The evidence of their dramatic failure is all around us in our ever-expanding waistlines, and in our own shameful experience. But why? Why don’t diets work? What is it that makes them fall so far short of their tantalising promise of slimness, if we can only eat what so-and-so says for 6 weeks…
Every diet has their own list of favoured foods and restricted or banned foods. Each time your begin a diet, you need to buy special foods, and cook in a special way. That’s different food than you are used to, and different recipes than you make, all which involve changing many unconscious habits and doing them consciously, which takes a lot of mental effort, and much more time, and you’re also supposed to exercise and get enough rest. Studies have shown that in order to effectively create a lasting change to habits, you must only change ONE at a time, and stick to that habit consistently for around 60 days in order to embed the habit to the unconscious level, where you don’t have to think about it and force yourself to do it with willpower. When you attempt to change 20 or more habits on a new diet it is no wonder that many people only last a few days.
Diets are all about the celebrity diet guru who is spruiking them. Many diets have some common beneficial advice. Who can argue that most people could benefit from eating more vegetables and less sugary, proccessed foods? However, the core issue that prevents lasting change is that the diet sets the dieter up for failure, because it teaches them to value some external authority instead of their own body. Your body knows what it needs to eat, your body knows when it is full. Your body knows when you need to rest. Think of how a toddler eats, you cannot force them to eat when they are not hungry. As adults we have forgotten how to listen to our own internal system of wisdom, and so we are failing at health, because no one diet is going to work for every person. Each person has a different metabolism, genetic history and likes and dislikes, no one diet can heal us all, no matter who is the expert on the cover.
The core method of dieting for weight loss is calorie restriction, that might be dramatic through something ridiculous like the cabbage soup, or lemon detox diet, or less dramatic, in something like the 12wbt. But calorie restriction is calorie restriction. Studies have shown that after just a few weeks of calorie restriction, your metabolism adapts and drops its needs to the new level, this means that your body thinks you are starving and has adapted to conserve energy. This means you are MORE likely to store fat while on the diet and more likely to store even more fat afterward. However there is a solution to this, cycling your energy intake has been proven to result in consistent weight loss, while keeping your metabolism burning hot! You simply cannot starve yourself skinny, your body is too smart for that.
Diets are all about willpower, forcing yourself, restricting yourself, JFDI. What diets don’t tell you is that willpower runs out, fast. Your brain needs glucose to make thoughtful decisions, and after willpowering your way through a diet all day, you are scientifically set up for a cookie blowout between 5pm-9pm. This has been proven!!
Diets are all about the quick fix, “eat this – get skinny – be happy” is the core message. However diets never address the core reasons why you have overeaten in the first place. This often has to do with emotional stress, unresolved trauma, self- esteem or relationship issues. without dealing with these driver issues, and teaching you better strategies for handling your emotional stress, the minute your life gets difficult you will return to food for comfort.
Let’s face it, diets make you obsess about food. There’s nothing surer than calorie counting to make you crazy about fat, sugar, protein & carbs in your salad, smoothie, or banana bread. The thing is, those numbers don’t tell the whole story. There’s also a whole lot of other essential nutrients in the food that cannot be accounted for in those numbers, and the more guilty, and shameful you are about eating, the more you are likely to overeat, and metabolise that food in a way that makes it store as… you guessed it, fat.
Diets also teach you to obsess about the other big number, your weight, the more you obsess about your weight and judge your body, the more likely you are to emotional eat and have cravings because you are unhappy with that number on the scale.
Diets are not fun. They are a means to an end. You go on a diet because you want to be slim for the wedding, or reunion, or for that summer bikini, they were never meant to be a long-term solution. but you just cant punish yourself to a happy place. Ultimately diets don’t work, because on so many levels they don’t feel good for your body. It feels like you have a strict teacher telling you what to do, and your inner rebel wants to go and do the opposite. And in a way that inner rebel is right. Diets will not get you the result you’re really after. However, you can have lasting slimness and happiness, you just can’t diet your way there.
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