Have you tried a gazillion diets and none seem to work? Or have you tried a diet that worked for a couple weeks but then you fell back into old habits?
A lot of people I have talked to think it’s something wrong with them and that they lack the willpower.
Here I have outlined four reasons why sticking to a diet can be so tricky.
4 Reasons Why Diets Fail
1. Diet does not mean a temporary change of life
“Diet does not mean Temporary Alteration of Your Life for Short-Term Gain, it means Way of Life.”
– Eric Edmeades
The word “diet” has become this word we use to describe short-term alterations to what we eat and drink to accomplish a specific goal.
Here lies the first challenge; most diets are temporary.
Let’s say our goal is to release weight. There are many diets we can do to get our body to burn fat.
There are both healthy and unhealthy ways of accomplishing this.
We can do high fat, low carb diet.
A healthy way of doing this, is to make sure that the majority of the food we are eating is fresh, unprocessed food like vegetables, nuts, and high-quality meat, eggs, and fish. This is a sustainable way of doing it.
We can achieve fat burning with artificial products and dairy, but if this is the majority of the food we are consuming, the body will not get enough nutrients, and it will be tough to maintain this way of living.
It is far better for our body to focus on adding nutritious food than to remove junk food.
We can have a perfect diet. If we remove vitamin C from that diet, we could develop skin infections that could be terminal if not treated. (“Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin C,” n.d.)
HOW TO FIX IT:
Diet means “way of life.” A diet should be something we can maintain long-term – a lifestyle.
Most diets have restrictions on food intake. When we restrict your food intake, we will most likely trigger our survival instincts.
When we restrict your food intake, the body will take it as a sign that difficult times are coming and that food is scarce.
Our body can stimulate us to eat, making it harder to resist temptations.
It will also try to hold on to as much energy (fat) as it can, in case it is needed in the future. If our goal is to release weight, this will make it harder to do so.
It is tough to follow a diet where we are constantly feeling hungry. We are kind of fighting against our survival instincts.
HOW TO FIX IT:
Find REAL food, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, meat, fish and eggs, that we can eat in abundance. This signals to our body that food is easily available. The body is then more inclined to release stored energy (fat).
Staying adequately hydrated can also help to control cravings. When we feel a sense of hunger, it can be that we are just dehydrated.
Emotional hunger can also trigger us to eat. We can observe our relationship with food and find out if we are just trying to satisfy an emotion. Then we can find other ways to resolve our emotions rather than using food to comfort us.
Most diets rely on willpower to complete it. Willpower works great – until it does not!
Willpower can be defined as “resisting short-term temptations to meet long-term goals.”
Several factors affect our willpower.
It can be affected by how much we are resisting temptations, internal/external motivation, our beliefs, and our glucose level. You can read more about willpower in a previous article.
If we are trying a diet that reduces our glucose levels, it will have a negative effect on our willpower, and makes it harder to follow through on our commitments.
HOW TO FIX IT:
Build one healthy habit at the time. Changing too much at the same time can increase the likelihood of failing. Our self-esteem can take a hit, and our belief in succeeding may be weakened.
For some tips on how we can build lasting habits, please see a previous Facebook post here.
4. Counting calories
Calorie counting is a trendy thing in the “diet industry.” You measure how many calories you eat and then measure how many calories you are burning. If you want to release fat, you must burn more calories than you are eating.
It is based on the energy balance equation:
Body fat gained = Calories In ÷ Calories Out
This equation is correct, but the calculations are often wrong – very wrong.
It’s like bad accounting.
If we were to do this correctly, we would have to measure how many calories we are burning, how many calories we are eating/drinking, AND how many calories end up in the toilet. I am not sure how many apps count the calories of your stool… 💩
There is the first error with the “calorie counting” paradigm.
The number of calories we are burning can be divided into two main categories; basal metabolic rate (BMR. How many calories the body are using to function.) and exercise.
An average person has a BMR on around 2000 calories per day. We will typically burn 100-200 calories during one hour of moderate exercise.
Unless we are a top athlete and exercising several times a day, then how many calories we are burning when exercising are few compared to the BMR.
And here comes the second error with the “calorie counting” paradigm; the BMR can be affected by the food we are eating.\
A study by Dr. Ancel Keys showed that a 40% drop in calories eaten caused a 40% drop in BMR. (Keys, Brožek, Henschel, Mickelsen, & Taylor, 1950)
The reason for this is the food we are eating is affecting our hormones, which is affecting our BMR.
I will explain this more comprehensively in my next article. For now, you can read this interesting article by Dr. Jason Fung on Medium, that explains this in more details.
The third error with the “calorie counting” paradigm is that it is treating all calories equal.
Calories have different nutritional values. We get calories from what we eat and what we drink. Calories from an apple are more useful than calories from a soda because the apple has more nutrients in it than the soda.
High-quality food = high-quality calories
Low-quality food = low-quality calories
HOW TO FIX IT
If we want to release fat, it is far more productive to focus on the quality of the food we are eating rather than counting the calories we are consuming and burning.
- Focus on creating a healthy lifestyle rather than trying to do a temporary change.
- Find REAL food that we can eat in abundance.
- Stay hydrated.
- Observe your relationship with food.
- Create one healthy habit at a time.
- Focus on the quality of the food we are eating rather than counting the calories we are consuming and burning.
Do you want to reset your relationship with food? Join our next WILDFIT 90-day Challenge.