Diets simply don’t work. Let me rephrase: diets don’t work long-term. Sure, short term crash diets succeed but they are unsustainable. Eventually, you will fall off the wagon, adding a few more pounds in the process. No one agrees on the true failure rates of diets but it is somewhere north of 60% and may be as high as 95% according to several studies. Why are diets so unsuccessful? Could it be good old lack of self-control and discipline? That is certainly one possibility but not the whole picture. There is so much more to the story. Chemistry, physics, biology, physiology and psychology are all vital factors when determining a long term winning food plan. Instead of fad diets and crash diets try “The Don’t Diet”.
Top Reasons Diets Fail:
- The diet is too severe and untenable long term.
- Individuals have a hard time or are unwilling to change their habits and lifestyle.
- Biochemical responses in the body are too strong to resist and/or are broken.
- Repeated dieting and yo-yo weight fluctuations make it harder to lose body fat.
- No realistic plan of action or goal is set in place.
- The feeling of deprivation is too great.
- Individuals cannot muster the patience required to deal with setbacks and the long slow process of losing weight.
- Yummy looking food is everywhere and you can’t quit eating.
Fact: Most successful short term dieters will gain all their weight back plus extra within a year of their original weight loss. This phenomenon is called ‘diet-induced weight gain’ . Sadly, it is very common.
The mere act of dieting triggers an alarmingly profound response by many of the body’s complex systems. Research has shown dieting (and/or times of starvation) will affect your epigenetic markers. These modifiers, responsible for turning genes ‘on’ or ‘off’ will alter your DNA and those changes may be passed on to generations down the line! Many scientists believe dieting recalibrates the body’s weight set point (how efficiently we utilize food and store fat), making the struggle all the more difficult.
“When you underfeed (diet) your body will self-regulate and decrease its metabolic rate and burn less energy. As the diet continues your body will strive to conserve more energy in an effort to maintain its current weight. Sadly, it will not preferentially burn off your fat stores. It will look to burn off the most metabolically demanding tissue available, lean muscle mass. It is easy to maintain fat stores because they don’t cost your body energy. Muscle, on the other hand, requires lots of energy to maintain. You can think of it this way: If you wanted to slow down a sinking ship would your throw off the styrofoam cups first or the iron anchors? Your muscles are the iron anchors of the body. When we go on low-calorie diets our bodies will increase the set point range, believing it has experienced starvation and must protect against such danger again.”
Research shows dieting makes the brain more sensitive to stress and to the cues/rewards of high-fat, high calorie dense foods. Persistent stress exposure causes brain changes that last long after the diet is over and drive otherwise healthy individuals to binge eat and possibly become obese. Therefore, managing one’s stress is a vital component for favorable mental and physical health.
Principles of The Don’t Diet:
- Don’t diet. Learn to control your hunger with better choices.
- Don’t stress. Sustainably change your habits and lifestyle to reflect health, happiness and low stress, including sleep management, meditation, and daily exercise.
- Don’t avoid veggies. Learn to love vegetables especially the non-starchy varieties. Shoot to eat at least 5 servings daily (a handful is a serving).
- Don’t consume junk. Stay away from highly processed foods and anything with added sugar.
- Don’t be afraid to eat fat. Except for the kind that comes in processed vegetable oils, trans-fat and conventional meat/milk – fat (especially organic grass fed) is good for you.
- Don’t digest continuously. Give your digestive system and cells at least a 12 hour daily fast (preferably at night while you are sleeping).
- Don’t be a couch potato. Move as much as you can. Increase you non-exercise activity throughout the day. Limit your sitting time.
- Don’t forget your nuts. Eat nuts and seeds on a daily basis, the health benefits are uncontroversial and widespread.
- Don’t get too friendly with carbs. Eat like a diabetic and limit or eliminate high sugar fruits, breads, pastas, rices, and flours.
- Don’t drink anything besides water. Eliminate all soda, juice and diet drinks (including smoothies). Unsweetened tea and coffee are acceptable.
In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, you’ll need to evaluate your lifestyle and exchange many of your bad habits for healthier ones. These changes have to be permanent so take a hard look at what you are willing to sacrifice. Unfortunately, you cannot simply rid yourself of a bad habit without replacing it with something else. Figure out the cues and rewards of the undesirable behavior and make a plan to interrupt the habit by substituting the action with something more fitting. Example: Dessert after dinner is an undesirable behavior. The cue is eating dinner; the reward is the sugar rush and feeling of closure at the end of mealtime. You can swap dessert with a bowl of fruit, tea, coffee or even brushing your teeth. Attach enough reward to the new behavior and it is likely to replace your old habit. This will take time depending on the individual, so be patient. Wean yourself off your unhealthy habits/foods and learn to love the new healthier alternatives. You have the power to transform your health and your life. Start today.