all the time.. its very difficult 😦 if i do manage to say no for say a week, i myself feel that i need to be rewarded so i go berserk n have two handfuls of ribbon pakoda.. my tummy says no then i stop.. but still i feel guilty i should never have started eating in the first place.. n that night before goin to sleep i swear to myself that am not gonna touch that evil thing… but what do i do the next day… beeline back to the ribbon pakoda…sad huh.. i even tried to consciously repeat the words “junk” like a jabam when i encounter such foods, thinking maybe my mind will remember that its junk the next time i see the food.. but thats not worked so far.. so if u have found some way to beat these junk food at their game pls let me know.. i know i gotta get my family into it and educate them and rid the pantry of these foods.. i did try.. its just not working.

  2. Harini November 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    For me, it’s both nutrition and exercise that are tough ones to keep up. I have irregular periods caused due to PCOS and i find it’s certainly something that responds to the type of diet i keep up. But because the condition is not life threatening I don’t take it seriously. It’s only when I was trying to conceive that I thought seriously about my diet and tried to change some things. But it still was not motivation enough. I don’t gain weight easily despite the PCOS and despite the junk that i eat. So I don’t need to eat right to ‘appear’ healthy even if i’m not. I think that’s another major reason for me. I’m now pregnant with my second and trying to eat right again. But it’s so difficult. With a toddler at home to take care of and a hectic work life, it’s so difficult to plan and eat right. My cafetaria has no real food options – NONE!! And my stomach grumbles every 2 and 1/2 hours like it’s on an alarm. I get frustrated when I’m hungry, especially because in my first trimester, hunger leads to terrible headaches. I end up eating whatever I can lay my hands on!

  3. na November 30, 2011 at 3:49 am

    Oh boy….I have a looooooooong list of excuses/reasons.
    1. It’s hard to get motivated when I’m 110 lbs(for 5′ 2″) and have a body fat of 21%. Sure I have jiggly areas, but it’s not enough to get me motivated to get off my butt.
    2. I LOVE food…….as in I cooked 700+ new dishes in the last three years. I have 300+ cookbooks. I read/write/dream/drool over/think/fantasize about food all the time. It’s hard for me to eat plain veggies and meat all the time when I’ve already been exposed to the wonders of (heavy in calories) fats and yummy sugars.
    3. I hate working out. I used to love it once….I guess if i got back into a routine, I’d be able to love it again.
    4. Working out takes too long for me. First I need to drive to the gym, then warm up, then do strength training, then cardio….after all this, I’ve got to shower too. That takes 3 hours easily. I don’t like spending three hours on each workout session. Even if i skipped all this type of workout and did a half hour of intense training like you prescribe, I’d still need to go to the gym for that and then come home and shower. It probably cuts down my workout by an hour….not much of a difference from the 3 hours I’m cringing to do.
    5. It’s hard to stick to a healthy, real food diet if everyone around you is enjoying yummy stuff that you KNOW tastes good. No good deluding yourself chocolate cake tastes crap when compared to spinach…..huh
    6. I hate showering twice everyday. Once after I cook and then after I workout. With my hair, it takes really long to dry, even with a hair dryer, so i skip the workout to avoid washing my hair. And don’t even suggest NOT washing my hair after a workout or cooking….the greasy smell…ewwwww, the sweaty strands….ewwww.
    Anyway, these are the reasons I can think of right now……..I bet I can come up with more.

  4. S November 30, 2011 at 3:49 am

    my biggest issue is simply lack of dedication..if i set my mind on eating right and staying healthy, I know I can..i’ve done it in the past..BUT i also slack off given the first opportunity…and the other big issue is being impatient! If I don’t see results quick enough, I kinda tend to lose faith in the program..I know that’s wrong, but its kinda hard not to feel that way..

  5. Nikhila November 30, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I guess there is a inner child in me waiting to take the homework to the teacher and get stars and GOOD and V.GOOD and at the end of the year, count number of GOODs and V.GOODs I received.
    I need such an authority figure to stick to any weight loss goal. The only successful weight loss for me happened about 10 years ago after I worked out under the supervision of a personal trainer and dietician.
    All other attempts so far have been a miserable failure thanks to absence of reporting, impatience etc
    As long as I am accountable to someone, I stay on track !! But take out that authority figure, I live in a state of unadulterated bliss enjoying every morsel.

    • na December 1, 2011 at 12:39 am

      Oh yes…..that’s true for me too. A few years ago I hired a trainer, consulted a dietician and was in the best shape of my life(by eating processed low caloroe food though). And I did good for about a year on my own after that. But very soon the siren call of good food lured me in

  6. Pingback: Do something already! « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

  7. Loveen December 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Well, in my case, it’s a combination of many of the “excuses” mentioned like
    -Getting bored of routine
    -Some long days at work break the rythm and that’s it
    -Some festival/function/party happens and that puts a full stop to the diet regimen
    -After following healthy routine for 4-5 weeks, physical results start showing up and complacency starts creeping back and I start with cheating on one meal and this extends to all meals.

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