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Why “Diets” don’t work

A diet is:

  1. The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eat. You would have a bad diet if you consistently ate fast food.
  2. A special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons. You need to go on a diet to lose weight for an upcoming wedding.

We’re going to focus on number 2 for now. Diets in general are not a sustainable way of eating and almost always fail for many reasons. What we should be looking for when it comes to our diet is to find a habitual way of eating that is sustainable but also allows you to achieve the desired body composition goals. So why don’t diets work?

  • Restricting too much too soon – For the average person to go from eating what ever they want when ever they want straight into eating steamed fish and broccoli is going to be a very short lived experience. Not only has there been a dramatic drop in calories all of a sudden, the bland nature of the food not only takes the pleasure out of eating but it is also going to be nearly impossible to stomach for any extended period of time which isn’t sustainable. Sometimes we need to start slow and simply cut back on certain things instead of cutting everything out. Maybe just start with swapping soft drink with water and swapping the late night chocolate for some yoghurt.
  • Increasing too much too soon – We can also get the opposite effect of restriction, sometimes people are only eating 2-3 times per day. These meals are usually very dense in calories. So you could only imagine how well they will do going from eating 2-3 small calorie dense meals to eating 5-6 meals in a day, it’s going to be way more food than they are used to. It can be a clever idea to slowly add meals in while reducing the high calorie meals. Start by adding a healthy breakfast and a couple of healthy snacks throughout the day.
  • Short term results – Most “diets” are only going to give you short term results, you could potentially lose quite a few kg’s during one of the countless fad diets out there but guaranteed once the diet has finished or you stop because it’s not sustainable or you’re just plain over it, the weight gain is fast and furious. You’ll more than likely come back heavier than when you started.
  • They aren’t sustainable – There’s no long term goal/outcome with diets. So, you’ve just finished one of the popular shake only diets and managed a loss 10kg in the three months, great! Congratulations! What now?? Do you go back on the shakes? Do you go back to trying to eat healthy? Or do you just fall back into old habits? The biggest issue with diets is that there is no guidance on what to do when it’s finished, generally you’ll slowly fall back into old habitual eating and gain all the weight back. Just turns into a vicious circle.   
  • Where or Who is providing the diet? – There are a lot of so called experts out there spruiking the next big diet secret guaranteed to give you amazing weight loss results. Most of the time these magic diets are designed by unscrupulous people that have little to no experience let alone the education or qualifications to prescribe these “revolutionary” diets.
  • No good for your metabolism – We’ve covered caloric restriction but what effect does it have on metabolism? If you restrict the body for too long it can have a very negative response by going into starvation mode, when this happens the metabolism slows down to preserve stored energy (fat) which is the opposite to what the goal is, being fat loss. Your body is freaking out due to the low caloric intake and holding on to what it has. This can also lead to binge eating, you’ve been restricted for so long that craving become uncontrollable and before you know it you’ve eaten a family size bucket of KFC and a litre of ice-cream.

So what’s the solution?

  • Don’t be in a rush, set some short, medium and long term goals
  • Be realistic, losing 20kg in 8 weeks isn’t realistic, sustainable or healthy
  • Do your research, there are plenty of great trainers etc.. out there that are highly educated and qualified to be able to get on the right track.
  • Drop the excuses, you need to work hard at it, there’s no long term quick fix. Get in the gym and work your butt off, literally!

Finally, change your mindset. Start thinking about your internal health instead of external aesthetics. If you start thinking to yourself “I’m going to eat right and exercise to be fit and healthy” instead of “I want abs” you’ll find things get a little easier and there’s not as much pressure, don’t worry about aesthetics so much, they’ll come as a side effects of the sustainable eating habit and exercise.