Why your diet is not working (and what you can do about it)

Have you been trying harder than ever to stick to a new diet and finding it impossible? You’re not alone. Below are six common reasons why diets don’t work (and tips for what you can do about it).

Why your diet is not working (and what you can do about it)

  1. You are not eating enough calories or your diet is too restrictive. In an effort to lose weight, many people go to extremes. This includes eliminating entire food groups or doing a very low calorie diet. While it is true that a person needs to consume fewer calories than they burn in order to lose weight, eating too few calories can actually cause the metabolism to slow down.  Keep in mind that this does not happen over a few days, but rather weeks and months of extremely low-calorie dieting. The metabolism begins to slow when the body is not meeting the basic needs for physiological function.
  2. You are miserable.  There are people who feel they are not truly on a diet unless they are miserable. Not surprisingly, these are the same people who fall off the diet within the first week. Now there may be some discomfort (especially in the beginning) with any diet that requires you to make a significant change in your eating habits (nothing worth doing is entirely easy), but you are not on the right diet if you’re miserable.
  3. You are following the latest “fad” diet or some diet that you read about on a celebrity blog. As the word “fad” implies, these diets don’t focus on health, but rather what is trendy. They may offer some initial success, but often this is just a quick fix. What happens when you go off the diet? The weight comes back on, plus some.  How do you spot a “fad” diet? Often these diets eliminate more than one food group indefinitely. Another red flag is the statement “this is the only diet that works” or the phrase “it worked for me so it will definitely work for you.”
  4. You are stressed. Stress increases the hormone cortisol. This hormone can cause insulin levels to rise, causing a drop in blood sugar. This may make it almost impossible to say no to the donut in the break room.
  5. You plan a “cheat meal” or “cheat day” into your diet. The word “cheat” has negative connotations.  This word is often associated with something bad or negative. Try not to reward something positive with something that implies a negative. Perhaps you can have days or meals that you temporarily come off the diet, but make sure to set boundaries. Another thing to consider:  If you feel the need to “cheat,” maybe this is not a good diet to begin with.
  6. You are not planning ahead. I am sure you have heard the quote “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Planning ahead is huge. How can you expect to be successful if you don’t have the healthy foods available? You must make sure that you set yourself up for success.

What can you do?

The first step is to forget about the word diet. Many people associate “diets” with deprivation and misery. Instead, try calling it a nutrition or healthy lifestyle plan instead—language that focuses on the positive.

Make sure you are not consistently eating less than your resting metabolic rate. Your resting metabolic rate is what your body needs to survive at rest (i.e. if you were to lay in bed all day and not move).  There are online calculation tools that you can use to figure this out, or you can do a resting metabolic rate test. Generally it is going to be around 1,200-1,400 for most women and 1,600-1,800 for most men.

Follow a diet that you can stick to. Ask yourself if it is something you can follow for 6 months or even longer. If the answer is no, then it is not worth it. Ideally, you would want to find a diet (healthy lifestyle plan) that you can follow for the rest of your life—this is about sustainable, healthy changes that make you feel better and improve your life.

Planning ahead is huge. This includes meal planning and meal prep, but it also includes planning ahead for vacations or social gatherings. Don’t show up to a birthday party without a plan—it can be so easy to overeat, especially when there are plenty of tempting food available.

A dietitian can help identify a nutrition plan that works best for you. Consider scheduling a consultation with Katie. (Link to contacting Katie here?)