Yes, even that new one you read about on Facebook today. Even the one your coworker is doing and feels AMAZING a week in.
Even the most “flexible”…”eat what you want and still lose weight!”…”You’ll totally get rid of cravings forever” Diet is going to fail.
Unfortunately only about 5% of people who start a diet are successful at keeping the weight off. The other 95% of the time, once the diet is over (like your 21 Day Fix), any weight lost is quickly re-gained (with a few extra pounds to go with it). You can read more about the physiological side effects of dieting here.
You might be thinking well Steph, obviously the key here is to just not quit the diet, duh!
But chances are, you’ll still probably wind up back at square one eventually.
The Diet Just Doesn’t Let You Eat Enough Food
Diets work in the short term because they cut calories. Period. End of Story. Regardless of the strategy they use to get there the end result is the same. Fewer calories = weight loss.
Regardless of the strategy the diet uses to get there the end result is the same. Fewer calories = weight loss
For most of us though, eating a lot less than we are used to (or eating less than what our energy needs actually are) is going to have an expiry date. Either we’ll hit a weight loss plateau (you’re still dieting but the weight loss grinds to a halt), or you’re exposed to overeating triggers like social events, holidays, vacations, going to a restaurant, stress, cravings, etc etc etc (also known as LIFE)
You see, the stimulus to overeat is almost constantly being thrown at us. Whether it’s being in a situation where there is an abundance of food around, or emotional triggers that we typically respond to with food, it’s almost impossible to go a day without having to use a considerable amount of self-control to avoid overdoing it. How long can you keep saying NO before you cave? The diet makes you feel like a failure for not sticking with it, but the problem isn’t you! It’s the diet.
My advice? Find an eating pattern that provides you with enough fuel to avoid feeling deprived. Make sure you’re eating enough to maintain good energy levels, and have good quality workouts. Learn how to manage your triggers for overeating whether they’re environmental or emotional- talk to a Dietitian or Counselor who specializes in this area if you need help.
What about giving yourself a weekly cheat meal to satisfy food cravings? Not a great idea either. You can read more about that here .
The Supplements Just Don’t Work
A lot of diets allow you to eat whatever you want, but requires the addition of a bunch of herbal supplements, detox pills, or carb blockers to offset the extra calories you consume. The pills themselves are usually a combination of appetite suppressants, stimulants (to “boost” metabolism and give you energy), or laxatives and diuretics. Most of the time though, you’re taking a bunch of pills AND cutting your calories, so the pills really don’t have any effect at all (or at least not a measurable one).
Most of these supplements have zero scientific evidence to back up their usefulness in humans, and are lacking even simple clear recommendations like dosing. This is not only a huge waste of money, but can also be dangerous if certain products are taken excessively or mixed with prescription medications. Best case scenario might be that they have no effect, because the worst case scenario could be fatal.
Another huge issue with going the weight loss supplement route is the cost. Some of these pills are hundreds of dollars each month and are a complete and total waste of money. No one, and I mean NO ONE needs to be taking a 125.00 per month multivitamin. That’s just downright absurd.
NO ONE needs to be taking a $125.00 per month multivitamin
My advice? Save your money and the potential dangerous side effects from taking unknown supplements and spend that cash on healthy food instead! Supplements should not be taken willy nilly!
If you are wondering if there are any nutrition supplements are right for you, speak to a Registered Dietitian.
Read more: Are Your Supplements a Bunch of BS?
The Diet Lacks Variety
Take the ketogenic diet for example. The biggest issue I have with this type of diet is that it has no room for flexibility or personal preferences. It massively restricts carbohydrates from every and all sources. Forever. In the short term you’ll probably lose some weight because you’ve removed almost half the calories from your day (see point #1) But let’s get real for a minute. Are you going to never have a glass of wine, piece of fruit, or slice of real pizza ever again?? (I say real pizza because cauliflower crust with no sauce is NOT pizza!)
These diets (whether it’s Keto, the 21 day fix, or oldies like the cabbage soup diet) are all destined for failure because we are made to eat and enjoy a wide variety of foods. As humans we need many different nutrients to be healthy and we get them from a large number of sources. Perhaps there are some individuals out there who feel completely satisfied eating only a very limited number of foods for the rest of their lives, and feel it is worth the restriction to have a certain body fat percentage, but that is just not the norm.
Diets with no variety just don’t work because as humans we are made to enjoy and require a large variety of foods to adequately nourish our bodies
Diets are socially isolating
Ya know what sucks? Going to a restaurant with friends and having to watch everyone else eat while you just sit there because the food on the menu doesn’t fit in your diet plan.
What sucks even more is missing out on social events and time with friends because you can’t eat so you decide to just stay home.
We use food not just as fuel for our bodies but also as an important social and cultural experience
Humans are social creatures and food is a huge part of our culture and social environment. Taking the ability to share food with others out of your life is isolating and contributes to the poor mental state people often feel while dieting. Having to decline lunch with coworkers or eat a different meal at dinner than your family is having frankly sucks (and is a lot of work to cook two meals if you’re the main cook in your home!)
A great example of this took place in Brazil a few years ago. Brazil re-vamped their food guide and one of their key recommendations was to eat more meals with family and friends. Research has shown that we tend to eat better when we consume more home-cooked foods, especially as a family, and especially children.
So do yourself AND your whole family a favor by skipping the diet and focusing on just simply eating more homemade foods and having as many family meals together as possible.
Diets are unnecessarily complicated
Most diets don’t offer much in terms of flexibility. Diets teach you how much to eat (a prescribed amount of food), or what to eat (restricting certain foods or food groups). But what happens when you inevitably find yourself in a situation where you don’t have your food scale or measuring cups? Or the only thing available to you in a “hangry” situation is something that isn’t part of your diet plan? Or you had a really bad day and tend to snack when you’re stressed?
Trying to measure or weigh everything we put into our mouths is a ton of work. Perhaps we’ll stick with it for a few weeks or months, but like most other aspects of dieting, it has an expiry date.
Trying to measure everything you put in your mouth, or say no to all of your favourite foods day in and day out is fucking exhausting, and likely going to lead to overeating
What we really need is to get out of the dieting mindset and learn how to listen to our bodies when it comes to deciding what and how much to eat. Trying diet after diet, thinking that THIS one is the one that will finally ‘work’ is just keeping us stuck in the cycle of dieting. No one wins at that game!
What diets don’t teach you is how to navigate the overwhelming food environment we live in. There are few places we go where food is not readily available, and with our excessive screen time we are constantly being advertised to by food companies. The stimulus to eat food is everywhere we go, and with the easy access to convenience foods and number of choices we have (especially with the growth of companies like skip the dishes), making healthy choices is not an easy thing to do. The opportunities to overeat are never-ending.
This is where mindful eating can become helpful
Mindful eating can help you navigate our crazy, overwhelming food environment. Work lunches, break room treats, social situations, and holidays can all be better managed with a few simple mindful eating techniques. Becoming more aware of your personal triggers for overeating (such as stress, fatigue, or boredom) can also help you curb the feeling of losing control over how much you eat.
A balanced, sensible approach to eating and exercise is key to help you break out of the cycle of dieting
Seek out a Registered Dietitian or Counselor that specializes in Mindful Eating if you need help!