Wondering why diets fail so often? Is it because we have trouble committing to a meal plan, choosing diets that aren’t quite right for us, or is it just human nature? Not only is dieting full of ups and downs in willpower and mood, it can be hard to manage weight over the long haul—even after a successful dieting experience. So why do so many diets fail? Here’s the top five reasons registered dietician Ali Miller says diets fail and how you can work past them to succeed with your weight loss goals anyway.
As a registered dietitian with a functional medicine practice, I have seen thousands of patients that have struggled with losing weight and keeping it off. In helping them achieve their goals, I have found some common problems that prevent my patients, and potentially you, from succeeding in losing weight permanently. Here are my top 5 reasons why diets fail and my advice on what you can do to avoid these common pitfalls.
1. Failing to prioritizing yourself
One of the main reasons diet fail is because we do not prioritize ourselves and our needs. While it’s certainly admirable and important to put others ahead of ourselves at times, taking care of our bodies and sticking to our diets requires a significant amount of effort and time. To lose weight and keep it off, you have to be ready to devote time to exercise, meal planning, food journaling, grocery shopping and education. So you need to carve out time for yourself to prevent your diet from failing!
And remember, prioritizing your own health does not mean you are selfish! Actually, taking care of yourself will help you feel better, both inside and out, making you more successful in taking care of others in the long run.
2. Eating more because we are exercising
Just because you start exercising, it does not mean you should start eating more. At the beginning of any exercise regimen, you’ll typically be hungrier during the first four to 10 days. It can be easy to eat more because we are so hungry after exercising. However, instead of simply eating more, make sure to eat a balanced, high-protein snack that can help with muscle recovery. Then, after the initial first phase when your body adjusts to exercising, reconsider your food intake and reduce your caloric intake to what it was before you started working out.
And beyond just eating more because we are exercising more, another reason diets fail is because we often think it’s okay to overindulge if we’re exercising. For example, it’s easier to justify an ice cream sundae after a run, but in reality, the calories in an ice cream sundae will likely be more than what you burned on your run. Overestimating the amount of calories we burn leads to weight gain, which is obviously not what we’re aiming for.
3. Trying to eat a “perfect” diet
Strict and restrictive diets can make it hard to stay on track, especially if you’re skimping on your favorite foods. As a registered dietician, when I work with a client to develop a meal plan, I often identify foods that they are not willing to give up and work them into their meal plan in limited amounts. Over-restriction and drastic diet shifts can eventually make us overcompensate for the foods we miss, ultimately leading to stalled diets or even weight gain. It’s about moderation: it might not be a good idea to have a brownie after every meal, but a treat every once in a while is okay.
4. Attempting to conform to a one-size-fits-all meal plan
Just as all humans are unique, meal plans should also be unique. Each human has a different schedule, nutritional or caloric needs and even a variety of food intolerances or allergies. These differences can greatly impact our weight, which means it’s important to have a diet plan that is tailored to our individual needs. A licensed professional can help customize a plan that is best for each person. Ideally, your personal meal plan addresses your wellness goals and takes into account your medical conditions and lifestyle. Making sure your diet fits your schedule, tastes and needs sets you up for success and not failure! My favorite mantra is “doctrine creates disconnect” don’t overlook the signals and feedback of your body from blindly following a “perfect” plan.
5. Your mindset can make or break your diet
The choices you make today will most certainly affect the way your tomorrow goes! To avoid a diet fail, set achievable goals that you can accomplish one at a time and grow from there. All-or-nothing mindsets or being overly judgemental of your shortcomings will just set you up for failure. Try reframing your mental talk. Instead of claiming you’ll never eat candy again, try to be more realistic. How about, “My goal is to eat two to three fruits a day to limit my sweet tooth.” Your approach does not have to be black and white; you can allow yourself some leeway and still find success!
As you move through your wellness journey, keep in mind that the experience is different for everyone. The steps you take toward your ideal weight and the healthiest version of you should be positive, flexible and customized! If you forget to make yourself a priority and try to force your personal wellness into a strict plan, you may find temporary success but will be unable to maintain it over the long term.
So, now that you know some reasons why diets fail, you can take steps to avoid a diet failure! Stay true to your personal goals and yourself, and enjoy the experience.
To learn more about Ali and her unique food-as-medicine approach to a low carb lifestyle check out her, 12-week Virtual Ketosis Class
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