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Why are most diet and fitness programs’ results NOT typical?

This is something that has bugged me for ages.  So many diet, fitness and supplement programs (written, infomercial, etc.) are put out into the world and they are gobbled up (Turkey Day pun intended)…to the tune of over $10 billion dollars per year.  I forget the exact number, but some ridiculously high % of the NY Times best sellers are usually diet books.  Yet the vast majority of the claims on these programs and pills are appended with a seemingly harmless little “*”…until you read what the * really means.

Image: luigi diamanti /

Scroll down or look towards the fine print and the * typically means “Results not typical.”  So you are saying that the picture of the person I am looking at who lost 40 pounds in 8 weeks is not every Bob and Jane who uses your product?!?  Are you saying that if you show me 10 people who get amazing results that there are likely at least 90 more who did not even get close?  Those odds suck.

But of course, we all think that we will be the “non-typical” result and lose that 40 pounds.  And some of us will, but most of us won’t.  Because most of us are “typical”.  I want these programs to tell us what the typical (average) results are.  That’s what clinical trials do.  Odds are the typical result will be: Tried it, made some progress, hit a bump in the road, got discouraged and gained the weight back (or more).  Unfortunately, that’s typical.

But why is that typical?  Well that’s a whole other can of worms.  Usually it’s not entirely the fault of the diet, because if it was designed to be safe and you followed it, you would probably get results.  And it’s not entirely your fault either, because you honestly DO want to make the change, lose weight, live better, etc.  So what’s the problem?

I’m going to create an equation to explain:

Long-lasting Results = Right Solution * Right Mindset

Without the right solution or the right mindset, then all you get is 0.  When you get them both, that’s where the magic happens.

1)      Right Solution: All programs/diets are a combination of eat less calories and/or exercise/move more.  Different gimmicks, same goal. Certain gimmicks work for some, not others.  For some it’s Atkins, for others its Crossfit, others like Zone Diet and others prefer supplements.  That’s the key to the “right solution”.  Finding the right set of variables (eat this, exercise like that, etc.) to create a set of positive, healthy actions that a person can do regularly enough to turn them into permanent habits.  When these programs say “results not typical”, they are saying that the results are only typical for THAT person you see in the advertisement because it was their “right solution”, but odds are it’s not yours.  You need to find your “Right Solution”.

2)      Right Mindset: We say that we want to change and live better, but do we really want to?  There’s a lot of competing priorities in life, especially when we have to choose to exercise more (versus crashing at home or going out with friends) or eat better (versus having that cupcake after a long day or ordering those 2 slices of pizza…after drinking 5 beers).  When someone is truly ready to make those changes, they will seek out the solutions to make it happen.  It has been said before by many others: When the WHY is big enough, the What and How will come to you.  The What and How is the “Right Solution”.  The problem is, if we try the “Wrong Solution” and we plateau or it doesn’t work the way we want, we may get discouraged, lose the Right Mindset and have to start all over again (aka Yo yo dieting).

The key is to align the stars and get the Right Solution when you have the Right Mindset to get long-lasting permanent change.  Then your results will be real, significant, and typical for YOU, not for someone else.  My work as a nutrition and fitness coach/counselor is to 1) Make sure someone is in the Right Mindset before working with them and then 2) Guide people to find their Right Solution.  I may be an expert in nutrition and exercise, but you are the expert in your own life and what is RIGHT for you.

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