How many times have you said, “I’m going to lose weight by (insert future date here)!”? And how many times did you rely on a diet to achieve that goal date weight drop? And how many times did you ditch the diet immediately after that date? If the number of times you did these things rivals the number on the scale- take comfort that you are not alone. Although, taking comfort may be the reason, you have failed.
“Diet” is a word that we are comfortable saying but uncomfortable accepting it is designed to fail us. The forefront of the diet can be exciting, buying new food, getting new recipes, and indulging in the potential of a “new you.” You are ready to throw away the bad habits holding you back from the feeling of healthy and the look of accomplishment. Sunday you go out with a bang, the favorite cheat meal with non-optional dessert. There’s a high that comes with the satisfaction of eating a crave worthy meal, knowing tomorrow you will become a new person, with new food, new recipes, and the motivation for a new you.
Despite the preparation and motivation, diets hold a 95% assurance of failure. The failure isn’t you, it’s the diet. You wouldn’t expect to have a successful vacation skiing in Colorado when given a suitcase packed with beach attire. Diets are not designed to be sustainable, they are marketed with the intention of producing a visible change in a short amount of time. Therefore, they are viewed as a race to a goal instead of a redesign for the long haul. There is no one diet path lined with neon lights flashing you down the roadway and cheering you on. Instead there are hundreds of road signs all pointing different directions, contradicting each other and creating motivation killing confusion.
Despite the preparation and motivation, diets hold a 95% assurance of failure
There are many reasons diets don’t work. One, when you cut down on calories you decrease your serotonin- the happy chemical in your body that fights off depression and anxiety. You can thank those low-cal meals for your irritable, low mood. Second, skipping meals and decreasing food intake causes increased cravings for sugary food. Third, the high fat diet that aims to avoid carbs actually creates stronger cravings for fattier foods. Does any of this sound promising? Best yet, diets promoting the use of artificial sweetener aren’t about to tell you it is actually one of the leading causes of obesity. Two of the most common sugar substitutes are directly linked with development of depression, panic attacks, and are an overall toxic invader to your good digestive bacteria.
So if diets aren’t working, why are there so many diet foods and diet plans advertised? Flat answer, they make money. In the 1970’s the food game changed with fast food and additives that made everything just taste better. Unfortunately, that lead to an increase in obesity rates within the next 20 years. The rise was so significant it was able to be classified as an epidemic, which to the medical communities’ fortune meant they could promote a “cure.”
Alongside diet pills and medical interventions came the growth of the diet food industry. With 85% of consumers coming back again and again after failed diets, the industry was making bank. So why should diets be successful when they make money failing. The food industry was able to market “low fat” products by simply reducing the fat content and increasing the sodium so it would still taste good. Same went for low carb. Just increased the fat, add a little artificial sweetener, and the diet food doesn’t taste half bad! With altered taste buds for modified foods, we can’t seem to get back to the basics. Especially when the basics are hidden behind the flashy new zero carb, low calorie, guilt free desserts promising you can have your cake and eat it too!
Bottom line, modified diet foods cause irritability, they create stronger cravings for the foods you are trying to avoid and develop compromising side effects. When diets fail, it’s hard not to take it personal. But willpower should not have to overpower the science of your body. You are not failing when your food is working against you. So, make it work for you with small sustainable changes over time. Replace one snack or meal staple at a time with fruits, vegetables, and lean protein meats. Doing your bulk of shopping along the outside perimeter of the grocery store where the produce, meats, and dairy are located. With small changes over time your tastes buds will begin to develop for healthier foods. Experiencing the change for yourself gives you the motivation to keep substituting healthier foods. Stop falling into the comfort zone of the fad diet on repeat and realize you are not the reason it’s failing.
Author: Bethany Brenes, MPA, LPTA