Why Most Diets Fail

While many things unite us as Americans, one factor is not to be proud of… Americans are struggling in increasing numbers with body weight.  We are not just talking obesity, but just plain old being overweight. The statistics do not look good for us:

  • According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 35.7% of American adults (aged 20 and older) are obese (BMI 30 and above) — up from about 23% in the early 1990s.
  • Two thirds of Americans claim they are on a diet, yet less than 20% achieve not only successful weight loss, but also fail to maintain the loss
  • Over the last 50 years, Americans went from 24.3% of the population classified as overweight, to over 35% currently.

Elizabeth Kolbert writes an excellent article in The New Yorker examining the why’s of how we all got here and how we have changed culturally, as a result of all this weight gain.  One subject that sells more books, supplements, and nutrition programs than probably all others combined is our collective desire to lose weight. We can look at all the reasons we are gaining weight, and Kolbert’ s article does a good job of that. But for our purposes here, we are going to understand why we tend to fail to keep the weight off.

In a very simplistic nutshell, we gain weight when we consume more calories than what our bodies’ burn off.  There are many contributing factors that make that process more of a challenge for some than others such as thyroid issues, genetic predisposition, and life style factors.

In order to be successful at weight loss, it is critical to pinpoint your pitfalls and be determined in your strategies for a successful approach. Examining our lifestyle habits and how those detract from a successful weight loss program is important to success. When we understand how metabolism works then we can make choices to improve that. Let’s examine some of the top reasons why most diets fail:

  • Looking at a diet as a temporary short term solution to a weight issue.  Those who succeed at weight loss do so with a lifestyle approach for long term health.  It is key to make dietary changes to support good health long after the weight is off
  • An inaccurate view on activity and calories burned: In order to lose 1 lb. per week, cut your calories by 500/day. Achieving that by exercise alone or diet alone is not only unrealistic, but defeating and can be dangerous. Increase both your moderate and vigorous types of exercise, track steps with a pedometer to help you take more of them, and also reduce your calories consumed.
  • Adopting too drastic or strict of a diet that triggers headaches, mood swings, irritability and brain fog.  Feeling cruddy is an indicator of a poor diet rather than a healthy one which is going to yield a lifestyle change.
  • A diet that actually lowers your metabolism: Drastically cutting back on calories and also teaching yourself to “go hungry” slows your metabolism down and throws your body into fat storage mode. Light snacking or smaller, healthy meals every two hours is a more successful approach.
  • Simplifying a diet approach to just “consume less calories”: Caloric consumption is the place to start, but failing to understand how sugars and fats impact weight gain, understand complex vs simple carbs, and not boosting your metabolism and you are setting yourself up for failure.
  • Emotional eating: this is a very complex topic, but check out this article to gain an understanding of how we subscribe emotional cues to foods can be the most powerful factor in attaining weight loss success.
  • Getting inadequate sleep: People with fewer than six hours of sleep at night increase the body’s production of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite. Lack of sleep also increases cortisol levels, the stress hormone, which leads to weight gain.

Identify the “diet fails” that tend to get in the way of your weight loss success, implement strategies to counter act those, and you are on your way to success…and a fitter, healthier YOU!

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