A frequent and recurring theme I hear from those interested in weight loss is one where the client asks for, or thinks that they 'just need a diet plan'. They say, ‘What I really need is just a diet plan. I mean I know what I need to do, *insert nostalgic mention of when they used to be in shape or similar* but it would just be really helpful if I had it all written down, you know I think that would be all I need'.
If you are someone who has lost weight on multiple occasions, and struggled to keep the weight off, this blog is about why I don’t believe that ‘just a diet plan' is really what you need or want. This blog is about how when it comes to weight loss and maintenance of that lower weight ‘just a diet plan’ rarely cuts the mustard.
Its not what they actually want
In any coaching relationship, part of the role of the coach to help the coachee to get from A to B. Many people looking to lose weight will have lost weight before, only to have regained it. Sadly, in the obesogenic environment within which we live, due to the way the body tends to respond, frequently, they might weigh even more now than when they first started! This can understandably be exasperating for the client and is often referred to as ‘yo-yo’ dieting.
If this is the client, then they definitely DON’T need ‘just a plan’. Just losing weight is not their ‘B’. They’ve followed plans before, which if you look at their ‘A’ (where they are now) either didn’t help, or maybe made things worse. They THINK they need a plan because it will help them lose weight. It might. What they likely want is to achieve a healthier and more sustainable relationship with food. I’m not here to tell you what you want, but this is a great ‘B’ for anyone to aim for. What most people actually want, is to get to a lower weight, and to be able to maintain it. This is not just semantics, saying what you mean and being able to describe exactly what you want are actually two very important skills in developing and maintaining a sustainable and healthy relationship with food.
Its not what they actually need
When the individual has lost weight on several occasions previously, there is more than likely something else going on. The chances are, its not actually just the technicalities of putting an appropriate plate of food together that have led to their current predicament. That is, its not JUST about food. Losing weight and then maintaining a lower weight is a complex problem that requires self-awareness, honesty, problem-solving skills, planning skills, emotional intelligence, and a host of other abilities. In order to respond to the complexities of life and its competing, unpredictable demands, just a short-term plan is rarely suitable for anyone (for very long anyway). We make many decisions around food every single day, in a variety of contexts. We need a flexible, adaptable skill set to deal with multiple eventualities.
What’s worse, is that the longer a client goes on believing it is just about what they eat (with this notion being reinforced by the enthusiastic line of dogmatic nutrition gurus lining up to sell them the next big plan to solve all their problems once and for all), the longer they will be distracted from what is important. I believe that any practitioner who operates in the realm of health & wellbeing has an overarching responsibility to 'do no harm’ to their clients. By ‘just' giving someone a plan, I think certain practitioners might be guilty of contributing to a disempowering environment, which is already challenging enough for the individuals involved. We are complicit in harming those we engage with by giving our clients more of the same, through our inaction to do something different. Practically speaking, anyone who is looking to lose weight and keep it off (especially those who have tried and failed before), must understand that what they need are a host of skills to manage an ongoing process. Not an instruction booklet on what to do, when, forever more.
I implore practitioners and clients alike to buck the trend and start to shift the status quo, seek out something different, and don’t settle for the old dynamic. 'Just a diet plan’ probably isn’t suitable for what you want, or what you need. Any questions, please reach out to me on twitter, or drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org