When I was a little girl, one of my favorite toys was an Easy Bake Oven. It came with several miniature boxes of name brand cake mixes. You just added water, mixed the batter right in the tiny metal pan, and popped it into an oven powered by a light bulb.
Although the cakes smelled good while they were baking, the reality of them was usually a gooey center, and a couple of burned fingers. If, by some fluke, my sister and I did manage to wait until the cake was completely done, it was devoured in moments, leaving no time to apply the ready-made frosting (which we usually polished off during the whole 10 minutes the cake was baking anyway).
The pride of having successfully and easily “baked” a cake by ourselves was elusive; we never produced a two-tiered frosted and decorated chocolate cake like the one pictured on the box. It was more like a sugary walk of shame as we wiped icing from our faces and tried to hide the mess we made from our mom. It was easy-bake, after all, not neat-and-tidy-bake. The results just never seemed to live up to the promise.
Even from a young age, humans want big results from minimal effort. Not just any results, though: we want immediate results, and we’ll try any fad, gimmick, or shortcut to get them. Repeatedly. We can’t help ourselves. Why do something lasting and real when we can take a shortcut and arrive at our destination in half the time?
Nothing capitalizes on this nugget of human nature better than weight loss marketing, especially in the early months of the year. It typically appeals to two things: our sense of urgency, and our compulsion for convenience - an easy bake.
In defense of the $71 billion per year industry, if companies described their products as “work,” they wouldn’t sell much. Weight loss descriptors are: “simple,” “quick,” “rapid,” “easy,” and “fast.” If they stamped “get desired results in three, six, or 12 months,” on the label, no one would buy it. In a society of “insta” cart, “insta” gram, and “insta” life, it’s just not sexy to take your time.
Instead, we look to the promise of quick and easy, to programs and products that burn, melt, drop, shed, suction, freeze, cut, blast and expel excess weight from our bodies. We take pills and supplements, drink shakes and tonics, add drops and powders, all to help us lose the same 30 pounds, over and over again. We compromise our gut health, metabolism, and hormones for the promise of a cake baked by a light bulb.
Diet culture thrives on our drive for immediate results, easily hooking us into products and programs built on restriction and sacrifice. And we are naively drawn to them for good reason: restriction and sacrifice works. Follow any diet, and you will lose weight…for a while. The problem is, once you stop following it (usually the point when you can’t sustain the restriction any longer, or your body just stops responding to it), the weight comes back. And so begins the vicious cycle of unsustainability, failure, weight gain, and an embarrassing return to the all-too-familiar hamster wheel of convenience dieting.
So how do you break this cycle? Pick up your sledge hammer, and consider the following:
Go for the long game.
Do you want quick, short-term results or slower, long-term sustainability? Ask yourself if you would rather lose 30 pounds in two months and gain it back in six, or lose 30 pounds in six months, and keep it off for life? In other words, how many times do you want to lose that same 30 pounds?
Learn to fuel your body, not punish it.
Do you want to binge on fun foods for long periods of time, then subject yourself to repeated short-term, restrictive diets to “pay” for your weight gain, or do you want to learn how to fuel your body in a way that supports your health and allows you to enjoy treats? Decide to change your habits and behaviors around food, not just deprive yourself the food.
Remove the timeline.
Do you want to lose weight for an event, like a wedding, or do you want to be healthy for the happily ever after? One prepares you for a day, the other, for a future.
Keep it real.
Do you want “food” in exotic flavors and colorful packaging with an indefinite shelf life, or real, textured, and organically grown food with a natural expiry date? Powders, bars, pills, cookies, drops, gummies, and drinks can all supplement and fill gaps in nutrition or an occasional need for convenience, but they can’t replace whole foods. Really, gang, does everything have to taste like snickerdoodle or Fruity Pebbles?
Change your lifestyle, not just your food.
Do you want to be skinny, or do you want to be healthy? What you eat isn’t the only contributing factor to your health and wellness. Hydration, sleep, exercise, and stress management all influence and support a healthy body.
Quick and easy, or slow and difficult?
Out of curiosity, I did a Google search while I was writing this blog, and found an Easy Bake Oven on Amazon. You can get an Ultimate Baking Bundle, Baking Star Edition, for $159.99. While the little girl in me would love to mix up a couple of Bubblegum, Red Velvet or Strawberry cakes, the grown up in me knows that the bright and shiny gimmick is only going to produce another half-baked, gooey cake that’s going to leave me feeling hungry…and nursing a couple of burned fingers.
Coach Laurie Hall is a certified health and wellness coach at KK Wellness Consulting. She is a 56-year-old mother of four, fitness enthusiast, and midlife lifestyle editor. If you want to stop losing the same 30 pounds over and over, reach out for a consult to discuss behavioral coaching with Laurie.