Weight loss is a big decision. Here’s how to avoid taking the mental shortcut that keeps too many people from dieting success.
When We Think Our Decisions Through…
Imagine you want to buy a house. You see one for one sale, it fulfills the criteria of “this is a house and it’s for sale,” you wander over to whoever is the real estate agent and pay whatever he asks.
Not really how you’d go about it right?
No, as with most important decisions in your life, you’d check the financial risks you’d be picking up and your personal situation. You’d also look at more objects, weighing several promising options against each other.
Sometimes even when going through all that, you achieve a less than desirable outcome, but you know a researched decision gives you the best shot.
…And What Happens When Not
Unfortunately, for those decisions we think of as minor, we are lazy. It’s just too much work. We look at people who (apparently!) achieved the desired outcome and imitate them.
When weight loss commercials show you Cindy from Oregon who lost 654 lbs and at the same time took supplement xy, you know what assumption you are asked to make.
There’s a psychological term for it, “outcome bias.” Rational Wiki defines it like this:
Outcome bias […] refers to the tendency to judge a decision by its eventual outcome instead of judging it based on the quality of the decision at the time it was made.
It’s a “what worked works” approach, with little curiosity for the why. It considers all strategies as equal, with little regard for efficiency, the long term, pure coincidence or any other metric.
And it not only works for weight loss supplements, but also for weight loss strategies. I’ll give you two examples:
Your friend did food journaling, writing down what you eat and the calories in the food, and lost a lot of weight with it. And it netted not only him the desired result, you read about many people more for whom it ended in diet success.
But would it be for you? Food journaling requires action in response to every little thing that you eat or drink.
What if you aren’t that great at keeping track? What if you much better register how your body weight is trending, because you have access to a scale, a mirror and wear a belt at least some of the time?
If that’s you, keeping food journal is superfluous work and could even lead to you giving up on weight loss.
Switching All Drinking To Water
This is a bit of advice I can’t stand. It does work, because sodas and alcoholic beverages carry many calories. But again that doesn’t mean it is or has been a good choice. If you love sodas, then the chance of you succeeding with going cold turkey on them is close to zero.
Why? Because water has no taste compared to the highly engineered soft drinks an expert industry throws at us. Many soft drinks also carry an addictive substance, caffeine, whose sudden withdrawal can be very unpleasant.
If you’re a soda lover looking to improve that part of his nutrition you don’t need to drop things entirely to have a good chance of success. As long as you lower the caloric density (calories per ounce) of your drinks or have low-calorie replacements here and then, you’ll see an improvement.
Don’t only look at results, check how people got there, if what they did really influenced the result and, if yes, if it would work for you as well.
Hopefully this reads right and made some sense.
Picture courtesy of “Walter“.