Why Diets Don’t Work
Weight Management

Why Diets Don’t Work


1 March 2018


We live in a rule-based society – everything is either black or white. In terms of healthy food, this often means: either we are on a diet or we are not on a diet. The challenge of such diets often is that they are too restrictive, a big change to our “normal” way of eating and often come with unrealistic goals.

So we set out to eat all healthy from now on, never ever break the rules and then lose 10kg in 2 weeks. Realistic? Not really. This often ends with frustration, giving up and binge eating.

There are a few reasons for it not working:

  1. Unrealistic goals: when we set out to do something new we are all excited, we tend to set too high goals. When we then realise we can’t achieve these goals, motivation fades and we are more likely to give up. Therefore more realistic goals need to be set.

  2. Too vast of a change: if your diet has been compromised of sweets, fried food, meat, noodles and rice — do you think you can switch to mostly fruits and veggies within a day and be happy? Usually, recipes that are new, taste different and we start to feel overwhelmed. Therefore my tip is to make changes in a step-by-step manner, slowly adding in the healthier stuff instead of changing all at once.

  3. Wrong message to our brain: our brain doesn’t understand a “no” and “don’t” — so if you are on a diet where you are constantly thinking what you are not allowed to eat, guess what your brain wants? Exactly what you are not allowed to have and you will constantly think about it. Therefore also think about the healthy things you would like to add in and don’t be too harsh on yourself.

  4. Too restrictive: focus to feed your body only truly nourishing food — but when you crave for chocolate, allow yourself with a piece of chocolate. If you don’t allow yourself this piece of chocolate, usually two things happen:

  1. Cravings will start to build up and you will over-indulge sooner or later

  2. You feel like you have “broken” the rules and think “it doesn’t matter anymore” and the bingeing starts.

I see the last point very often and it’s a vicious cycle: we have strict rules and when we break it, we think “it doesn’t matter anymore” and binge eat, followed by a bad feeling and getting back to “now I really need to change”. This is not only stressful but puts a huge strain on your body.

The only way out is to be a bit gentler to yourself, set yourself realistic goals, be okay with not being 100% perfect, listen to your body and allow yourself to give into cravings without feeling bad. Know that most people do — including myself!

Therefore work towards a life-long lifestyle change instead of a short-term diet. Find your own unique way to healthy eating that you can enjoy and sustain.