In 2012, I lost 47 pounds and my husband lost 78. I chronically tried for 27 years; he thought he was healthy. Let me get to the heart of the matter, because if you are reading this you already know broccoli is healthier than potato chips.

In our country, 216 million people are medically overweight or obese – 67% of the population. Last year, exactly half of that statistic dieted – 108 million people. There’s more; each dieter made, on average, four to five attempts which means we have one-half billion attempted diets per year in our country, and an obesity epidemic. It is not that we are not trying – what we are trying isn’t working.

Here is why…


Say you want to learn Spanish. Are you going to study Spanish, or are you going to study German? Spanish, of course. Because if you studied German, you would learn German. But what if you just studied German harder, were more committed, then would you learn Spanish? No. Is studying German to learn Spanish ever going to work? No. It is not.

Now let’s say you go on a diet. What is your goal? Once you reach a healthy weight, is your goal to continue to diet forever just at a maintenance calorie level, or is your goal to eventually get off your “diet” and enjoy life as a naturally healthy person? Most people want the latter – to be naturally healthy and free of dieting. Yet what do we do? Go on a diet. And what do we learn?

How to diet.

Do you see the problem? When on a “diet,” if you do manage to reach a healthy weight – since all you have learned is how to diet – in order to maintain your weight, you are required to forever walk that tightrope. Generally, this is not what you envisioned for your skinny self and so it gets old. You start to slip until eventually you are back, once again, on a diet – attempting to study German to speak Spanish – convinced your willpower is to blame.

This is what over 100 million Americans do. And it isn’t our fault. It is what we are told, and sold.

The key then, if you are following my logic, is not to go on a “diet” – but to learn how to live as a naturally healthy person. The most meaningful advice I can share, without launching into a 90-minute talk, is this: give yourself the grace to learn.

In second grade I decided I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, and let me tell you, after years of lessons and hours of practice I was still not Taylor Swift. In fact, Taylor Swift was not Taylor Swift, early on. In order to learn a new skill, it takes practice. Being a healthy person is not a character trait (or flaw), it is a learned skill.

To truly be done dieting and create a naturally healthy life – the first thing you want to do is stop dieting now, in order to get there, instead of once you get there. To clarify, stopping dieting is not going “off” your diet. Stopping dieting means you stop expecting perfection, stop beating yourself up, and above all else – stop setting deadlines!

Instead, start to approach your health as a learning process. Next time you are at a social event, for example, instead of asking yourself, “What can I eat while I’m on this diet?” start to ask “What will I choose as a healthy person?” Then practice making that healthier choice. Afterward get out a pen and paper and ask yourself three questions: 1) What went well?  2) What did I learn?  3) What is my plan for next time?  Then situation-by-situation, choice-by-choice, you practice, learn, repeat. Do the work. Decades of habits take time to re-train; it is possible – with persistence, patience and forgiveness.

And lastly, when you find yourself making plans to “start” after your next event or big work project, or to isolate yourself from life until after you get to a healthy weight, remember that is a diet. To learn to be a healthy person, you want to learn how to navigate not only during the calm, but also during the storm. The person who maintains long-term is not the person with the most willpower or stress-free life, but the person who is most agile. So, you just start. Right now. At your next choice. Know you have what it takes. Know you are worth it. Then practice, and learn.

Gretchen Sullwold, Polka Dot Powerhouse Member Gretchen Sullwold is a Certified Health Coach, author of a weekly blog called “Food For Thought” and working mom of two. After coaching 200+ clients, Gretchen now offers her free talk titled “ONE Skill You Need To Learn To Create Health.” She uniquely shares what it truly takes to live a healthy life at a healthy weight. Only check it out if you want to be inspired.