24 Sep

5 Reasons Diets Don't Work


The holiday season is coming up, and soon everyone will be devising New Year's Resolutions. One of the most popular resolutions year after year is to lose weight. While that 30-day diet or two-week cleanse may work in the short term, research shows that most dieters, nearly 80%, regain the weight they lost. 

The Paleo Diet, Keto, Whole 30, Atkins, the Cabbage Soup Diet, If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) are among some of the most popular diets and while people often have success in the early stages, they usually aren’t successful in the long haul. It’s a predictable trend: start a diet, lose weight, keep it off while on said diet, start enjoying life and going slightly off the diet, gain the weight back. It’s a vicious cycle that leads to years of yo-yo dieting and frustration. 

Below are five reasons these diets don’t work and what to focus on instead:

“All or nothing” mentality

Most diets require people to restrict certain food groups. The ketogenic diet says to not eat carbohydrates. The paleolithic diet says to only eat meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit, and nothing outside of these five. The carnivore diet is only meat.  The list goes on and on. These restrictions may be easy to follow in the short term, when motivation is high and you can stave off going to the work happy hour, meeting a friend for lunch, or eating cake at a relative's birthday party. Even so, is this how you want to live for the long-term? 

These diets can all be successful as long as one sticks to the rules--and away from the foods they restrict. However, for most people, the lack of flexibility to live a full life is what leads them to leave these diets behind.

Progress measured solely by the scale

How do you track progress while on a diet? For most people, it’s weighing themselves on a bathroom scale. While the number on the scale is a data point that can be used to measure progress, it’s not the only data to be looking at. In fact, I would argue that looking at the number on the scale alone is misleading. Our weight fluctuates daily based on the food we consume, our water intake, hormones, and more. The number on the scale is simply a measure of our body weight at a certain point in time and it is not an absolute measure of health. 

Unsustainable, short-term results

Diets are meant to provide results relatively quickly, but they don’t teach people how to incorporate healthy changes into everyday life. Typically diets have food rules about what to eat and what not to eat. Most people, if motivated, can stick to these rules for a few weeks or even a few months. However, these changes aren’t long-lasting because diets don’t address the reasoning behind why we were choosing to eat the foods on the ‘what not to eat’ list in the first place. 

Drastic changes 

As stated above, typical diets are restrictive and require you to follow a set of rules in order to be successful. Their short term nature leads people to making multiple changes overnight. Someone may need to go from drinking four cans of Coca-Cola everyday to drinking 0. These changes are often hard to implement, and many people find them harder to maintain. These drastic measures often lead to a cycle of binge eating. 

One size fits all

Diets provide a set of rules or guidelines to follow in order to lose weight. These rules are generic and do not take into account each individual’s personality, lifestyle, current health, etc. They are meant to help you lose weight fast, but we know the secret to keeping weight off is implementing sustainable nutrition habits that fit your lifestyle and unique needs.

What to Focus on Instead

Small changes

A better approach to healthy eating is to implement small changes over time. Start by picking 1-2 things you think are manageable to change in your diet. Perhaps it’s drinking 15 ounces more of water a day, or eating a serving of vegetables at each meal. Whatever the changes may be, make sure they are things you feel confident about.

Different measures of success

There are a lot of different ways to measure your progress. A good way to measure is by seeing how your clothes fit over time. If you enjoy keeping a journal, another good way to measure progress is how you feel or noticing if your digestion or sleep has improved. These are all great ways to track your progress and see if you are getting closer to your goal. Check out a recent blog about other ways to measure success on your fitness journey here

Understand your WHY

Understand what healthy looks like to you and why becoming healthy is intrinsically important. Getting to the bottom of why you are starting a diet in the first place can help put things into perspective. You should also be realistic about what you are willing to give up in order to be successful and what your non-negotiables are. That way when you are deciding what approach to take, you can see if it fits into your lifestyle. 

Hire a coach

Navigating nutrition can be tough and there’s a lot that goes into finding the right path to success. A coach is someone who can help guide you on your journey and hold you accountable along the way. Ultimately, the best way to reach your goals is with a plan that's designed specifically for YOU. 

If you're tired of trying various diets with little long-term success and you’d like help on your journey, Central Athlete is the right place for you. Our professional coaches develop a training and nutrition plan that is designed specifically for you based on your goals and your lifestyle. schedule a FREE strategy session below to see how we can help!

In Health, 

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