Why is it that diets don’t work for most people?
Well, by definition, “going on a diet” is a temporary weight loss strategy that is nearly impossible to maintain over the long term. For most of us, dieting includes setting a weight loss goal over a pre-set time span. Once that goal is reached – if it is – we tend to return to old eating habits and we put the weight back on. In many cases, the habitual dieter will put on more weight after their goal has been reached.
According to an article at PsychologyToday.com, “the first step towards permanent healthy weight loss is, somewhat ironically, to lose the diet and the diet mindset. Instead, think about a Healthy Eating Plan (a HEP) that you could live with and enjoy for life. The best answer to dieting, then, is: A lifelong program of everyday healthy, pleasurable eating coupled with regular exercise. To lose weight, eat less and exercise more.”
Sure, as a solution to permanent weight loss, it sounds obvious and boring but, of people who diet to lose weight successfully, something like 95% will regain the weight they lost within 1 – 5 years! For anyone with a long-term weight loss goal, that’s a pretty high failure rate.
Why Diets are Bad for You
Beyond the obvious lack of success described above, there are other reasons to avoid dieting for weight loss.
- Binge eating cycles – Because most diets heavily restrict certain types of foods, at least temporarily, an unintended consequence may be the need to satisfy certain intense urges for those types of foods. A late-night candy bar binge is quite common among those on low sugar diets, for example. This leads to guilt and remorse, as well of a sense of defeatism and loss of self-esteem, which can cause the dieter to abandon their weight loss goals and give up completely.
- Body rebels – Highly restrictive diets can cause your body to rebel against you, working hard to retain fat as an emergency energy source because it feels like you’re starving it. When this happens, your metabolism slows to preserve the little bit of fuel you’re supplying it, making weight loss even more difficult.
- The latest “thing” – Fad diets might work for short-term weight loss but, most of the time, those who try the “latest thing” to lose weight return to their normal eating habits after they’ve lost a few pounds, or have become bored with the diet. Fad diets usually require you to avoid a variety of foods, often including foods that are good for you.
- All in is all bad – A high-carb or high-protein diet, either of which will usually be highly restrictive of the other, will almost inevitably lead to problems. For example, beginning your day with “sugary” carbohydrates will commonly lead to hunger pangs and cravings later in the day. Instead, eating high quality protein in the morning is more filing, and will allow your body to maintain energy levels over a longer period.
- Feeling disordered – Dieting, along with the frequent and compulsive weighing that accompanies it, can lead to eating disorders. According to one source, people who diet are 8 times as likely to develop an eating disorder as people who don’t.
As predictable and boring as it sounds, once you understand why diets don’t work, and why diets are bad for you, it becomes far simpler to adopt a healthy nutrition plan and add some exercise to your daily routine. Not exactly a “secret weight loss plan” but, it is the one that works – for all of us.