Why Most Diets Fail
In this day and age, it's quite easy to become inundated with dietary advice and 'miracle ways' of losing weight. Unfortunately, things aren't rosy on the surface. In fact, I was shocked when I heard that an alarming 95% of diets fail, and even if you do manage to lose weight initially while dieting, you're highly likely to put all that weight back on within the next few years.
So, why is this actually the case?
Here's what I think.
Reason #1: Most Diets Encourage an Unhealthy Relationship with Food
This is probably the biggest reason why diets fail. Food should be viewed as a source of nourishment and something to enjoy; not something that people should feel guilty about eating. So while it's important to eat lots of whole foods whilst minimising processed carbs and sugars, it's not the end of the world if you eat cake on special occasions or drink the occasional sugar-laden milkshake.
Diets encourage the exact opposite of this. Rather than being realistic by balancing healthy foods with the odd 'binge' or box of chocolates, the prevailing sentiment around dieting seems to be that you can't eat these foods at all, and that when you do, you lack self-control. Indeed, food is viewed as a 'hassle' to manage and something to feel guilty about rather than something to enjoy.
"Rather than being realistic by balancing healthy foods with the odd 'binge' or box of chocolates, the prevailing sentiment around dieting seems to be that you can't eat these foods at all, and that when you do, you lack self-control. Indeed, food is viewed as a 'hassle' to manage and something to feel guilty about rather than something to enjoy. "
The solution: Eat healthily, most of the time. Try your best to fill your plate with vegetables, fruit, protein and healthy carbs, but acknowledge that you will slip up occasionally or that you will need to eat outside your ideal boundaries for special occasions. Whenever you add unhealthy food, just make sure you're subtracting it from another day of the week. Simple.
It's all about balance; not about being perfect... because none of us are perfect!
Reason #2: Most Diets do not Encourage a Holistic View of Health
Most diets are predominantly focused on the 'food' aspect of human health as opposed to your surrounding context. The food you put in your mouth is not only influenced by your internal motivation to succeed with eating healthily, but also by external factors such as stress, trying to fit food into the daily hustle of work and general wellbeing. When we don't pay attention to our food, we start slipping up and making poor dietary choices.
Consider this: How many of us actually take our time when eating our lunch during our lunch breaks at work? For me personally, I'm guilty of rushing to get food and quickly wolfing it down just so I can quickly get back onto the work I was doing previously. In doing so, I'm subconsciously neglecting my health because I'm less focused on 'what' I eat ('anything' will do!) and I don't take my time to eat my food slowly, this leading to me over-eating and ignoring cues that tell me I am 'full'.
Another common example: Convenience food. Let's face it - When we're tired after a hard day's work, it's much more convenient to order unhealthy takeaway options on Uber Eats than prepare our own healthy meals. Again, this is yet other example of how your external environment influences your choices.
'Health' is more than just food; it is a combination of what we eat, our general wellbeing and our external environment. Most diets neglect this, often placing disproportionate focus on the 'what we eat' part. No wonder why most diets fail!
"'Health' is more than just food; it is a combination of what we eat, our general wellbeing and our external environment. Most diets neglect this, often placing disproportionate focus on the 'what we eat' part. No wonder why most diets fail!"
Moving Forward: What Does Healthy Eating Look Like?
So, what should we be doing instead?
If you're looking to become more healthy, I'd suggest changing your environment first. Reduce or remove your stressors where possible. If it helps, plan your meals in advance and only shop for the ingredients you need. Reward yourself with the occasional dessert after a busy week - I'd recommend having a 'cheat day' where you go absolutely wild.
More importantly, don't beat yourself up if you eat a slice of cake when you know you shouldn't have. Have a little self-compassion for yourself because eating healthily is becoming increasingly difficult in a Westernised society where we are stressed, time-poor, and where multi-billion dollar companies love tempting us with deliciously unhealthy foods!