Why Diets Fail
There are multiple reasons as to why dieting is often unsuccessful and can often lead to weight gain in the longer term. In this article, the more common culprits are discussed.
You’re looking for a quick fix and there’s no long term strategy in place.
Simply put diets are temporary. Often people embark on them as a way to lose weight as quick as possible and once they have achieved said goal weight, they return to their old eating patterns, only to regain the weight once again. Successful people undergo a change in lifestyle, they don’t diet. If you are a yo-yo dieter and struggle to achieve dieting success, what happens when the diet duration is over and you return to normality? Failing to plan is planning to fail. You need a lifestyle plan that is sustainable and realistic moving forward for years, not weeks, to come. Take time to set long and short term goals that fit in with family, work and social commitments. Speak with a nutritionist or personal trainer about realistic goals and use this information to help plan your healthy lifestyle program.
Deprivation of nutrients.
Calorie or energy restricted diets often under nourish the body. Not eating enough food is one of the top reasons why diets fail. Eliminating whole food groups can also severely reduce the intake of vitamins and minerals associated with those food groups. This is unhealthy at best and long term effects can be dangerous. Mood fluctuations, hormone imbalances, muscle wastage and reduced bone density are some of the shorter term effects of restrictive dieting, often leading to longer term complications. The hunger signals from the brain during restrictive diets are there to serve a purpose. It’s not often due to a lack of energy intake but due to a lack of vitamin and mineral intake. The body will keep telling you it’s hungry until it gets its feed of essential vitamins and minerals. This is often why people tend to ‘over eat’ on an energy restricted diet.
In order to feed your body with adequate nutrition, select foods that are nutrient dense.
The influence of peers a.k.a. peer pressure.
Peer pressure can be a tough gig, especially for the younger generations; being more susceptible to behavioural influence. Peer pressure to eat that pizza, or have desert or an extra drink when out with friends, can be hard to resist. Perhaps suggest an alternative place to dine, where you know there are healthier options. Say you are driving, or suggest a BYO in order to not feel pressured into drinking. Refusing dessert by saying “I’m completely satisfied from my meal” rather than saying “I’m trying to lose weight”, is a more positive affirmation and less likely to lead to snide remarks from friends and family. Just remember it’s your body, your health, not theirs. You do what’s best for you. Try joining groups with like minded individuals that can empathise with your health choices; they can form a great support network for you.
Unrealistic expectations – weight loss vs body fat loss.
Be wary of the scales, they don’t always paint a true picture. So you lost a bit of weight over the first couple of weeks of embarking on a new healthy lifestyle (nutrition and exercise) regime and now the weight loss is slowing down. It may seem frustrating at first especially if you have been following a healthy diet and regularly exercising, including weight resistance training. Fear not, the scales CAN lie! You are most likely losing body fat and gaining a little lean muscle mass, which enhances fat burning capabilities. The more lean muscle you have the more efficient your body is at burning energy, when at rest. For example, take two women of the same height and weight. One has 34% body fat the other 25%. The one with the lower body fat will have more lean muscle mass and her body will burn more energy during times of rest than the other and (all other things equal) she will lose more weight over the same period of time as the other lady. So with that in mind, the focus ought to be on body fat loss NOT weight loss. A safe and long lasting goal is to aim for a 0.5-1.0% body fat reduction each week. If you don’t have access to a set of scales or callipers to measure your body composition, then a good guide is to measure hip, waist, butt and thigh circumferences. Keep a record of these numbers every week, so even if the scales don’t move much, but your measurements are coming down, then FANTASTIC you’re probably losing fat. That’s ideal!
Failing to track progress.
Keeping track of your efforts helps keep you motivated as it serves to remind you of the facts, during the times you may feel a little disheartened. Our diary/journal is a great tool for this. You can summarise the days exercise and nutrition noting how you felt after each meal and exercise session. Once a week, take your body composition measurements, record these and total up all of the exercise you did and how you felt with the nutrition plan. Take photographs of yourself in your underwear every 3-4 weeks. You don’t have to look at them straight away, but in weeks to come, or when you feel like you aren’t making any progress, take a look. Remember the mind is more often perception than reality, so when you’ve stalled it’s highly likely that it’s all in your head. You can take a look at those diary entries and photographs for the real results and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Don’t forget to exercise.
Nutrition is only half of the picture. It’s about making healthy lifestyle changes, this means adding a regular exercise regime into the mix. Guidelines’ recommend at least 60 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. The type of exercise should include a mixture of aerobic and cardiovascular based exercise, like swimming, running, cycling, gym fitness classes etc in addition to weight resistance exercise, that’s using weights or body weight resistance to tone and build muscle. The combination of exercise and healthy nutrition allows you to burn energy more effectively and more efficiently.