Why diets don’t work

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This is a collection of the most common and evident reasons why diets don’t work.

1. THERE’S NO REAL MOTIVATION TO LOSE WEIGHT.

“I want to be thin a lot. But I want that chocolate cake more.” It is SO TRUE! I like a lot this comic strip that I saw once somewhere, and that I tried to replicate here.

Similarly to many other things in life, there is a price to pay to be lean. If you want to be lean, you have to give up some short term pleasure, like the one junk food provides. Are you available to pay this price or not?

If you diets fail repeatedly because you keep on eating short term delights, it probably means that you’re not motivated enough to lose weight.

After all, considered the option of being fat eating tasty fattening food, and the option of being lean giving up the tasty fattening food, you decided that being fat is ok for you.

2. IGNORING WHAT “DIET” REALLY MEANS.

A lot of people try to lose weight using a “diet”, but do they really understand what a diet is?

Diet has nothing to do with the various “hcg”, “weightwatchers”, “slimfast”, that are basically commercial products created mainly to get your money (from pills, books, programs) and often they promise unrealistic things (for example I personally think that slimfast is an oxymoron, as there’s no “fast” way to go from fat to slim).

Diet is not something you do for a short period (like 3 weeks or 2 months) as an exceptional thing to lose weight. Conceived like this, it is inesorably doomed to fail.

Diet is the practical application, every time you eat, of your nutrition knowledge. It is lifestyle in the kitchen. It is long term. It is realistic. It depends on motivation. And it focuses on quality, on eating nutritious whole foods, rather that on quantity. In fact, counting the calories on a diet is a prehistoric approach, please don’t focus too much on the numbers!

3. THE “LOSE WEIGHT INDUSTRY” IS HAPPY THAT DIETS DON’T WORK.

The commercial diets advertised on magazines, tv, those diets that sell something (like pills, elixirs, bars) are not even created with the purpose of making you lose weight. It’s a business: they want your money.

In fact, the producers of those diets are quite happy to know that people fail in long term weight loss.

Why? Simple: they become repeated customers! It would be so sad if the customers buy their program once, lose their excess weight forever and never come back to spend more money. It’s much better if they fail, or if they only lose some weight for awhile, so they’ll come back to buy some other more powerful, incredible gimmick.

4. THERE ARE TONS OF MISLEADING INFORMATION ABOUT FOOD.

There are too many controversial information about what foods are actually unhealthy and fattening, and what are healthy and really promote weight loss. As consequence, a lot of people are deceived.

There are enormous quantities of fake healthy foods that are actually crappy, processed to the maximum, and fattening. And many diets that are popular and trendy today are based on these products, with the consequence that they never make you lose a pound.

Immediate examples are the foods with healthy claims that invade the grocery stores: there are actually a lot of people who think that “diet” coke, “fitness” sugary bars, “light” cheese”, “special” sugary cereals fit well into a diet regimen.

Furthermore, a lot of trendy diets lay on a series of nutrition myths that will make any attempt, inevitably, uneffective or painful. I still hear people say that white rice is good to lose weight, or that you have to starve and deprive yourself on a diet, or that fruit must be avoided because it contains sugar. And a diet will never work if you don’t get rid of all these misconceptions.

5. ADDING A MAGIC PILL IS NOT ENOUGH.

One of the main reasons why diets don’t work is that people think that they can just add some magic element, like a pill or a bar, to their usual diet composed of a lot of junk foods and it will work. Obviously, it doesn’t.

Overweight depends on your diet as a whole, on the entire set of foods you eat in a day. And if you eat too much food, and the wrong kind of food, you can’t expect that by just adding some pill or potion to it, you will reduce.

I see what people search on the web using some tools provided by the search engines, and there are so many queries like “pills forweight loss”, and “supplements for weight loss” and “shakes for weight loss”. Everybody is searching for something to ADD to their diet. But very few people accept that more than adding new things to their diet, they have to change their diet.

Change is so difficult for many human beings.

6. NUTRITION FIRST, DIET SECOND.

A lot of people don’t succeed with their diets simply because they know nothing about nutrition.

The approach of reaching directly for a diet as a solution for being fat, without learning and understanding what is nutrition first, leads inevitably to failure.

As I often say, nutrition is theory, diet is practice. Diet must be inspired by nutrition knowledge.

But a lot of people never really focus on the important things related to nutrition (like for example eating nutrient dense foods and avoiding empty calorie foods) and jump directly to the diet, and often on things of secondary importance (like the count of calories).

7. DIETS DON’T WORK IN ADVERSE ENVIRONMENTS.

Diet is holistic, meaning that the way you eat is part of a bigger context: where you eat, with who you eat, what time you eat, in what conditions you eat.

You can plan your diet to the last vitamin and the last calorie, but if everyday you find yourself eating lunch in the workplace’s bar, where everything is fattening, or everyday at dinner you eat with your family where no one cares about healthy food but just eats tons of fried stuff, your odds to stay in shape are minimal.

Instead, if you want to succeed, it’s important that you do your best to create the ideal conditions, to surround yourself with health conscious people, and to eat in the right places.

8. PERFECTIONISM IS BAD.

“Oh I shouldn’t have eaten this. Well, I’ll start the diet again on monday.”

The common approach to diet is based on perfectionism. The typical person on a diet thinks: “I’ll stop eating fattening foods until I lose all this extra weight! I’ll do it!”. Then, as soon as they do one infringiment, eating one piece of chocolate or a sneakers bar, they consider the diet broken and splurge on more junk food. That’s exactly the way I used to think, before realizing that also in diet, like in many other things, perfectionism is a real damaging attitude.

Perfection is not human, and a period of “diet” where you can’t absolutely make a mistake can become very sad. This is why it usually lasts for very few days. How many times I heard “I’m on a diet”. Then, at the first infringiment, “oh damn, I’ll start again next monday”. And then next monday, and then next monday. A repeated failure that eventually will make you lose faith in your ability to really manage what you eat.

What do you think? Do you find these reasons familiar? Or did you actually succeed losing weight in the long term with one of those diets advertised on magazines? Share your experience in the comments.

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