3 Reasons Why Diets Don’t Work – And What You Can Do That Does

Diets don't work in keeping weight in check

Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to go on yet another diet to lose weight?

Have you already fallen off the wagon?

Studies have found that six out of 10 women abandon their new diet after only six days of trying. So if you have already succumbed, you are not alone.

Even if you do manage to stick to that diet and lose those pounds, research has found you will most likely put all that weight you lost back on, plus more, in the next five years.

Diets are good in that you can lose quite a bit of weight in the short term, but they fail miserably long term in keeping weight off.

And it’s not because you lack will power, you have plenty of it; if you didn’t you wouldn’t even get out of bed in the morning!

So if it’s not a lack of commitment, then why do diets fail in helping you lose weight and keep it off?

3 Reasons Diets Don’t Work

1. Diets set the alarm bell going – When you go on a diet and start restricting food and calories, your body goes into famine mode. It literally thinks you are starving and starts to take steps to slow down weight loss and increase your motivation to find food.

A study carried out in 2011 in Melbourne, Australia, on 50 overweight men and women, found that after 10 weeks on a low-calorie diet, the hormones that regulate appetite went haywire, with those that stimulate appetite going up by 20% and those that say you are full, going down.

A year later, even after being switched to a healthy post diet maintenance diet, levels of these hormones in the study participants were still not back to normal.

Not surprising then that they reported feeling more hungry and being more preoccupied with thoughts of food than before the diet, meaning they were much more likely to succumb to emotional eating (a topic I cover in depth in my recent 3-part blog series, click here to read about that).

So even though the study participants ate healthy food, their bodies were making it harder for them to stop putting on weight by making them more hungry and have more thoughts about food, with the end result that after a year, they had put on half the weight they lost. It just doesn’t seem fair does it?

Now you can see why trying to resist that piece of cake or chocolate after you’ve come back off a diet is so hard, your body is just trying to prepare you for the next famine!

2. Diets concentrate on low-fat, low-carbohydrate foods – But fat slows down the rate your stomach empties, meaning you feel full for longer.

Most diets people try fail because they are simply too low in fat. Being on a low-fat diet means you feel hungry soon after eating and are then likely to eat more to overcompensate.

And don’t forget, products labelled as low fat often have high levels of processed sugar in them!

Other diets concentrate on a low carbohydrate approach. But we do need a certain amount of carbohydrate in our diets.

It’s the primary fuel our bodies use, so severely restricting them just results in feelings of tiredness, low mood and irritability, which makes those biscuits, chocolate bar or piece of cake become ever more enticing.

3. Diets don’t address the underlying reasons why you’re eating the way you do – As I discussed in my blog 5 Common Emotional Eating Triggers, diets don’t solve the reasons why you overeat. In my experience, the reasons why people overeat are very varied, and often they have no idea why they eat the way they do, until we start working together.

I remember seeing a lady on BBC Breakfast News a while ago talking about her gastric band operation, the most drastic diet you can go on.

She said that the band had been successful in that she had lost 10 stone in weight, since she couldn’t physically eat much.

She wasn’t physically hungry but said she was still emotionally hungry and was plagued by cravings and thoughts of food every day. She was slimmer but did not have peace of mind.

This is why so many people with gastric bands turn to alcohol post surgery, to fill the emotional need they can no longer satisfy with food.

So what should you do instead? Here are some things you can start doing, right now, to have a happier, fitter, healthier life.

5 Top Tips for a Diet-Free Life

Time to ditch the yo-yo diets

1. Ditch the diet! – and the diet mindset that keeps putting your brain and body into famine mode, making you feel more hungry, less full and more preoccupied with thoughts of food.

2. Draw up a healthy eating plan Recent research suggests that what foods suit one person for a healthy lifestyle, will not suit another, so find a nutritionist that can give you tailor-made meal planning and healthy diet advice.

In general, have 3 regular, balanced meals a day, cut down on sugar and increase your fruit and vegetable intake. If you are prone to overeating, head over here to read the tips in my blog Are you over-eating? 3 Tips To Get Back In Control.

Replace diets with fun exercise

3. Get active – This doesn’t mean you have to sign up for gym membership or start hammering the pavement running, those forms of exercise don’t suit everyone.

Find something you do enjoy doing, whether that’s a dance class, zumba, hot yoga or spin classes. You are much more likely to actually go out and do it if it’s a form of exercise you like doing.

I was talking about this with a gentleman recently and advised him to simply start walking more each day. He got a pedometer, counted the normal number of steps he took and then increased the number by 100 steps a day.

He joined his wife out walking their dogs and was soon clocking up 10,000-15,000 steps a day. And, on the advice of the personal trainer he started seeing, he also took up boxing, something he never thought about doing before, which he now loves!

(If you would like to take up the 10,000 Step Challenge, click on the link to download an interactive sheet where you can record your daily steps).

4. Treat yourself – When you deny yourself any treat foods, they just become more and more inviting, which can then lead to over-eating or binging. Studies have in fact shown that people who maintain a steady weight, eat healthy food 80% of the time and less healthy food 20% of the time.

So allow yourself a food treat every day, something under 200 calories. That could be one or two biscuits – plain chocolate homewheat are my favourites ☺ – or if sugar is likely to lead to binging, have some fresh or dried fruit instead.

5. Say goodbye to guilt – Allow yourself to have a guilt-free lapse in your healthy eating when going on holiday or to a special occasion. Stop beating yourself up for trying that new exotic food or having that piece of wedding cake.

Jane* tried this on a recent holiday and said how just having a different way of thinking about food really took the pressure off herself and she felt so much more relaxed.

She ate what she wanted, stopped when she felt full, didn’t feel guilty if she had a little indulgence and was really chuffed when she returned home to find that she hadn’t put on any weight like she had done on previous holidays.

I’ll leave you with a fact that really surprised me when I read it, and that is that the average 45-year-old woman has been on 61 diets in her lifetime!! So please, stop trying the one thing that clearly doesn’t work long term.

Remember, as Einstein said, the definition of insanity, “is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” So, time to try something new in 2016!

Did this post give you some insight into why diets don’t work? How many diets have you tried? Please share your thoughts and questions in the box below.


Annette x

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*Client names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.

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