top of page
  • Writer's pictureJackie

10 Reasons Why Diets Don't Work

Just about every single one of us, at some point in our lives, has tried dieting to lose weight. Think about this: According to the Boston Medical Center, 45 million Americans diet each year, spending a whopping $33 billion on weight loss products annually. With that investment, most of us should have solved our weight dilemma ages ago, when we first jumped aboard the diet train, right? If you're rolling your eyes, of course, it's because, while many of us try & try again (and also spend & spend again), we KNOW that diets don't really work. In fact, up to 2/3 of dieters regain more weight than they lose! (Mann et al, 2007) Just that fact alone should stop us in our tracks, but the temptation to try one more plan is REAL.

So, the next time you're tempted to jump into the latest quick fix remedy for weight loss, remember these 10 reasons why diets don't work:

1. Diets end. Healthy habits endure.

Without question, this stands as the TOP reason that diets fail. The accepted formula for a weight loss diet includes the concept that the restriction you're enduring will—hallelujah!—end! All of us who've tried to simply maintain our bodyweight, never mind dropping any, know that this is a lifelong process, and healthy habits over a (some may say painstakingly) long period of time produce enduring effects. If you're white knuckling it through a diet, dreaming of the day you can again eat chicken wings or birthday cake (rather than just eating them in moderate amounts on occasion), then when the diet "ends," so usually does weight loss or maintenance.

2. Diets complicate weight loss.

Although weight loss requires a lot of diligence & tons of patience, it's typically not that complicated. Yes, your individual situation can be a bit intricate (more on that below), but most experts still believe that creating an "energy imbalance" best drives weight loss. We do this by taking in slightly less calories than our bodies need daily and by expending some extra ones, too. True, commercial diets also create such an imbalance, but they often employ intricate rules ("eat only at such and such a time"), require that you purchase their products, and/or make you learn branded tracking and measuring systems. Sometimes weight loss seems way more exciting when we buy the bells and whistles. I have news you already know: It's never all that exciting. Better to just dig into a sensible plan. (Consulting a dietitian or health coach can get you off to a great start and may ony even require a single consultation.)

3. Diets promote quick fixes.

Have I hammered this point home yet? As the research shows, there are no quick fixes that also last. In fact, diets rarely deal with the conundrum of keeping weight OFF once it's lost. And why would they? They can create an illusion of "working" for us because most of us will lose weight on a diet—temporarily, that is. What do we do when weight creeps back? We often return to the very products or plans that we believed "worked" for us the first time. This proves extremely lucrative for companies that own these plans and products.

4. Diets restrict choices.

Of course, if you're trying to drop a few pounds, it's probably a good idea to shy away from the chips and cookies, but many commericial diets restrict way more than this, demanding that dieters drop entire macrunutrient groups, for example. (Can anyone say carbs? Okay, you can say it, but are you "allowed" to eat them?) If your plan severely restricts carbs, protein, fats, any food group, or even calories for that matter, you'll not only struggle to stick with it, but you could struggle to nourish yourself properly.

5. Diets can lower metabolism.

A study of television's "Biggest Loser" competitors showed that metabolism slowed after dramatic weight loss. This finding has been repeated in quite a bit of research. Losing weight, especially quickly, can cause the body to burn less calories—the LAST thing we want if we're trying to keep weight off!

6. Diets often replace good foods with supplements.

If your plan claims it will only work if you consume certain bars, shakes, or pills, then it's probably leading you into unnecessary purchases. If your doctor or dietitian recommends a particular supplement for health, then by all means, adhere! But in general, while shakes and bars may not be harmful (and again, in moderation or in a pinch, may serve you well), you're better served mainly eating whole foods that pack lots of nutrition often lacking in such products.

7. Diets often ignore exercise.

This is a huge fail! Not only does regular exercise bestow a jaw-dropping array of health benefits, it obviously burns calories and also helps you develop muscle mass. And not only does muscle mass itself torch a few extra calories a day, but it reshapes your physique in ways that basic calorie restriction will not. 90% of the members of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), a database of people who lose weight and keep it off, report exercising on average for an HOUR a day.

8. Diets can make you tired and grumpy.

My family knows I haven't eaten enough & I've waited too long to start dinner when I suddenly start swearing like a sailor—at a pot of pasta or at the dog under my feet. (Never at them, of course!) You know what I mean, right? Hunger has hallmarks that go way beyond the rumbly stomach. Fatigue, mood swings, and lack of concentration are all common during dieting because diets can restrict calories way too strictly. These side effects roll over us like tidal waves when blood sugar plummets. On a diet, though, we may feel we "have" to be hungry to succeed. It's never a good idea to ignore your body's need for nourishment.

9. Diets don’t ask why you gained weight in the first place.

Commercial diets come as "one size" fits all, but in real life, each of our situations is unique. There are myriad reasons we may have gained weight—perhaps overeating but also genetics, stress, lack of sleep, metabolic changes, lack of solid information, physical injury, and medications, to name just a few. If you want to impact your own weight, closely examine your situation—YOUR body, age, habits, attitudes, medical situation, etc. Even upbringing or life experiences can give clues to bodyweight. Do some honest self assessment to figure out what YOU need to tweak to shift your weight.

10. Diets obsess on appearance rather than focusing on health.

As a health coach and a woman, this aspect of diet culture makes me constantly clap my hand over my eyes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look cute in our jeans (yes, I do ask my hubby how my butt looks in mine), but commercial programs make this THE goal—because, frankly, it sells. Eating well, exercising, and losing some weight as needed creates amazing quality of life and improves health. Sadly, diet plans rarely tout this most important fact. We don't need diet plans to become beautiful. Caring for ourselves by consistently eating well and moving our bodies creates a vibrancy, a confidence, and a beauty that does not come from a quick fix plan.


bottom of page