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The Seth Godin Guide to Dieting

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He’s probably the most accomplished internetmarketer in history.

His simple, direct, sensible advice has helpedthousands of companies grow and prosper. Pretty much anyone who’s sold anythingor wants to sell anything knows of Seth Godin (or at least they should). 

Seth writes about entrepreneurship, networking,social media, product development, publishing, and everything else involved inbusiness. However, he also talks about how to design your life to help makeyour ideas grow — to make it easier to succeed.

One of Seth Godin’s firm beliefs is that you shouldenjoy your work. As he puts it:

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is,maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

Here’s how the same thing applies to dieting.

Two Kindsof Jobs — Two Kinds of Diets

Imagine if you were presented with these twochoices:

Job 1: Youmake $500,000 per year.

You work at a desk, logging data, 14 hour days, sixdays per week.

You have to continue this job, without breaks, onthis exact same schedule for five years.

After five years you can quit and work somewhereelse.

If you quit before then, you lose whatever you’veearned.

You hate this job.

You hate getting up every morning at five am.

You can’t stand your co-workers.

You hate not being able to make time for exerciseor to prepare healthy meals. You rarely get to hang out with friends or spend time with yourfamily.

But you tell yourself that can put up with this jobbecause at the end, it will all be worth it.

Job #2: Let’ssay you get to work as a photographer (everyone loves taking pictures, right?).You get paid $50,000 per year.

Maybe photography wasn’t your first choice, but youstill enjoy it. You enjoy the benefits even more.

You get to travel wherever you like.

You get to work your own hours and even pick someof your co-workers and negotiate some of your benefits.

You’re free to stop any time and you can keepwhatever you’ve earned.

You’d probably pick job number two, because“transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job thathappens to match your passion,” says Godin.

Yet when it comes to dieting, people usually pickjob number one. They pick a diet that’s at odds with their preferences,passions, and lifestyle. Here’s why.

The MainReason Dieters Fail

Lack of patience.

Everyone can lose weight. You create a caloric deficit by eating less and movingmore, and you lose fat. Simple.

The main reason dieters fail isn’t because they’reeating the wrong foods, doing the wrong kinds of exercise, or even that theyfail to create a caloric deficit. The main reason dieters fail is becausethey don’t maintain a caloric deficit.

When most people diet, they make many large changesat once. They overhaul their diets andeliminate a bunch of foods. They don’t eat any desserts. They start exercising every day for aslong as they can, even if they hate it.

When these people are dieting, they are “ON THEIRDIET!,” as Lyle McDonald says.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach at first.People lose weight, they become more motivated, and they tell themselves thatthe suffering is worth it because the results are coming fast. The problem isthat these results won’t keep coming. People set themselves up for failurebecause they expect to be able to maintain this kind of lifestyle until theyreach their goal, and then revert back to their old habits. They can’t.

“Change almost never fails because it’s too early.It almost always fails because it’s too late.”

When most people diet, they’re already at the pointwhere they feel like they’re out of time. If they don’t lose exactly as muchfat as they want by a certain date, they give up. This could all have beenprevented if they had started earlier, taken longer to reach their goal, anddone so in a way that didn’t make them unhappy.

WhyWorking Too Hard Doesn’t Work for You

“‘How was your day?’ is a question that matters alot more than it seems.”

You’re a motivated person.

It’s easier for you to crash diet. It’s easier tooverwork yourself in the short-term if you can sip drinks on the beach for aweek a year from now. It’s easier to deprive yourself in the short-term, suckup the hunger and the deprivation, and see fast results. You’re a worker, andyou almost equate suffering with progress. You think if you’re not hungry, thenyou’re probably not dieting hard enough.

The problem is that overworking yourself in theshort-term doesn’t generally work for you in the long-term.

It’s easy to undo eight weeks of progress with aweek long binge. Other times there is no dramatic binge — you just get tired of beingso strict. You slowly eat more and gain back the fat. You get sick of feelingtired, weak, hungry, deprived, and socially isolated, and you eat everythingyou’ve denied yourself for weeks.

When your diet is over, you feel exhausted anddefeated. You feel like it was all a waste, and it’s not worth doing again. Youfeel so much angst and anxiety toward dieting that it becomes nearlyimpossible. You pulled yourself too “thin” (pun intended) and snapped.

This is just as much a problem for athletes andmodels as it is for average people. The former group generally doesn’t gainback as much fat, and they tend to be able to put up with more suffering, butthey still don’t get the results they want.

Even bodybuilders who diet to the absolute limits of leanness will often go on epic binges after their contests, or gain morefat than they should in the off season. While fifteen percent body fat ishardly “fat,” it’s “fatter” than most athletes like to be. It also means theyhave to diet longer the next time they want to get lean. Every time they repeatthis cycle, they “work” longer and “vacation” even less.

Here’s a simple solution to help you avoid thisproblem.

Create aDiet You Don’t Need to Escape From

“I define anxiety as experiencing failure inadvance.”

If you fear dieting, you won’t succeed.

Instead of creating a diet that gives you goodshort-term results and fails you in the long-run, adopt a diet that you canmaintain.

You should enjoy your diet. You should be able tomaintain it without feeling deprived. Your diet should fit into your lifestyleand be almost unnoticeable.

You should continue to enjoy all of your favoritefoods throughout your diet, in moderation.

You should keep going out with friends.

You shouldn’t feel terrible the entire time.

You shouldn’t need a vacation from your diet.

You StillHave to Work

But your work should be enjoyable.

You still need to create a caloric deficit.

You may need to eat fewer desserts than you’d like.

You may need to exercise more than you want to.

There will be times when you probably want fourOreos and you only let yourself have three. However, that’s a lot easier thannot letting yourself have any, and/or eating a whole box on Saturday becauseyou got a craving.

How much you need to change your lifestyle to reachyour goals depends on where you’re starting and where you want to go. If you’vebeen living off of fast food and riding a desk for the past five years, and youwant to be shredded, you’re going to have to make some big changes.

Even in extreme cases like this, however, a slowerapproach is often better. “The reality is that if you’re used to eating a wholedamn pizza in one sitting, a good starting point to lose the chub is to justeat half, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day,” says Muata Kamdibe, a man who lost 120 pounds and has kept it off.

If you’re already very lean, but you want to geteven leaner, you’re better off making a few small changes. If you want to getreally lean and stay that way, you may need to bepretty strict abouttracking your calorie intakemaking smart foods choices, exercising, etc, but you should still take a minimalist perspective.Do as little as possible and go from there.

Be easier on yourself, and stick to proven methods that you know will work, even if they take longer. That’s another one of Godin’s methods.“I intentionally abandoned the hard stuff early on because not only do I thinkit’s useless, I think it’s a distraction.”

He focuses on the things that matter to achieving his long-term goals, not necessarily the stuff thatkeeps him entertained in the short-term.

Be Happywith Slower Progress

It’s better to make small consistent gains thanit is to make large ones that disappear quickly.

It’s far better to lose ten pounds of fat over twoyears and keep it off than it is to lose 20 pounds in a year and gain it allback the next year.

In general, losing fat slower means you have tomake fewer changes. You don’t have to experience as much stress, anxiety, ordeprivation. Even the physiological adaptations to dietingare less severe whenyou take a more gradual approach.

There are times when you might want to diet moreseverely. If you’re getting ready for a competition or photo shoot, or if youjust can’t stand a slow rate of progress, then it’s fine to diet harder.However, in most cases you’re better off starting earlier, taking longer toreach your goal, and being able to maintain your results for as long as youwant.

The BestDiet is the One You Don’t Know You’re On

To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories thanyou burn.

You need to maintain a caloric deficit over timeuntil you reach your goal weight (though thisdoesn’t mean youneed to be in a caloric deficit every day).

You need to set up a diet that lets you do this.Denying yourself all of your favorite foods, forcing yourself to do hours ofexercise that you don’t enjoy and can’t maintain, and making obtrusive changesto your lifestyle isn’t going to work for you in the long-run.

To paraphrase Seth Godin:

“Instead of wondering when you can stop dieting,maybe you should set up a diet that you don’t need to stop.”

You need to create a diet you don’t need to escapefrom — one that you enjoy.



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