3 Reasons diets dont work and how to fix it
If you went to the Apple store to buy an iPad, and on that iPad it stated that there is a 95% chance it wouldn’t work, would you still buy it? My guess is you would NOT buy that iPad if it had a 95% failure rate. Well, guess what my friends? Diets have a 95% failure rate! On average the loss over a twelve months period for any diet is one kilogram up or down. So basically, whatever you lose you will gain again and more.
So, why do we continue to diet? Why do we continue to support the $60 billion/year diet industry?
The reason we keep going back to diets is because they don’t focus on long term weight loss – because if they did, we wouldn’t have a 60 billion dollar industry. The diets would do their job and we would move on. Most of us are looking for a very short term solution to a couple of unwanted kilograms. Most often this is event or function specific like before a wedding etc.
I can’t tell you how many men and women I have seen interested in diet programs, coffee, fat burners and other medicinal crap over the past five years. Women and men would purchase the latest and greatest diet program, do well for about 2 – 8 weeks, start to fall back into old habits, and then a few months later, come back and purchase the NEXT latest and greatest diet program, hoping that this new program would be their magic ticket to success. And the cycle just continued to repeat itself. The worst part about this is the folks who sell this crap very seldom last longer than their last sale before they too return to their original weight. Test me on this!
The question we need to answer is, with so many different diets, and so many differing approaches, and so many experts and books — why are we not seeing lasting results? What are we missing that will provide sustainable health, weight and serum lipid correction?
It turns out that the very premise of dieting works directly against our biology, psychology and our unique needs. And it’s these three things that can help us understand the three KEY reasons why diets don’t work. Please understand that I am not talking about lifestyle changes here but rather quick fix diets.
Reasons Diets Don’t Work
Biological: Diets Slow Down Weight Loss
Diets tell us that if we eat less and move more, we will lose weight. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? I hate to break it to you, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The more you restrict calories the more you slow down your basal metabolic rate. So basically if your diet leaves you hungry you slow down your fat loss.
This will sound counterintuitive but hear me out…when we start eating less and moving more, our bodies actually start to work AGAINST us! This is because our bodies experience dieting as a stressor. When our body is under stress, we produce large amounts of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones cause our body to slow down the rate at which we burn calories (metabolism.) Our body intentionally slows down our weight loss efforts because it perceives our reduced calorie intake as a threat to its survival.
Our body is just trying to keep us alive and healthy, every day, all day long. When it perceives a threat such as dieting, it will try it’s best to counteract that. You will notice you start to crave more foods, especially starchy, sugary foods, you become more lethargic, you become moodier. These are all things the body is doing intentionally to try and get you back into balance. Since your body doesn’t want you to starve, it responds to overly restrictive diets by slowing your metabolism which of course makes it harder to lose weight.
Initial weight loss of 3-8 kg is often possible in the first couple of weeks as you dump water and your colon clears. Thereafter everything stagnates except your mood that just gets worse.
Psychological: Diets Aren’t Fun
All diets have an element of deprivation. There is often a list of “don’t eat this” foods to avoid. Diets require us to have willpower and an ability to stick to the rules.
But what happens when we have rules placed on us?
We want to rebel!!!
I remember when I first started dieting, I had to give up pepper steak pies. This was a hard task, since I enjoyed it so much. But you’ll never see pepper steak pies allowed on any diet plan. I gave it up cold turkey. It was so hard not to think about that delicious pie though. I thought about it constantly. Eventually I caved and bought myself two. I think I ate both in about ten minutes.
Diets deny our pleasure, there is no joy in becoming healthier and trying to lose weight. We give up foods that were once pleasurable. We deny ourselves that feeling of complete satisfaction. We start obsessing over the foods we miss.
When we start denying ourselves food and put so many rules on food, we become entrenched in a battle of willpower, until eventually, we give in and end up overeating and gaining more weight.
Diets Take A “One Size Fits All” Approach
Every month you see a new diet out on the market touting weight loss and amazing results. But are we asking the question, “Would this work for ME?”
Sure, this diet could have worked for the person who created it and some people in their test group. But do they show the people it didn’t work for? Do they show those people 3, 5, 10 years from now? NO.
For every one person who has success, there are usually nine who don’t. Was this because of the diet, will power, mood swings or just crappy advice?
Diets don’t take into account that each person’s metabolism operates differently. Diets assume that if we all just eat the same way and exercise the same way; we will all look the same way. But there is so much more that goes into a person’s ability to lose weight like stress, hormones, genetics, our job, our relationships, sleep and so much more.
Diets give us rules to follow, and our unique circumstances, personal history, and individuality are rarely considered.
For example, someone who is very active all day needs more carbohydrates, fat or protein than someone who is sedentary all day. But do you see low carbohydrate diets talking about individual carbohydrate tolerance and how to find out what yours is?
Our bodies are not calculators or machines that require the same amount of fuel each and every day. Our bodies are complex and require different amounts of food and exercise based on our own unique situations.
Is there a solution to this problem?
Imagine correcting your weight, health and serum lipids without ever being hungry. Imagine eating within your carbohydrate tolerance while correcting your body fat percentage and correcting your fasting blood sugar. Folks with prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, high blood pressure and sever depression can all benefit from some very simple lifestyle changes.
These changes may seem strange to you at first but they do effect lifestyle and with it the environmental and nutrition choices you make.
- Reduce artificial light at night. Massively and decisively reduce screen time. This has a huge effect on weight correction and stress management.
- Get more sunlight daily. Just go for a short walk outside a couple of times a day.
- Remove all processed foods. This one is harder to do. If you cannot cut it, skin it or pluck it ideally don’t eat it. Try and avoid all foods that come in a packet or a can.
- For folks with high blood pressure, diabetes and large waist circumference I would advise avoiding all dairy and grains.
- Eat whole foods. The less food is processed the healthier you are going to be.
- Never deprive yourself. Choose one day a week where you can eat anything you like. Move naughty foods to this day. You only get one day per week.
- Eat a big breakfast of protein and fat. Think avocado, pork neck and eggs. Eat until you cannot stomach another bite. This advice goes against everything we have ever been taught. That being said a huge breakfast without carbohydrates will keep your blood sugar stable for most of the day and will not have your body think its starving.
For more information you can read The Big Breakfast Debate or 7 Day Meal plans. I have seen hundreds of folks sustain their weight correction for years following the above lifestyle changes.
Charles Lubbe is the author of The Big Breakfast Debate and 7 Day meal plans. Lost 35kg and sustained while still improving over the last four years.