Why you need to stop gaming your weight loss system

Some call it cheating, some call it something else, and some see it as a sign of weakness and inability to stick to a weight loss plan. I prefer to call it gaming the system. Sometimes gaming the system works well, very well indeed, in your favor.

Look at the fabulous success extreme couponing fanatics have when they game the system. They know how to game the system to get around most of the “limit one per customer” and the like disclaimers. Some are so good at gaming they actually make money buying stuff.

Clever gaming the system works in a lot of cases, but one place it’s guaranteed to backfire is with your weight loss. Think about it. What do we do when we game the system? We use clever tactics to pay less to get more. That applies to any system you want to game.

If it’s weight loss you’re trying to game you get what you deserve with those clever tactics to pay less. You get more and you deserve more and I’m not talking about more weight loss. I’m talking about getting more pounds.

“If nobody sees me eat this, it doesn’t count.” You can tell yourself that, but even if you aren’t counting you can be sure your body is keeping track.

Why do we want to game our weight loss system anyway? It’s not because we want to prove how clever we are and it’s not even wanting something for nothing. It’s because our system is out of sync with us for one or many reasons.

Here is a short list of ways your weight loss system can be out of sync with you:
  • Too time consuming. It takes too much planning and preparation.
  • Too bland. It’s eating the same boring food day after day after day.
  • Too restrictive. The list of food you’re allowed to eat is shorter than the list of forbidden foods.
  • Too intrusive. It gets in the way of your socializing.
  • Too rigid. There’s nothing built in to let you manage out-of-the-ordinary or the surprises that happen in your life.
  • Too punishing. You’re hungry all the time or you have to commit to painful workouts multiple times a week – or both.
  • Too little results. The results are pitiful when compared against the effort you must put forth.
  • Too many diet police. You have people everywhere you either asked or who take it upon themselves to question (or try to stop) every bite they see you take.

Whatever the reason it comes down to this – we want the results without doing the work. That’s the problem. There are no results without doing the work and that applies to weight loss drugs and weight loss surgery. Regardless of the approach you take there will be work required of you if you’re going to successfully lose weight. There is more work if you are going to successfully maintain your loss.

We need to recognize the need to gaming the system as the warning sign that it is. It’s not a lack of discipline or willpower. It’s not an indication that we have an addiction to food. It’s warning us that we have chosen a system that’s a poor fit with our lives.

Review my list and add any other reasons why your system is out of sync with you. After discovering what problems are present with your weight loss system, do some research to discover a way to address and avoid them.

As you do your research keep in mind that you need a system that you fits your life so well that you believe it will be livable, not just until you get to goal, but forever so that you can remain at goal.

I found Weight Watchers was right for me because it offered both structure and flexibility. It is important to me that any food I want to eat is okay and that enjoying treats or some of my staples are not forbidden. I wouldn’t do well on a food plan that said , (1) no red meat, (2) no dairy, (3) no processed foods, and (4) no refined carbs. As I write that list of foods that are forbidden on many weight loss systems I see 4 reasons why I would want to game such a system.

I prefer Weight Watchers because I am in complete control of my food choices. I just have to make sure I have the budget for them. I like that Weight Watchers system even helps with that. I have a daily target and there is a way for me to increase my budget with added physical activity. This provides the right amount of flexibility, but there would still be ways to game the system if I thought I could get away with it.

Some diets say wine and other alcoholic drinks are forbidden. You can enjoy them on Weight Watchers as long as you count the points.

I could list all the ways Weight Watchers points-weight-loss system could and does get gamed. I’m no angel. I’ve tried some myself. I’ve heard members share some more ways that are truly inventive. While I admire creativity and imagination, I regret that no amount of creativity can make consistent gaming deliver successful weight loss.

The point is I recognize the destructive pattern one falls into with system gaming. I know that work is necessary to lose weight and maintain my goal. I’m willing to do the work because what I get for it is worth the price I’m paying. I’m not saying I adhere to the plan 100%. I don’t, but that’s not the same as gaming. Any straying I do, I own and accept there may be a price to pay with a little set back in the form of a weight gain.

Weight loss takes work, but it’s progress not perfection that gets the job done. This guy isn’t kidding himself. He knows he’s not getting away with anything. If he wants to weigh less, he needs to do less of this.

It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s not okay to think you can be sneaky and play tricks and not get caught with poor weight loss results.



Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.