Why diets don’t work

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If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, there’s every chance you’ve tried to lose weight several times, or even more than several times

You might have experienced short-lived success, only to gain back what you lost. Or, you may have gone on a diet and lost little, or no weight at all.

What the diet industry wants you to believe is that you’re unsuccessful because you’re not dieting ‘properly’, or you haven’t found the right diet that will work for you.

But we’re here to tell you that another quick-fix or fad diet is not the answer.

The answer lies in taking a different approach to your weight loss.

In this blog, we’re going to look at the most common behaviours that people engage in when they want to lose weight, why they don’t work, and how you can lose weight for good, by taking a different approach.

Most people usually…

Follow a diet, count calories, or restrict food

One of the first things people do when trying to lose weight is go on a diet. This usually involves, cutting calories, restricting food, following food rules, or even fasting. Diets lead to a lot of things, but long-term weight loss isn’t one of them. In fact, scientific studies prove that as many as 98% of people who go on a diet end up gaining all the weight they lost (and more) within 5 years.

Diets don’t work because they:

  • lower your metabolism, which makes it harder for you to lose weight, especially when you come off them
  • can’t be sustained for long periods of time, so you end up going back to your old eating patterns
  • increase the likelihood of binge-eating and emotional eating, due to severe calorie restriction
  • lead to fatigue which will interfere with your ability to train or exercise
  • keep you in the diet mindset, which leads to low self-esteem and low self-worth
  • promote negative body image
  • encourage you to be perfect with your eating, which leads to all-or-nothing thinking, fear of food, and guilt about eating
  • increase stress levels which impact your ability to lose weight
  • rely on willpower, which comes and goes
  • compromise your mental health
  • compromise your immune system
  • don’t address your habits — the core reasons why you became overweight in the first place.

What leads to results…

Ditching the diets and food rules

Instead of restricting food, focus on eating foods that will nourish your body, and give you the energy you need to train effectively and recover from your training. Make time each week to prepare healthy, delicious meals which will ensure your body gets the nourishment that it needs to function properly and lose weight. Instead of depriving yourself of the foods you love, give yourself permission to eat them, as this will help reduce bingeing. A good strategy is to set boundaries around how you do this. For example, setting a boundary of eating chocolate twice a week, instead of every day will prevent you from over-eating. Setting a boundary of drinking alcohol only on weekends will automatically reduce your intake. Learning to relax around food and understanding that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, will make it much easier to lose weight and keep it off.

Most people usually…

Exercise a lot

After cutting calories, most people usually increase their exercise in an attempt to burn more calories, and cardio exercise is often the exercise of choice. However, exercise is only 3% of the weight loss equation. Too much exercise actually has a detrimental effect on your ability to lose weight as it increases your risk for injury and burnout, which will compromise your ability to train and stay consistent with your training. It also increases the stress placed on your body, which prevents you from losing weight, and may even cause weight gain!

What leads to results…

Training effectively

Most people who are trying to lose weight perform large amounts of exercise for the sake of being active, hoping that it will lead to weight loss, and the body they want. The truth is you only have to train a few hours a week to lose weight. But you must engage in the right type of exercise. The ideal program should include Focused Intense Resistance Exercise (FIRE) — aka weight training, a small amount of Intense Cardio Exercise (ICE), and movement such as walking, on most days. You should also focus on training rather than exercise. Training is doing physical activity for the purpose of achieving a goal, as opposed to exercise that is being busy for the sake of moving. When it comes to exercise for weight loss, less is definitely more.

Most people usually…

Focus on the end result

While it’s important to have a goal you’re working towards, too many people focus on the end result. Taking this approach means that the goal becomes the focus instead of the actions that need to be taken in order to get there. It’s a bit like going on a road trip. Of course, you need to know where you’re going, but you’ll never get there if you don’t follow the directions on the map. When you focus on the end-result, you won’t be paying attention to the things you need to do in order to get your results and keep them. For example, you won’t be learning new skills around food prep or training. You won’t be working on getting better sleep, reducing your alcohol intake, or lowering your stress levels. You won’t make time to work on your fears and habits that have led you to where you are. Instead, you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed with how far you have to go, in order to reach your goal, which increases the likelihood of giving up without giving yourself a chance.

What leads to results…

Focusing on the journey

It may sound cliché, but learning to love the journey will give you the best results. Striving, forcing or trying to do more to get there quicker will leave you feeling burned out and overwhelmed. But focusing on daily actions means you’ll be actually doing the things that will yield the results you want. You’ll be able to change your habits, which will mean that you’ll be able to keep the results you get. You’ll never get stuck of go backwards because you’ll be able to pinpoint the things that work for you, and the things that don’t. By focusing purely on the end goal, you’ll be missing out on all the vital lessons you need to learn along the way, in order to lose weight for good. Plus, you’ll be pretty stressed and unhappy along the way.

Most people usually…

Weigh themselves a lot

Once people start exercising and dieting, in order to reach their weight loss goals, the next thing they do is drag out the scales. That’s because the diet industry has led us to believe that the scales matter most when it comes to losing weight. Now, of course, if you want to lose weight, you’d like to see a drop in the scales, but scales don’t tell the whole story. While they may be a useful tool in monitoring your progress, most people place far too much emphasis on what the scale says, which can get them in all kinds of trouble.

For example, most people lose weight in the first few weeks of going on a diet, but after a while, this weight loss plateaus. This is a normal part of the weight loss process. But those who focus on the scales interpret this as the diet not working, so they restrict food even more, or start exercising more, which as we’ve seen, is a recipe for disaster. Body weight fluctuates regularly, but those who focus on the scales as a way to measure progress, interpret these natural fluctuations as weight gain or weight loss, which gives them an inaccurate measure of their real progress. Unfortunately, many people with a weight problem attach their self-worth to what the scale says, which can mess with their head, and lead them to engage in more diet-related behaviours, which see them continue to go around in circles, never getting results.

What leads to results…

Ditching the scales

Letting go of what the scale says and focusing on other ways to measure your progress will help you feel more positive about your journey and the changes you’re making. This in turn will give you the confidence to keep taking action, which will lead to weight loss results. Other ways to visibly measure your progress include trying on clothes, taking progress photos, taking body measurements, and even tracking your body composition (i.e. the amount of fat and muscle mass on your body). To really understand the limitations of the scales and learn new ways to tracking progress, be sure to read our blog Forget about the scales: there’s a better way of tracking weight loss.

Most people usually…

Look for big changes

People who go on diets usually expect quick results. Why? Because the diet industry has led us to believe that you can get amazing results in just 6 or 12 weeks. But we know that any results you get during that time is due to crash dieting, excessive exercise and lots of deprivation. The road to getting these results is never pleasant. And to make matters worse, the results gained aren’t even permanent.

Another problem with always looking for big changes is that you’re likely to quit when you stop noticing results. As we’ve said, a slowing down of results is a normal part of the process that happens when your metabolism resets as your body adjusts to a new normal. But most people interpret this as the diet not working. So they stop what they’re doing, look for another diet and start again. As you probably know, this just keeps you in the cycle of dieting, always looking for the magic bullet that will give you big results in the shortest period of time.

What leads to results…

Making lots of small changes

The truth is that the biggest changes in weight and body shape happen when you’re consistent, not when you’re perfect, or when you’re following a strict diet. Consistency is about lots of small changes adding up over time. Most people barely acknowledge small changes, thinking that they don’t matter. But the compound effect of these can make an enormous difference. Instead of looking for a big change, start thinking smaller. Celebrate the smaller things like getting to sleep an hour earlier each night, doing your weekly food prep, facing your fears and doing one thing outside your comfort zone each week, or managing your need to feel in control. Improving by just 1% every day over a whole year means you’ll be 37 times better at the end of that time. That 1% doesn’t sound like much, but wouldn’t you like to be 37 times better at losing weight? To truly understand the power of tiny gains, make sure you read our blog The snowball effect: why small things add up to big weight loss.

Most people usually…

Focus on changing their body

When trying to lose weight, most people focus on changing their body (i.e. getting smaller). Once again, the diet industry has declared that living in a smaller body is what we should all be aiming for. Those who sell diets don’t care if your health is compromised, that you feel afraid around food, that you engage in diet-obsessed behaviours that take over your life, or if you constantly compare your body with other people. Just as long as you continue to shrink. But this focus on body shape, weight and size messes with your head and perpetuates the vicious cycle of believing that you’ll only be worthy when you lose weight. It also prevents you from addressing the real reasons you became overweight in the first place — your habits.

What leads to results…

Changing your habits

Weight is less to do with diet and exercise and more to do with habits. You see, your daily choices and actions — your habits — will determine how successful you are at losing weight. Habits are the unconscious thoughts and behaviours that we engage in without realising. They have the power to help us reach our goals, or to derail our success. There are lots of habits that prevent weight loss, that many people are not aware of. These include people-pleasing, feeling guilty about putting yourself first, comparing yourself with other people, lack of self-worth, diet mindset, perfectionism, not celebrating your success, or using food and alcohol to cover your emotions.

However, if you work on your habits and commit to changing these behaviours, you’ll find that weight loss is a by-product that you won’t have to work so hard for. When you set up your environment for success, and build habits that support weight loss, you can’t help but succeed.

Turn diet culture on its head

If you’ve been on countless diets but are still struggling with your weight, maybe it’s time to turn diet culture on its head and take a different approach. Because if you’re still asking yourself how to lose weight, then what you’re doing obviously isn’t working.

However, we know that turning your back on everything you know (or think you know) about dieting and weight loss is difficult. We know that it’s scary to let go of the familiar, even though you know it doesn’t work, and try something different.

But that’s where we can help. We’ve helped many other people get off the diet roundabout and get the results they’ve been working so hard for, for years. Through our personalised, structured program, we provide you with the correct action steps to help you break free from the diet culture so you can start making headway with the things that will make the biggest difference to your weight.

We provide you with the right amount of accountability to help you keep progressing, ensuring that you never get stuck.

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