The Issue I Have With ‘Diets Don’t Work’

And the unhelpful all-or-nothing mindset it encourages

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After analyzing nearly 22,000 overweight or obese adults who followed one of 14 popular diets, including the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, DASH, and the Mediterranean diet, for an average of 6 months, researchers found that most of the participants regained the lost weight within one year.

Previous studies paint a similar picture. Take this 2018 study published in the Medical Clinics of North America journal, which followed 29 long-term weight loss studies, for example. Its findings? 80% of the participants regained the lost weight within two years!

Making sense of the widespread hatred for diets

First, let’s understand the widespread hatred for diets. Numerous factors contribute to diets’ extremely poor PR, but if you look closely enough, you’ll find that it all boils down to an overarching argument.

Your metabolism slows down

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Smaller bodies require less energy (i.e. fewer calories) to function than a larger body.

It’s just like how a small car requires less fuel to run than a larger vehicle. You don’t need as many calories to function at 120 pounds than when at 180 pounds.

Messes with your hunger and satisfaction cues

Ask anyone the reason behind their fat loss plateau, and you’re bound to find someone who blames it all on their hormones. Namely: leptin and ghrelin, your ‘appetite hormones.’

It’s like saying that you’re not going to study for that Mathematics test because you’re never going to get a perfect score — or be a Mathematician.

See how ridiculous this reasoning is?

Overlooks your body’s set point theory

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How you navigate your food choices, along with your biological traits and energy balance, affects weight shifts over time. Weight isn’t based on a one-dimensional aspect.

You don’t just have ‘bad genes.’ In fact, here’s what a review of several studies that looked at the link between obesity and genetics had to say: “But it’s important to remember that overall, the contribution of genes to obesity risk is small, while the contribution of our toxic food and activity environment is huge.”

Eliminates certain foods or food groups

Here’s the truth. Many popular diets out there are centered around guidelines that tell you to eliminate specific foods or food groups for the sake of losing weight.

The elimination of certain foods and food groups does indeed help individuals to keep to a calorie deficit — no matter if they’re actually aware of it or not.

Now, what does this imply? Easy. Instead of staunchly believing that all diets are designed to fail, we need to find one that advocates for a calorie deficit without strict, one-size-fits-all restrictions.

Is intuitive eating the answer?

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But Is losing weight a sign of self-loathing?

Many proponents of intuitive eating will have you believe that the desire to lose weight is a sign of self-loathing. That you don’t accept yourself.

But that’s not true; for some, the desire to shed some excess weight is an act of self-care and can be a positive experience.

As I said, numbers don’t lie. 70% of Americans are overweight or obese — a factor consistently linked with type 2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, and pain issues from carrying too much weight.

Intuitive eating does have its benefits

Now, please. I’m not saying that intuitive eating is useless.

Let’s learn from those who’ve successfully kept the weight off

After reading the above paragraphs … you may be scratching your head, looking all confused.

We need to focus on patterns of behavior

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Because energy balance is the most crucial factor for producing weight loss, you can accomplish weight loss through your preferred diet strategy that allows you to sustain a calorie deficit.

Something that you could do for a lifetime. If it’s cutting out meals after 10 pm, sure. Suppose it’s meal-prepping thrice a week, great. Or, if it’s plain and simple tracking calories, that’s awesome, too.

Stop allowing your mindset to get in the way of your progress

So … instead of spending all that time lamenting that diets don’t work, refocus your energy on trying various methods, strategies, and behaviors that allow you to eat in a calorie deficit.

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