Fitness Magazine

Why Diets Don’t Work & 4 Ways To Actually Eat Healthy

By Lyndsay @balancebrunette

The diet industry would like you to believe that the way to control your weight is to simply eat the foods/products that they recommend. 

Black woman with red lips, wearing a yellow top with white and fuchsia flowers.

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But if that were the case, diets would work – and the data suggests that they don’t. 

As far back as the 1950s, researchers knew that “reducing diets” – diets designed to foster weight loss – were ineffective in around 95 percent of patients. People simply couldn’t stick to calorie restriction for longer than about 12 months. After awhile, their old cravings came back, and they wanted to eat all their old foods again. 

Why this happened remained a mystery. And in the intervening years, many nutrition scientists have tried to explain it. It turns out that there are a number of reasons it doesn’t work. 

The first is that humans don’t do well under calorie restriction. Initially, they lose weight. But over time, it becomes mentally tougher and tougher to keep calorie intake low. You feel hungry all the time, and the cravings ramp up massively. All you want to do is gorge yourself on chocolate, especially if you have a lot of stress in your life. 

In many cases, a single trigger – such as a bad day at work – can be all people need to break their diet regimen and reach for the proverbial Cheetos (or if you’re me, actual Cheetos). And because stress is just a part of life, people fall off the bandwagon quickly. 

Plus, once they start eating all the wrong things, a dangerous internal narrative begins development. They tell themselves that they’re a failure and that they couldn’t have stuck to the diet in the first place. They’re just not that “type of person.” They don’t have the willpower. And these kinds of thoughts then lead them to eat more foods that don’t serve their bodies or their health. 

The problem here, therefore, isn’t that the person is eating food “not allowed” by the diet (one piece of cake is unlikely to make any difference). The problem is the narrative that they aren’t “good enough” for the diet and that any mistake is a failure. 

White plate of toast with an egg and spinach leaves.

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Diets also struggle for a second reason – they’re restrictive. Our bodies evolved to consume as many different kinds of foods in our environment as possible. Unlike most species, we thrive on eating a vast array of foods containing complementary compounds. We don’t have “staple” foods in the traditional sense. We can live off just about anything – milk, bugs, herbs, berries, whale blubber – you name it!

Diets, though, tend to reduce what you can eat and make it feel like you’re caged in. And, psychologically, that’s not a good place to be. You feel trapped inside the diet, and you spend all your time thinking about how you might escape it. 

Again, eventually, the diet fails because you eat something that’s not allowed according to the list. And that makes you feel bad about yourself. 

So what can you do when the diets don’t work? 

Here are some ideas: 

Start Preloading With Veggies

Instead of concentrating on what you can’t eat, focus on what you can. Research shows that preloading with veggies improves your overall nutrition and decreases overall appetite. The load of nutrients and fiber sends signals to the brain that you don’t actually need to eat as much as you think to get all the nutrition you need. 

The way to do this is simple. Don’t change your diet at all. Instead, just eat a big salad bowl before every meal and then move onto the main event. The salad will protect you from the negative elements in the food you eat while promoting fullness to prevent overeating. 

Talk To Your Surgeon

Diets are all about controlling your food intake. But nature has an annoying habit of overriding the wishes of your conscious mind. You’d love to say no to the cake being passed around the office. But when you’re in that situation and feeling hungry, you can’t always help yourself. 

In some cases, therefore, it’s worth talking to a surgeon about gastric sleeve cost. This operation actually changes the shape of your stomach, altering the fullness signals it sends to the brain. The result is usually profound weight loss that feels less punishing than a regular diet. 

Sort Out Your Mental Health

Be honest with yourself about why you’re eating the foods that you do. Many people use food as comfort if their mental health is in a bad place. If you know that you do this, then find out why. Think about the patterns of thinking that lead to overeating and how you might address them. 

There are multiple ways you can solve and reduce mental health issues. One approach is meditation. Here, you attempt to simply observe your thoughts and then allow them to pass without judgment. The idea is that you are separate from your thoughts and that they do not control you. Instead, they are just entities that pop up from time to time, cause temporary distress, and then leave. Simply observing them can help to put you in a better state of mind. 

Another approach is to figure out whether there are any dysfunctional situations in your life causing you distress. Bad relationships at work, for instance, could be a major reason why you’re using food in the evenings. It could be what you think you need to recover.

Don’t Restrict

The human mind naturally rebels against restrictions. We don’t like them. In general, we prefer freedom. 

When it comes to diets, talking about what we can’t consume often derails the entire process. A better approach is to allow everything but to be continually mindful. 

Let’s say that you want to eat more whole plant foods, like whole grains and beans. Sometimes, you’ll fall off the bandwagon by eating ice cream. But that doesn’t matter when all foods are permitted. You simply accept that you “failed” and then move on, getting back on the plan. You’re not a weak person. You’re not deficient! You’re simply not perfect 100 percent of the time – and that’s okay, because you’re not supposed to be.

I hope these tips help! Good luck.


Thank you for reading!

Why Diets Don’t Work & 4 Ways To Actually Eat Healthy

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