As I was driving the other day listening to NPR, I heard a provocative story suggesting that researchers should stop spending millions of dollars comparing the content of all the various diets programs on the market today. Instead, they should focus their studies on how to effectively change behaviors associated with weight gain. As a Professional Organizer, this piqued my interest.
Featured on the NPR program “Here And Now,” was Carey Goldberg, health reporter for WBUR in Boston, commenting on a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Analyzing different well-known diet programs, the report concluded that the various diet programs — on average — are equally well suited for losing weight. Therefore, one could pick and choose any one of the diet programs that looks appealing to them and get pretty much the same result.
If the report concludes that it doesn’t matter what diet program you choose for losing weight, then why are these programs ineffective for so many participants over time? Why is it so common that dieters gain back the weight they lost soon after they stop dieting? The key is “adherence” – sticking to healthier eating habits over time. Instead of continuing to spend millions looking at and worrying about the specific content of the diet programs on the market, this report suggests that we need to understand the context of the individual dieter, and therein lies the key to adherence. We need to shift the focus from simply counting calories and carbs, and look toward behavioral change and how to make those changes last – forever.
Behavioral scientists studying the effects of dieting over time look at factors such as why people crave different foods and how environmental factors, such as family traditions, affect their dietary preferences. They found that the one common factor that undermined the best of intentions around dieting and healthier eating habits is stress. The NPR story stated that, “researchers often hear dieters say that they want to lose weight, but life gets in the way.” The root problem is woven in the feelings experienced, when “life gets in the way” and that is a behavioral issue – not a nutritional one.
Just like the dieting industry, the organizing industry has zillions of products to choose from, and still people feel overwhelmed and stressed. For many, the products don’t deliver on their promises of freedom and ease over time. Before clients call us, many of them have been on a number of “organizing diets” and have not reached or maintained their organizing goals over time. Sleek new organizing products and best intentions are easily de-railed when “life gets in the way.”
As Professional Organizers, we know what makes the biggest difference to someone staying organized over time. It isn’t simply which storage bin we use but rather, that the person develops the habit to actually use the bin over time. All the different storage bins, calendar systems, time management tips, electronic gadgets, apps, etc., do not ensure that one will achieve a state of organization that lasts. They are only the tools we use to create an environment that supports an organized life-style. The actual change towards living an organized life comes from within the individual. Effective behavioral change resets our personal compass, and points us toward our goals and aspirations. “Adherence” to these behavioral changes, ensures us it will last forever!
So the point of this story is…If you want to lose weight, don’t stress about which diet program to choose. Choose the one that appeals to you since they all, on average, work about the same. If you want to keep the weight you lose off for years to come, work with a behavioral specialist to create your unique practices of adherence that promote healthier eating habits. And, if you want to decrease the stress of “life gets in the way,” create an environment that supports your new healthier habits over time — then call one of us. Professional Organizers love supporting behavioral changes that last forever.