ABUNDANT LIVING: Why most diet and exercise programs fail

(EDITOR’S NOTE: “Abundant Living” is a weekly column about health and wellness. It will include topics ranging from health and medicine to exercising at home and making wise food choices. The intention is to shed light on topics that affect the choices we make, explore topics that affect the quality of our lives, and have a few laughs along the way.)

Let’s be honest, all of us have been on some sort of diet and exercise program at one time or another only to have given up at some point.

I’m not judging you. We have all had this issue from time to time. The problem wasn’t that you didn’t try hard enough or that you didn’t follow the plan to the letter. The most likely reasons that the program wasn’t successful were, first, that any changes you made were temporary and, second, that you lacked the correct social support.

Temporary changes yield temporary results. Sounds like a simple idea, yet the actions of anyone who describes their weight loss program with an end date says something very different.

You are going to lose 10 pound in 10 days by eating nothing but cabbage soup or cutting out carbs for a month. Sound familiar? Assuming the changes you made are working, what happens when those changes stop. You go back to eating real food or realize that you cannot live on bacon alone (I still might try the bacon thing). At best, the progress you made goes away and you end up right back where you started.

At worst, you gain even more weight and are even further from your original goal, which forces you to bury your face in a hot fudge sundae in search of solace. Everyone knows this cycle yet that never stops us from repeating it.

If you want permanent results, you need to make permanent changes which will eventually become part of your lifestyle.

Social support is tricky. I have worked with hundreds of people over the course of my long career and I can say, without a doubt, that those people that lack support rarely succeed. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much discipline you possess, eventually you will have a moment of weakness.

You might get stressed and eat an entire cheesecake. Your progress might be slow and you get frustrated. You might simply get busy. All of these things have the potential to derail your plan to get healthy and fit.

This is why you need someone to help motivate you and keep you on track. It might be a spouse, a partner, a friend or even a supportive child. Whatever the situation, you cannot succeed alone indefinitely. It is no coincidence that people in the most recognized recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous have sponsors.

The sponsors’ job is to share the journey toward sobriety. Likewise, individuals need someone to share their journey toward fitness. They need someone to tell them they are doing a good job, or to keep going when they get frustrated. This person doesn’t have to be an expert or super fit themselves. Just someone who is a positive influence and a good listener.

As you move forward with your plan to become fit and create the best version of yourself, maximize your odds of success.

Make small, but permanent changes. Drink more water, eat less junk food, begin a moderate exercise program. Build on these successes a little at a time and make whatever positive changes you make into a lifestyle.

You also will need to find someone to help keep your program on track. This might be a group of friends that decide to join a fitness challenge or a partner that wants to make sure you are around to share their life for a long time.

The only requirement of this person is to be positive. With a little help and small permanent changes you will undoubtedly reach your goals.

Bellomo has a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion, is a certified strength and condition specialist and performance enhancement specialist with 24 years in the fitness and wellness field.