Are you currently on a diet or do you know anyone on a diet? If you live in the modern world, then your answer will most likely be yes! The statistics on diets are quite sobering. According to some experts, an estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year. What is even more shocking is the $33 billion – yes, billion – dollars spent each year on weight loss products.
So perhaps it’s time we put an end to dieting, or at least an end to the current “eat less and exercise more” paradigm that rules the current weight loss industry. If that actually worked, wouldn’t it have worked for more people by now? Instead, obesity and body image dissatisfaction seem to be rising, and more and more diet products enter the marketplace each day.
If you have a desire to lose weight, before you go on yet another diet, consider these 4 reasons why diets DON’T work.
1. Diets are Restrictive
All diets follow some method of restriction. While different programs use different methods of restriction, the concept is still the same: you remove or limit something from your food consumption.
Let’s get a little scientific for a moment. All food is categorized into one of 3 macronutrient groups: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates. And as you may already know, each macronutrient gram has a specific calorie profile. 1 gram of Protein = 4 calories, 1 gram of Carbs = 4 calories, and 1 gram of Fat = 9 calories.
When reviewing your next “diet” plan, take a look at the calorie and macronutrient recommendations. There will be some control or manipulation of these factors. You will be reducing calories through the manipulation of macronutrients. Remember Atkins? That food plan used an increase of protein and a reduction of carbohydrates to produce a ketogenic state to create weight loss. Different iterations of the Atkins diet are still widely used, though controversial, methods for weight loss. However, weight loss with these plans is usually not sustainable. The weight gains that many people experience after having temporarily reached their goal weight is likely due to the over-restriction of carbohydrates and the body’s need for the vitamins, minerals and fiber that can only be found in complex carbohydrates.
Other diet programs use a calorie restriction model with tools like “points” and “calorie counters” to reduce your total consumption of food below what your body actually requires, therefore burning stored fat for energy. This is defined as thermogenesis and it is the most common protocol for many popular weight loss systems on the market today. But one problem inherent to all such systems is that the thermogenesis protocol restricts fat, because of the 3 macronutrients, fat contains the most calories per gram. Eating fats – even healthy fats – is naturally discouraged, because it quickly increases your total calories consumed and takes you over your daily limit.
Dynamic Eating Psychology shows us that restricting foods, especially those you enjoy, will create a stress reaction in your body. When you design meals based solely on calories and macronutrients, something is lost. Your food may be nutritionally “perfect,” but the nourishing and joyful part of your meal is missing. You feel deprived and empty, and you rely on willpower to get through another day of your diet.
And that leads us to the second major reason why diets don’t work:
2. Diets Aren’t Successful in the Long Term
Why are 45 million Americans going on a diet this year? If diets were successful, we would go on them, lose weight, learn what works for our bodies, and never diet again. But some popular diet programs have lifetime memberships! Something’s wrong with this picture.
When exploring diet programs, ask the question, “What percentage of dieters obtained long term, sustainable weight loss and an improved quality of life?” Let’s break that down. Long term is defined as 2 years post diet. Sustainable means that the plan could be followed without extra stress and the dieters could easily incorporate the changes into their daily routines and do the plan until the weight was lost. Quality of life, in this case, is defined by improved physical and mental outcome. Are they generally happier and healthier two years later as a result of this program?
Some experts argue that 98% of dieters gain most or all their weight back within 2 years. Sadly, most programs don’t track quality of life at all. The goal is weight loss only. Look around and notice friends or coworkers who’ve had long term weight loss and observe the overall outlook on their own body and life. Many who achieve long term weight loss do so at a great cost. They are in a constant state of fear about regaining it back, or they live in an overly restrictive environment that keeps them from experiencing spontaneous pleasure with food or exercise.
While diets can work incredibly well in the short term, It’s easy to see why they don’t work long term. Restricting your calories and increasing your activity initially causes your body to drop a few pounds. This can serve as motivation to keep you going until you hit a wall. Because the human body is very adaptable, overexercising or reducing calories by too much can put your body into a stress response which decreases your metabolic function. Quite simply, your body will reserve all fat stores to stay alive in the face of perceived starvation. More weight loss will require MORE calorie cutting and MORE exercise. This is the vicious cycle caused by most diets, and it’s why people don’t stay on them. Humans are designed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. This constant state of stress is painful, so eventually you run for pleasure in the form of the very food you’ve been restricting. Sadly, this usually causes you to gain back more weight than was originally lost.
3. Diets Take a Cookie Cutter Approach
Every month you can find a new bestselling diet book or hot new infomercial touting a promise of weight loss. Again, ask a question: “Who does this work for?” The creator of the program perhaps had some success with his or her own body, or worked with a group of people who also had success.
They don’t share the non-success stories – why would they? But for every person who has success, there are usually 9 who don’t. Mind Body Nutrition principles teach that our metabolic power is based on many things other than calories in and energy burned. How we eat and how we live can have a greater impact on our body and weight than the number and type of calories we consume. Diets give us rules to follow, and our unique circumstances, personal history, and individuality are rarely considered. It’s like shooting an arrow in the dark. It might hit something, but probably not the target.
Finding your specific metabolic needs will require experimentation and examination of your personality, genetics, lifestyle, body type, relationships, and so much more. So remember, that diet you are doing is 100% perfect for someone, but that someone probably isn’t you.
4. Diets deplete your Vitamin T
There is one core element that’s missing in most diets: Trust – trust in yourself, that is. Diets require you to place an incredible amount trust in their product or program. You must give your power away to something or someone that is supposedly an expert. The diet will dictate how much you eat, what to eat, maybe when to eat, how much to exercise, what kind of exercise, and even tell you how much weight you should lose each week.
This is another big reason why diets don’t work, because most of us hate being told what to do. At first we are all in, but pretty soon our inner child says “Enough!” as we stomp our feet and head to the fridge.
We lack trust in ourselves and our own ability to figure it out. We want answers now; we want the fix! We give our money and time over to something that in the end won’t work, and we are the ones left feeling like failures. So instead of spending your precious energy giving power to another diet, practice believing in yourself and your own ability to listen to your body to discover what nourishment you really need.
Of course, diets can have a place at the table in your life. There is a tremendous amount of information and tools in these books and programs that can provide you with some useful knowledge for your very unique health journey. Here at the Institute, we believe you are the ultimate expert on your body, and only you can craft the perfect diet to meet all your individual needs for nutritional, physical and mental health. The process requires experimentation and exploration, which can include trying out aspects of several diets to determine what is helpful for YOU.
So now you are invited to go on a very special diet. A diet that includes more joy, more breathing, more nourishment, more pleasure with food, and more awareness. A diet that is designed completely by you. We trust you.
If you want to further explore this topic check out our public program, Transform Your Relationship with Food
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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