Why is It so Hard to Stick to a Diet?

Why is It so Hard to Stick to a Diet? dog-with-roast

The worst kept secret in the weight loss world is that 90% of all dieting efforts end in failure.  Either we don’t lose the weight, or we lose it and gain it all back again.  But why does this happen?

What is the number one reason that diets fail?

Dieting generally makes us feel deprived and miserable.  In order to stick to a diet we must give up (or cut back) foods that we love.  Diets grind our will power down, forcing us to resist temptation and cravings, each and everyday. Choosing the weight loss program that best suits your tastes and lifestyle will reduce the unpleasantness of dieting, and increase your chances of success.

Which diet has the highest failure rate?

Dieters that consume less than 1,200 calories per day—whether they’re on Atkins or Jenny Craig—are the most likely to fall off the bandwagon. An ultra low-calorie diet deprives the body of nutrients it needs to keep metabolism humming, thwart fatigue, and keep hunger at bay. Many ex-Nutrisystem customers complain that they were always hungry, so they quit shortly after beginning the diet when they could have simply bumped the 1,200-calorie plan to 1,300 or 1,400 calories.

Do most people quit because they’ve simply chosen the wrong diet?

A diet opposite a person’s preferred lifestyle is a major reason people abandon their diet. A pasta and bread lover whose friend dropped 50 pounds on Atkins may eagerly sign on, then quit after a week of feeling deprived. They’ll allow this perceived failure to make them feel that they’ll never have success on a diet, when in reality they may have lost an impressive amount of weight if they’d simply chosen a program like South Beach or Jenny Craig.

Is diet failure psychological?

Diets force people to think about food—and the foods they can’t have—constantly. Some studies suggest that overeaters and drug addicts have some striking similarities: Food causes the pleasure center of an overeater’s brain to light up in the same way a drug addict’s brain responds to narcotics. Many dieters also adopt an all-or-nothing mentality, and if they slip up by having a cookie or cheeseburger, they feel like they lack the strength to succeed and throw in the towel.

Do most people quit their diet because of unrealistic expectations?

One study found that the average dieter wants to lose 30%-40% of their body weight, a goal that many experts say is unrealistic. When dieters don’t meet their lofty goal, they can feel like a failure, which in turn can trigger a defeated return to old eating habits.

Do diets fail because people crave the act of eating itself?

For many dieters, the act of eating is an even bigger draw than the flavors of food itself. If an obese person is used to grazing on a large bag of potato chips while they watch CSI, replacing that bag of chips with a healthy granola bar that disappears within 2 minutes can leave the person longing for more, even if they aren’t hungry. Some diets attempt to address this issue by instructing followers to eat six small meals per day or to eat several snacks between meals to prolong the eating experience.

Do diets lower metabolism?

When you embark on a very low-calorie diet, your body makes metabolic adjustments that make it more difficult to lose weight. When your body thinks it’s starving, it pumps up its efforts to conserve calories by slowing metabolism. Even if you started the diet with a large amount of enthusiasm, the fact that it steadily becomes less and less effective makes it even tougher to stick to. A person on an extremely low-calorie diet that notices the scale isn’t budging is likely to feel frustrated and eventually quit.

How can short term success lead to long term failure?

We’ve all seen it with the celebrities on TV.  They lose the weight, then a year later, they’ve gained it all back again.  Why does this happen?

The biggest reason people fail in the long term is because they don’t think beyond the short term. Diets are viewed as temporary, and when their weight loss goals are achieved, they quickly transition back to their previous eating behaviors.  Living off diet frozen meals may work in the short term, but because many people fail to work on the psychological and environmental triggers that caused their initial weight gain, the lost weight returns when the person goes off the diet.

A key to maintaining a slim body in the long term, is planning for how you’re going to do it beforehand, during the short term diet phase.  What old eating habits will you alter, and what new eating and exercising habits will you adopt?  Find something that doesn’t feel bad to you.  Find something that has some positives to it.  Find something to keep you physically active that you might actually like to do.

Hate the gym?  Buy a Wii fit.  Or better yet, adopt a dog and take it for brisk walks.  Love ice cream?  Find the right replacement low calorie frozen yogurt that is actually delicious (Pinkberry works for me!)

Don’t just try to drop bad habits and bad foods.  Make sure that you replace them with something or you’ll fall back into your old ways.