Why Diets Work…and Then Fail

Guest post by my coaching partner, Sean Flanagan

On the surface, there’s a wide variety of diets for weight loss. And they all SEEM to work – yet you’ve probably gone through multiple diets trying to find the right one for you.

Some diets say that grains, legumes, and dairy are trouble makers and you shouldn’t eat those.

While other diets say that grains and legumes are among the best foods, but dairy and ALL animal foods are the root of all evil and weight gain.

Some diets say you can’t eat after 6pm.

And then some diets say you should skip breakfast!

For every diet, there seems to be the opposite diet. Like 200 politicians in the same televised debate playing “point and counterpoint”.

And ALL of the diets seem to have success stories of fast weight loss.

So how can all these different diets work in the short term? And what makes them not as successful in the long term?

If you look at the list of 4 diet rules above, they seem pretty different.

But what do they have in common?

They take away your options. Specifically, they take away the option to do things you probably do currently.

The “No Lima Beans for 30 Days” diet will never become a best seller, as unpopular as lima beans are, because you’ve probably never consumed 500 calories or more a day from lima beans. Taking those away wouldn’t make a change.

On the other hand, you’ve probably consumed at least 700 calories a day combined from grains, legumes, and dairy many days in your life. That’d just be 3 cups of 2 percent milk, 4 slices of bread, and a half cup of beans or a handful of peanuts.

Or you’ve consumed a significant chunk of your calories from animal foods. One 6 oz rib eye and the butter on a baked potato could be around 500 calories or more in one meal alone. Hardly a daunting task for the average omnivore.

So when a diet’s rules are based on removing foods that play a prominent role in your diet, there can be an instant void of calories.

A turkey sandwich and chicken noodle soup at lunch at first becomes straight up turkey meat and chicken & vegetable soup, thus reducing calories from carbohydrates. Or that turkey sandwich and chicken noodle soup becomes 2 slices of bread and veggie and noodles soup, thus reducing calories from protein and fat.

In that initial change of removing foods that are normal to you, you can be left with a confusion of “what do I eat now?” Meanwhile, your calorie intake drastically reduces (whether you’re counting calories or not).

If you normally eat 1,000 calories from a certain list of foods, and then make that list of foods off limits, you have a reasonable chance of having some initial weight loss.

But then what happens?

You’re not going to stay in a food rut forever. You’re going to find new ways to get flavor, diversity, and yes… calories back into your diet.

You get hungry…and bored. And before you know it, you’re now adding butter to your morning coffee to replace the calories you used to get from oatmeal. Or you start eating handfuls of vegan potato chips to make up for the cheese you used to snack on.

And you’re back to square one (or worse). Your calorie intake is back to normal. Your weight has plateaued, or even gone back up. Meanwhile, you’re eating foods that are mere compromises to what you REALLY want to have.

The same thing that makes diets work short term is what makes them fail in the long term.

They take away your options of foods that you can have, so you stop having your normal foods. But then you realize there’s this whole ‘nother list of foods that you can have – and then you start eating those more to make up for the difference.

But is that really the worst of it? You didn’t eat some foods and you ate other foods instead, what’s wrong with that?

The problem is the whole time, you’ve been expending massive amounts of willpower by not including foods that you enjoy. And sooner rather than later, you’re going to reach a point where you can’t take it anymore. Instead of those 2 slices of bread every morning for breakfast every day, you’re going to now want to live on nothing but bread (and cake! And cookies! And all that stuff!)

The lack of balance you created by the restrictive diet sets the stage for further lack of balance. Now you feel like you never want to see a sweet potato or soybean ever again.

So let’s say you lose 20 lbs in 6 months on a diet and then gain it all back. That’s not so bad, right? You’re just back to where you stated…

Well certainly getting back to the same weight wouldn’t be as frustrating as gaining even more “rebound weight”, let’s also take into consideration your most precious resource – time.

The most important thing for LONG TERM weight loss is learning the skills to accomplish that.

Losing 20 lbs on a trendy diet and then gaining it all back will probably just teach you the lesson that that diet sucked and gaining the weight back on was frustrating.

What if instead, those 6 months were spent on developing the skills and habits that will enable you to be successful in the long term?

Rather than getting back to the same weight and now not knowing what to do to move forward, what if you were to lose even just a LITTLE bit of what but feel confident and clear about what you need to do to move forward?

And therein lies the key towards lasting success for fat loss – by prioritizing the process.

Weight loss (like everything) is a result of our habits. Our habits create our outcomes.

That’s why the key to lasting fat loss isn’t this diet or that diet – but by developing habits one at a time that you can maintain for good so you can keep losing and THEN maintain your success.

Rather than a long list of forbidden foods or other diet rules, you can work at ways to make the process easier and more automatic. For example, cultivating awareness of how satisfied you are from your meals are WAY more powerful than avoiding a particular food will ever be.

There are lots of habits that can be used to support your fat loss goals.

In fact, Amber and I put together a free list of 21 habits that can help you get closer to your goals of lasting fat loss and long term weight management.

This free downloadable guide is called “21 Habits for Lasting Fat Loss” and you can get access by clicking HERE.

Talk soon,

P.S. from Amber: We have a few spots open for the next start date of the Habit Project, where we harness the power of community and coaching support to help you achieve better health and fat loss success one habit at a time. You can learn more and grab your spot for ½ price for your first month here: The Habit Project