Albert Einstein defined insanity as the act of “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” While it is tempting to believe there is a “magic bullet” meal plan that will make your fat melt away, it’s just not that simple. Don’t even think about putting yourself through another restrictive eating regime before you consider these five reasons why diets don’t work.
1. Diets don’t address your relationship with food.
Dieting is a small-minded solution for a complex problem. Your poor eating habits didn’t develop out of nowhere; instead, they were built up by behaviors that have been repeated over a long period of time. If you’re not sure what I mean, consider these questions:
- Are you able to tell the difference between true hunger and emotional (or bored) eating?
- Do you accept personal responsibility for your eating decisions, or are you ruled by your circumstances?
- Can you identify when your body is satisfied, or do you often eat past the point of fullness?
2. Diets don’t break your bad habits (they ignore them).
Dieting is a short-sighted strategy that doesn’t lead to lasting change. While some foods are healthier than others, it is unrealistic – and unhealthy – to give yourself a list of foods to “always” or “never” eat without addressing the root causes of your eating behaviors. For example:
- Are you able to say “no” to baked goods at the office, or do you cave to temptation every time?
- Do you wake up early enough to prepare a healthy breakfast, or do you rush through a drive-thru or a quick bowl of cold cereal instead?
- Can you honestly say you have ever been able to stick with a diet longer than a few months without giving up?
3. Diets don’t consider your unique needs and preferences.
Dieting is a simplistic approach that ignores your individual situation. Before you freak out about a bogus health article you read with a fear-mongering headline like, “10 Foods Healthy People Never Eat,” understand that everything is unhealthy according to somebody. Your eating decisions should be based on things like:
Activity Level: Gym rats and avid runners might be able to get away with eating a lot of carbs, while less active people might need to limit them.
Budget: Established professionals with money to spare might be able to afford organic fare, while students on a budget might take comfort in the consistent finding that eating vegetables of any kind (organic or not) is better than not eating them.
Schedule: Stay-at-home parents might be able to cook daily, while busy workaholics might need to prepare several days of food at a time and refrigerate them for convenience.
4. Diets don’t develop your understanding of healthy living.
Dieting does little to educate you about what it takes to sustain a healthy life. This is why most people who lose weight during the weeks or months that they follow a diet will immediately gain it back as soon as they quit. If you’re going to end up right back where you started, why bother? Instead, use a period of disciplined weight loss as an opportunity to learn new (and permanent) habits. You don’t “stop” these habits once formed, you just loosen up around the edges once you are at or near your target weight.
5. Diets don’t empower you to make good decisions when things don’t go according to plan.
Dieting is a silly notion. No one lives in a perfect world where they can think about their diet 24/7. Unless you’re a professional athlete whose career counts on compliance, “all or nothing” approaches are completely unrealistic. Last week, I had a consultation with a new client and mother who told me she followed a restrictive meal plan in the past, and managed to lose some weight… but then the “real world” caught up with her. She found herself in situations where making “compliant” decisions wasn’t possible. Since this diet did nothing to teach her how to make good (not great) choices on the fly, she ended up making some mistakes and asked herself, “What’s the point?”
It is naive to think the average person can (or wants to) follow a strict diet for the rest of their life. If a diet requires you to live in a fantasy land where things will always go according to plan, it isn’t a diet worth following. Thanks for reading!
About the Author
Daniel Wallen is the CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of the Wallen Way. He is a personal trainer, Lifehack contributor, and author of, “The Busy Woman’s Guide to Getting Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous“