You’re ready. Today is day one of your new diet. You go in with the best of intentions, setting a goal and a deadline, but over and over you just can’t do it. You aren’t alone. It is estimated that 33 million Americans alone go on a diet each year, yet 2/3 of Americans are obese. Those statistics don’t really add up, do they? If most diets were successful, fewer and fewer Americans would be obese, and less people would be going on diets each year. Why is it that most diets aren’t successful? What is it that these diets promise that keep people coming back?
The number one reason that a diet is unsuccessful is that too much is attempted, in too little time. All over the internet, almost any website you’re one, you are bombarded with diet “success” stories. These photo collages show drastic weight loss in a short amount of time, upwards of 25lbs in 4 weeks! Doesn’t that sound incredible? It’s almost like it’s too good to be true. That’s because it is. These transformations don’t show the whole story. More often than not, that photo is doctored, not showing the true timeline. 25lbs in 4 months is much more likely, but not as exciting. If that 4 weeks truly is the timeline of the weight loss, I guarantee that person gained it all back, and then some. The reason that you set unrealistic expectations for yourself is because you don’t have any other information besides those unrealistic advertisements you are constantly exposed to. However, sustainable weight loss, meaning you’ll lose it and not be likely to gain it back, is between 1-2lbs per week, with 2lbs in a week being drastic. This now changes our timeline of losing 25lbs from 4 weeks, all the way to 12-25 weeks. As well, a dieter who has not tried to diet previously will lose weight much more dramatically than someone who has been in a calorie deficit (diet) for a prolonged time. A new dieter could lose up to 5lbs in a week, while a seasoned dieter could lose maybe 1lb per week. Same diet, different people, different results. Managing expectations is a huge indicator into whether a diet will be successful or not.
The second, and not so talked about reason, that diets tend to fail comes from the word itself. Diet is your nutritional intake, what you eat in day. However, a diet is a temporary decrease in the amount that you eat, in the hopes of changing your body. When did the two become so different? The diet that will work for you, giving you results that you can keep, is a diet that doesn’t feel like a diet at all. It’s a lifestyle. Any diet that leaves you feeling restricted and deprived will not work in the long run. Feeling miserable because of a food plan you are following in the hopes of losing weight does not make you tough. It does not mean you are “so disciplined,” it means you are miserable. When you are miserable, do you want to continue what’s making you miserable? Absolutely not. Enjoyment is a major aspect of adherence. The more you enjoy something, the more likely you are to continue. That is why diets don’t work. The word “diet” has a negative connotation to it, meaning that if you commit yourself to a “diet,” you are committing yourself to failure before you even start.
I know, I made diets seem terrible. And they are. There’s reasons that so many people try to diet and fail, many more than we just discussed. Where do we go from here? We don’t diet. We find a sustainable way to monitor our food intake. Some of these ways seem more tedious than a diet, but is tracking numbers daily any more tedious than checking if a food has carbs? Tracking your food, and learning what is truly in your food, is more beneficial to you than blindly following any diet, you will learn better habits along the way. However, you might not even need to track anything. Start by adding in a serving of veggies, which will add more volume to your meals with very few extra calories. Drink an extra glass of water before meals, this will also fill up your stomach a bit before the meal, leaving less room to overeat. Add in a serving of protein to an otherwise protein less meal, this will help increase satiety (the feeling of being full and satisfied), leading to eating less to feel satisfied.
Long Story, Short: There are plenty of ways to monitor your diet without going on a diet.