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10 Reasons Diets Fail

Aug 18, 2007
For every 100 dieters, one will maintain their weight loss after 5 years, which is the marker determining permanent weight loss to the medical community. Research indicates diets actually add pounds in the long run.

Why are diets so destructive to our weight and health? Here are some of the reasons.

1. Severe food restriction causes real hunger.

It's a fact that most diets last less than 72 hours. Hunger is a basic human urge. Man continues to survive (and has for thousands of years) because of the ability to cope with famine and scarcity of food. Hunger has been the powerful motivator for that survival.

2. A diet is an artificial plan which is different from your lifestyle.

Your new diet book has pages and pages of special recipes but you don't like to cook. Your diet says you must prepare all your food, but your job requires you to entertain clients. Only you can set the boundaries around eating and make them work within your lifestyle.

3. A diet is a temporary solution to a permanent problem.

The diet industry makes billions (yes! over $42 billion a year) by convincing people to follow a diet for a few weeks or months to solve lifelong problems of emotional eating, eating for the wrong reasons or eating food that is nutrition-less. Once a diet ends, the weight comes back because the problems and behaviors are still there. Maybe you squeezed yourself into the bridesmaid's dress in time for the wedding, but you still have the rest of your life ahead of you.

A first step toward success is to accept that there is no free ride. If you lose weight on a strict diet, you will always pay for it later.

4. A diet doesn't take into account your likes and dislikes.

If your diet prescribes cabbage soup and you don't like cabbage, you are in real trouble. Or perhaps it limits you to high protein foods but your body doesn't digest protein easily. Should you really eat in an artificial way that causes you pain and suffering?


Look at the big picture and make the choices that support your goals. Following someone else's rules can also put you at risk for new health problems that you don't need.

5. A one-size-fits-all diet cannot possibly be useful to everyone.

You are unique. Different people need different amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat to feel and perform at their best. No diet can guarantee that you will feel good while following it; no dietician or nutritionist can figure out what makes you feel energetic and balanced. Only you can determine what pattern of food intake keeps you feeling great.

6. Cravings are real.

The body produces cravings for a reason. There are real, productive cravings for things your body needs (like water), and there are self-defeating cravings that come from psychological causes. It's not hard to train yourself to recognize the differences and act accordingly. A little moderation goes a long way.

7. Diets set up feelings of deprivation and punishment.

The psychological aspects of dieting can be devastating. Diets are often used as self-torture, to "validate" deep-rooted negative feelings or chip away at your sense of worth. Remember, it's the diet that fails, not you.

8. Dieting puts the emphasis only on food.

A 1995 Baylor University study followed three groups of participants who wanted to lose weight over a two-year period: (1) the Diet Only group; (2) the Diet/Exercise group; and (3) the Exercise Only group. After 3 months, the Diet Only and Diet/Exercise groups had lost more than the Exercise Only group. The Exercise Only group showed a smaller loss of 4-8 pounds.

At the 12-month mark, the Diet Alone and Diet/Exercise groups again had lost more total weight than the Exercise Only group BUT they had gained back some weight from their 3-month mark. (In simple terms, they lost all the weight they were going to lose very quickly, in 3 months, and were now regaining the lost weight weight.)

At the 2-year mark, the Diet Only and Diet/Exercise groups were back at their original weight or MORE. The Exercise Only group was still losing weight. It's a variation on the Tortoise and the Hare. A good question might be, "Where do I want to be in two years?"

Putting the emphasis on food allows us to believe food is the issue and that, if we change food, we'll achieve permanent weight loss. This simply isn't true. Changing our behaviors with food is the key.

9. Dieting promotes weight loss, not fat loss.

The number on your scale may be going down with a severely restricted eating plan, but it is only a temporary change of the non-fat elements of your body (water, muscle, interstitial and organ tissue, and even blood volume). The real issue: Do you want lower the number on the scale or permanently burn fat?

Long-term health lies in fat loss, which can only occur at 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. This is why quick weight loss is always followed by quick weight gain.

10. Dieting leads to new problems or compounds old ones.

If you are concerned with your weight and health, you don't need new problems. Many popular diets cause fatigue, low energy, loss of sleep, depression, stress and erratic mood swings. Who needs that, especially when the dieting effort doesn't solve the weight issue in a permanent way?

Your best indicator that you are eating well is how you feel. Your best approach to weight loss is an individual one that takes your preferences, lifestyle, needs and attitudes into consideration.

Be kind to your body. It's the only one you'll ever have. Give it the fuel and exercise it needs on a consistent basis -- and it will stabilize at a comfortable, reasonable weight.
About the Author
Pat Barone earned her title "America's Weight Loss Catalyst" by coaching thousands of clients toward permanent weight loss. Her status as an expert is heightened by her own personal weight loss success. Receive her free newsletter "The Catalyst" by visiting http://www.patbarone.com.
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