Why Diets Don’t Work
Most of you have heard by now that diets don’t work. In fact, the most common statistic is that 95% of diets are doomed to fail. Based on my work with women, here are 10 reasons that diets don’t work.
But what does that mean?
It means that while most diets can work to cause us to lose weight, they aren’t sustainable and most people quit or even when they are successful they are impossible to sustain long-term.
The crazy part is that we all still believe that we need a diet–even though there is overwhelming evidence that this is not a solution.
Diet culture has hijacked the way we think about food, our weight, and our bodies.
Instead of helping us feel better about ourselves, all the confusion has created more obesity, more excess weight, and seriously affected our mental health.
I’m offering some practical guidance to help you start looking at the food your eat and how you eat it differently.
This could be the beginning of food freedom for you. Wouldn’t it be great to be free from the magic diet scheme, fad diets, and the near-constant obsession with what you are eating?
Here is some practical advice to help you get started. As you read on, you’ll see why diets don’t work.
Sure they can work but usually they aren’t sustainable because when you only have an action plan but you don’t have the psychology or mindset to stick with something, it always fails.
Any diet plan worth following needs to be based on your unique needs. Your diet isn’t just about changing your body; it’s about changing how you think and feel about food!
Here are 10 reasons that diets don’t work. These are the things I hear and see all the time. Here’s your chance to start believing differently and avoiding these pitfalls.
You Just Haven’t Found the Right Diet Yet
There is no perfect diet—there are just versions of the same ways to lose weight.
- Calorie restriction
- Carb restriction
- Time restriction
There is something comforting about looking for and finding the perfect diet. Spoiler alert…it doesn’t exist yet.
But you have something better. You have your own body and mind that can be used to find the right way to eat for you.
Are there areas you could improve? Of course. We all think that. But having areas that you can improve doesn’t mean you need to follow another diet.
A lot of times, we get motivated to start another diet because of health issues or to get ready for a special event.
Despite almost desperate motivation, diets are hard to stick to long-term. All diets. We live amidst so much addictive and inflammatory food that is designed to make us overeat it and crave it.
Another diet is not the answer. There isn’t a perfect one. There isn’t a one-size-fits all diet for a single solution. High-fat, low-carb, or any other popular diet styles have their place but most of the hype of popular diets can be ignored.
But because of all the misinformation and confusing choices, we keep thinking we are missing something.
I came up with what I believe are 10 lies about losing weight and diets. I have linked to what I do think helps below. In the meantime, here is some inspiration to help you right now let go of beliefs that are NOT helping you at all.
All Calories are the Same
In the calorie restriction camp is the idea that all calories are the same. Just stick to 1200 calories and all will lose weight.
Now, I don’t believe anyone is out there saying eat all 1200 calories in candy or French fries. But the idea that all calories are the same just isn’t true.
1200 calories of sugar or food that acts like sugar in your body will have a completely different effect on your body compared to 1200 calories of protein, vegetables, and fat.
Sugar and other processed carbs at high amounts are difficult for your body to handle. When the amount you eat exceeds what your body can use as energy, it gets stored as fat. This isn’t a bad thing in the short-term. It’s how our body works.
The problem is that when we do this day in and day out, year-round, we consistently gain weight—even if we aren’t overeating.
Many women complain because they really aren’t overeating, yet they still gain weight. It can be because of the types of food you eat, not just how much.
All or Nothing Dieting
There is this persistent and counter-productive idea that you must eat perfectly to get good results.
The problem with this is that it sets you up for failure.
You use the weekend to overeat because you are going to start your new diet on Monday. You last until Monday night. Because you messed up, you figure you might as well keep overeating.
All or nothing thinking is horribly destructive. What happens is that you never get to the perfect eating, yet you continually have your problem eating.
Look, there is no such thing as a perfect diet. So-so eating will ultimately be better for you than waiting until you can eat perfectly.
Thinking “I Don’t Have Any Willpower” is the Problem
Every woman I work with has incredible willpower in many ways. Willpower is not the problem.
Food is a physical need. In our modern world, food is also entertainment, comfort, connection, love, and distraction.
We eat for so many reasons other than hunger.
In addition, so much of our food is made so that it tastes better than nature, is more addicting, and plays havoc on your appetite, satiety, blood sugar, and hormones.
There are numerous reasons why our relationship with food can get so out-of-whack. Here are the three that I see the most often:
- The cycle of depriving and then overeating
- Using food to cope with parts of your life and your emotions
- Too much snacking
Instead of willpower, I teach women simple ways of changing their relationship with food. I teach women to:
- Eat enough good food at their meals so that they won’t snack or overeat
- How to handle your emotions and improve your life without using food
- Working with your body, mind, and emotions solves for the root causes of overeating so that you don’t have to rely as much on willpower.
Snacking Isn’t Healthy
There are healthy foods but in general, I recommend breaking the snacking habit.
I recently read that our modern habit of snacking between meals and at night has doubled the calories people eat now compared to generations before.
So, number one, snackers eat more food. Period!
The other problem with snacking is it often relies on foods that just aren’t that good for you and keep you from experiencing the normal hunger cues that tell you when it is time to eat.
Plateaus Mean You’re Doing Something Wrong
Sometimes you will stay the same weight for a while. A lot of people will say that is a problem and you should cut back more.
I disagree. I believe plateaus are good for us. Our body gets used to a new weight and we get used to not being reactive to our weight.
Weight Loss is Linear and Consistent
Weight loss is not a steady linear process of losing two pounds a week like we’ve been led to believe.
For some women, it may happen that way. More often, it happens in smaller increments. Sometimes there is no significant loss for a few weeks.
Then there will be some movement. Then some holding steady.
This isn’t the bad thing we’ve been told. Remember, you are eating for a lifetime, not just this year.
Your weight isn’t confined to one single number. At your goal weight or even now, you will probably have a small weight range of 3 or 4 pounds.
So, when losing weight, it’s going to be totally normal to see your weight go a little up and a little down. Watch for the range to change, not just the number.
Messing Up is a Problem
You can’t mess anything up!
You just can’t. It’s such a lie to say, we’ve messed up just because of something we eat.
There are going to be times when you eat something that you wished you hadn’t. It’s no big deal. You don’t have to be perfect or eat perfect.
Overall consistently is way more important than if you eat a cookie now and then. Sometimes to get the fat loss going, you may need to be more careful. That being said, if you don’t let something mess you up and you keep going with your intentional eating, you’ll be fine.
Where women get off-track is believing that “messing up” means they can’t stick with it or it won’t work.
Weight loss and maintaining weight is a lifetime decision. It is the decision to be intentional about your food most of the time.
I know this sounds harsh, but that’s the food-world we live in, where we are inundated daily with thousands of crave-inducing foods. It takes intention to take care of your body.
There’s a Perfect Way to Eat
Okay, most of you are on information overload about what to eat, how to eat it, and when to eat it.
At this moment in time, I would say most of you are trying to decide if you should go to a plant-based diet, try intermittent fasting, or really limit your carbs.
There is no perfect way to eat. Every diet you read about probably sounds good in some way. We are usually attracted to the diets that promise it won’t be hard and we’ll lose weight quickly.
But quick-loss diets are not sustainable. And once that fails, you’ll be on the search for the next one.
Let’s get off the diet merry-go-round!
In general, we lose fat when we have fewer processed/concentrated carbs in our diet, we don’t eat around the clock, and we listen to our hunger and when we’re full.
No matter what a diet promises, it’s usually some combination of all that combined with calorie restriction.
There’s an Answer Outside of Yourself
One of the problems is that most women believe there is an answer or solution outside of themselves—that perfect way to eat from above.
Your body knows when it is time to eat and when it is full. You have preferences.
If you have been eating primarily processed foods, such as junk food or fast food, your body may be confused at the moment. It will crave those types of food over healthy food.
But in many ways, you can trust your body to know what it wants and needs. You can learn to use your mindset to stick with your plan.
After four years of working with women one-on-one in life coaching, I know that every woman is different.
Each woman I work with creates her own eating plan. She chooses her own food. She finds the best times to eat for her body and schedule. And there is no rush. No hurry to lose weight.
Also, each woman decides for herself WHY she wants to lose weight. At first, it seems obvious. I need to lose weight because, I’m overweight.
But that is rarely incentive enough.
Instead, it is important to connect with your future self. What is it she wants to do? What kind of life does she want to have?
Then when a woman can picture this—she has a stronger motivation to eat in a way that supports her weight loss goals and helps her stick with her lifestyle changes.
She isn’t doing it because society or social media says so. She’s doing it because there is a longing for something different and supporting her body will make that possible.
That’s when intentional eating becomes easier. It’s not because of some vague outside-yourself reason, it’s because your spirit is guiding you towards a life you want.
Weight Loss Truths
We can wish that weight loss was easier, but we just have to accept that it’s complicated. However, there are some basic concepts of a successful weight loss plan.
When I say that it’s complicated, I mean that while the mechanics of most diets will lead to weight loss, unfortunately diets just don’t prove to be sustainable and most dieters gain their weight back.
I do believe it is possible to lose weight at any age and that this will probably look different than it did in your twenties or thirties. Creating a realistic diet is important.
Weight loss will not solve all your problems. It’s important to be realistic about weight loss and what it can and can’t do.
Here’s some good news though. Those foods that seem impossible to give up now, if you do it my way, at some point, you will no longer crave them and you will not be controlled by food anymore, or at least, not at the same level.
How to Move Forward with Weight Loss
Here are some of my favorite articles I’ve written to help women over 50 lose weight.
Keep showing up my friends,
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Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! Big changes can happen with a shift in thinking. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life and weight loss coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 50-minute coaching session.