Why Diets Fail

I recently wrote about mindless eating, and offered a few tips to help curb this unwanted eating habit. When I posted it to the Ascend Fitness Facebook Page, the article received two comments, both which advised that people should simply cut down, or cut out, carbohydrates, and suggested diet plans to follow which would help people do just that.
There’s no doubt, nutrition matters. What you put into your body will affect how you feel, how your body looks and how your body functions. But there are some serious fundamental flaws with diets, even ‘healthy’ diets.
I’ve coached clients for 12 years and after making many, many mistakes, I have learned that generic dietary recommendations or diet plans don’t work, and in this article, I will share why.
Here’s the thing: All diets work… for 4-6 weeks, if you’re lucky.  But, if you diet, the odds are stacked against you: 95% of dieters gain the weight back, and then some. In fact, going on a diet is the #1 predictor of weight gain. Crazy, right? If diets were a pill there would be no way they’d ever be approved, or recommended- yet we spend billions of dollars each year on trying to find the magic bullet that will be the answer to our eating woes.
Yet we think they work– because we looked and felt our best when following said diet plan. We had lots of energy, we lost weight, and we felt great. And when we ‘slip up’ and the weight comes piling back on, we blame ourselves. The success of a diet is measured in the short term. Sure, someone can lose 40 pounds in 6 months following certain diet rules, but what about the next 5 years?
Diet plans, and most health ‘experts’ out there will tell you what to eat and when to eat it. And while nutrition is important, knowing what to eat is such a small part of the solution. If you’re like most people, you can stick to a portion-controlled healthy meal plan for a few weeks or even months… but then fall face first into a jar of organic almond butter (or apple turnovers). Most of us know that snacking on chips in front of the TV is not a healthy habit and we also know that an insatiable appetite for sugar in the evening is not helpful.
The ‘what we’re eating’ matters and it’s important, but most of us know what to do, we struggle with the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ we’re eating. We struggle with our relationship with food. We think a diet plan will be the answer.
For most people, the diet is unsustainable. Every diet plan carries some restrictions. Maybe you don’t have to count calories, but you can only eat certain foods. Maybe you can eat whatever you want, but you need to stick within a certain number of macronutrients each day. Maybe you can eat however much you want, but only at specific times. The rules are rigid, and they don’t take into account that our body’s needs may change from day to day, and from year to year. Today’s trend is to demonize carbohydrates, yet carbohydrates are an important part of the diet- and essential for good health.
We often have strange perfectionist tendencies when it comes to diets. We’re either all in and ‘perfect’, or we’re eating a white bagel and caramel macchiato for breakfast each day. We constantly judge ourselves based on our food choices. When we follow our diet we’re ‘good’, and when we indulge, we feel guilty and either make the ‘failure’ epic by binging on whatever we can find, or we punish ourselves with extra cardio, or vowing to start over again on Monday.
Diets also assume that if it works for one person (often the creator of the diet), it will work for everyone. And while it may work for everyone for a short amount of time, is it sustainable? At Ascend Fitness, we believe in bio-individuality- what works for you may not work for your neighbor. We’re built differently, have different preferences and lifestyle habits. Even recommendations like ‘eat breakfast everyday’ may not work for everyone.
It may be difficult to stop dieting, until you’ve hit diet rock bottom. When you’ve done so many diet plans in the past and you’re so frustrated with the roller coaster ride of weight loss and weight gain. If you’re there, STOP! Stop dieting! Stop looking for a special trick that will solve your eating problems. Stop the insanity. Stop the obsession with food plans and being ‘on or off’. Stop being so strict (or completely ‘off track’).
Start to become more playful, to experiment with food a bit more. What foods make you feel good? Start to check in with yourself. How are you feeing? What do you need in this moment?
I get that I’m oversimplifying a complex relationship with food. Starting to listen to your inner wisdom, and starting to change your mindset and lifestyle to support healthy eating habits, is much more challenging than following someone else’s diet rules. It’s not as ‘sexy’ as the promise to lose 10 pounds in the next 28 days. But then again, maybe it is. Because the on again off again weight-loss-weight-gain cycle is pretty lousy.
The road to a more peaceful relationship with food is a rocky one, but I think you’re worth it.
Want to learn more on how to nourish your body and get off the diet train? Start here!

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