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5 Reasons Why Diets Fail

5 reasons why diets always failPin

So you’re trying to lose some weight so you start looking around the interwebs for some popular diets.  There are so many to choose from nowadays.  You can go onto Amazon and download the latest diet books for about $20 bucks, read them front to cover and then go start killing yourself in about two hours or so…

Or you can stop the insanity right now!

Here are 5 Reasons Why Your Diet Fails

  1. Your body is smarter than your diet.
  2. You can’t always undercut your calories and lose weight.
  3. Your life sucks when you’re on a diet.
  4. Life is too short to live without wine, cheese, crackers, bread, pasta, etc., FOREVER!
  5. Diets always, always fail! 

Now don’t get me wrong, at certain times one does have to manipulate a few things in their nutrition in order to reach their body composition goals.  But dieting is just a short recipe to die early while being hungry.

Your Body is Smart

Whenever you engage upon a weight loss goal you usually do one of these four things.  You avoid certain foods.  You watch when you eat them—nutrient timing.  You clear out all the junk or processed food.  You restrict your caloric intake.

Boom, that’s awesome and it’s a good start for a weight loss goal.  However, your body is very smart and when you start restricting the types and amounts of food that you have coming in your body knows it.  Not to mention you KNOW IT!  And we all think this is a bad idea.  We’re human after all and frail when it comes to our eating compulsions.

Being Overly Restrictive

When you start eating below your daily maintenance level of calories, that’d be your Resting Metabolic Rate, your body gets to a point where it feels starved.  And it is…

When it does this, it starts shutting down vital functions in order to help preserve your body mass.  It’s more of a survival thing than anything else.

Your metabolism is like a bucket.  When your “bucket” is used to getting fed a certain amount, say 2000 kcals a day at a stable weight, it is functioning normally.  Cellular processes are working along at a good clip and providing there are no pending nutritional deficiencies your operating at all six cylinders.

When you start under eating or avoiding certain nutrients your body starts to get worried that you’re not feeding it optimally and therefore it stops doing some functions like making hormones, enzymes and other small things that won’t kill you, but you’ll feel like everything is much more difficult than it has to be.

The end result is your bucket size changes after a while.

And since you’re not eating very much you’re so tired you spend more time sitting, sleeping or doing very little of any activity.  This is how our body reduces our overall activity level to accommodate for the lack of adequate calories and thus results in a reduction of our bucket size that is now say only 1000kcals.

So what happens now when you splurge on a big tray of cookies or ice cream at a party?  You had a big bucket to fill up before and now you’re left with a measly 1000 kcals.  I guess the runoff will go right into the body fat stores and that’s what we want for sure.

This is why all those fad diets ultimately fail in the end.  Human beings will continue to splurge on things they crave or are deficient in.  No one is going to stick with something forever unless an outside force is making them do it.  And there’s very rarely someone holding a gun to your head after those cookies are on the tray, although that’d probably be a good motivator for not eating the cookies.

Wait, did someone say cookies… 

Survival Is The Point

All your body cares about is preserving itself to keep on living and breathing.  It really could care less that you look good in a bikini or not.  To survive your body needs a certain amount of macronutrients (calories) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to perform and look your best.

Now the components of nutrition simply state that your diet must adhere to your lifestyle, it has to be honest, it must work towards good health and body composition and you should consume a variety of foods to not be under deficient in micronutrients.

It says nothing about starving or not eating.  It doesn’t even say that you can’t have the foods you enjoy.  Naturally eating too much of the wrong types and quantities of food has consequences, but trying to deprive yourself of everything joyful about food doesn’t solve the problem.

To Win At Dieting…Don’t Diet

In order to win at this weight loss battle you simply have to change your lifestyle and it may mean giving up certain foods for a time being.  But more importantly it means changing how you look at food.

It doesn’t have to stop being awesome and enjoyable, it just means you have to adopt some better protocols for eating.  Notice I say protocols versus dieting.

Because in the real world we’re all big boys and girls and we can think for ourselves.  Your nutrition is in your hands and you have control over whatever you’re putting in your face.  It doesn’t mean you can’t eat the foods you want, it just means you have to earn them and learn when to have them and when not to.

-Earn them by put some extra hours in at the gym building some muscle to help burn off those extra calories and add some muscle mass to burn calories even when you’re not doing anything.

-Eat better quality foods that you know are going to be less caloric dense and have some key nutrients that will help your body perform better.

-Get plenty of protein rich foods and healthy fats.

-Avoid too much of the overly processed foods and eat real food that you make yourself.

In essence all you’re really doing is getting rid of some of the junk you’ve been eating for the past decade and start building a new foundation with healthier substitutes.  You’re not starving your body or depriving it for long.  It just means that if you have the twinkie, well you’d better get moving to burn off some of that calorie load and maybe you’ll pass on the extra linguini for dinner and have a salad with some chicken instead.

If you fill up with the good stuff and keep your body properly fueled you’ll be ready for some intense activities and also have the energy to run on all six cylinders.  Maybe you can even add some horsepower from your abundance of energy and performance.  After all doesn’t everyone just want to eat, drink and be awesome.

Please let me know how you’re nutrition is going with some comments on your favorite diet problems or fixes, I’d love to help!

Jess Howland
Jess Howland
Jess Howland is a Veteran US Army Captain serving as Master of Youth Awesomeness and Strength Coach for Hostyle Conditioning in Orleans, ON. Jess holds a BS degree in Exercise Science from Oregon State University, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), among other training and nutritional certifications. A simple country boy turned lifetime fitness enthusiast and passionate trainer, who inspires everyone he meets to be involved in fitness, strength training and optimal nutrition in support of his personal motto Be Strong, Be Fast, and Be Resilient. Known for his high intensity, hybrid programs and never ending pursuit of fitness endeavors his former colleagues call him by his nickname CAPTAIN SMASH (CPT SMASH) or just SMASH. Jess coaches a wide variety of people as he believes in Hostyle Conditioning’s mission of transforming the ordinary lives of men and women into leading extraordinary lives that are improved through a blend of hybrid strength training and dynamic cardio conditioning. Jess has established himself as a lead trainer in Youth Strength and Conditioning, as well as specialty programming for special populations as military, police/firefighter, nurses and strength sport competitors. As a professional coach, Jess loves what he does to provide purpose, direction and motivation to those who feel that they need help in getting to from A (current fitness level) to B (goal fitness level).

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  1. Agree with that. I refused to eat sugar and all carbs, but it doesn’t really help if I don’t go to gym almost every day.

  2. Dear Marina,

    Not eating sugar and carbs can be a benefit to most people to avoid gaining fat, although what you’re doing in the gym counts as well.

    Fitness is a fine blend of strength, cardio and proper nutrition. The body doesn’t like to starve and so it’s often easier to up the exercise versus cut down the overall calories. Once you’ve cut calories, you’ve already played those cards which will often leave you stuck at a certain level where you can only exercise harder without sacrificing everything else.

    The key point here is exercise more intensely within less time. The only way that can be accomplished is by intervals or weight training. Hence why strength training is so important to maintain your overall leanness over time. You can always make something more challenging for the body within the same amount of time.

    You can’t do this on the elliptical.

    Work for performance gains and eat moderately. Fat loss will come in time as your body adapts to pressing, lifting and toting around heavier and heavier weights.



  3. I agree that diets fail, it is a lifestyle change you need to make and the best thing you can do is to pick your food wisely so you are not consuming a lot of empty calories but with that being said you also have to treat yourself now and then!

  4. Judy,

    I highly agree. You can’t just go through life eating everything as clean as possible.

    I’m a big fan of wine and nearly every type of bread imaginable, but there’s always a way to make that work into your lifestyle.

    You just have to earn it — both in the gym and by eating better the rest of the time. 80% of your results are through those 20% of focused efforts. The key is knowing which 20% of those efforts are worthwhile.



  5. I’d agree that no one can live permanently on a diet so it ultimately comes down to maintaining good lifestyle choices and good habits over time. I think the main thing for me is portion control; and making sure I cover off all nutrients so I don’t feel hungry and overeat as a result. When I have that sorted things seem to work well as far as weight management goes. Weight creeps up when I stop being conscious of what I’m eating – so I suppose that is “eating food I didn’t earn” which is a good way to think about the fitness/food balance.

  6. I do not believe in diets, it’s up to the individual because everyone is different, to change their life style as in eating habits and more exercise, but in this new age with all the fast food rest. and electronics, it’s very hard to do

  7. Thanks Louise. I’m glad you think my writing is helpful. I also enjoy a good glass of wine or two.

    Lynda, the hard part isn’t so much the fast food and electronics, it’s abstaining from eating them. It’s just as easy to make yourself a salad and grill up some meat than it is to drive to McDonald’s or wherever.

    In my opinion I hate eating out at most restaurants because I know the food there isn’t as good as I can make it at home. Unless it’s a night where I really am craving fried chicken or a Big Al Burger (Al Jue Ask 4 has awesome burgers!) then I can make even better at home.

    The big problem is people don’t take the time to cook. They don’t shop for healthy food. Junk food is constantly available and convenient. And people don’t exercise and/or lift weights.

    Half of the population would do better without drinking soda. Another half would do better with less processed grain products.



  8. I love your nickname! I totally agree with this post. I stopped counting calories a long time ago. Instead, I make a point to eat “clean” whenever it’s in my control and accept when it’s not. So pretty much all of my meals are planned, healthy meals, which allows me to not give a second thought when I indulge when I go out with friends or have big family meals.

  9. Victoria,

    Thank you so much. I much like it too, which is why I kept it after the military. My platoon gave me that nickname and it stuck.

    Eating clean for the majority of the time and exercising enough are pretty much the silver bullet as far as fat loss and sustaining a healthy body comp. Plus ten thousand!


    Exercise is definitely a key stimulus to help kickstart your fat loss efforts into high gear. The benefits of exercise and regular resistance training have a symbiotic effect with what you’re eating.

    It’s just like those pesky Algebraic equations they used to try and have you solve in high school. Exercise + Nutrition + n = Body composition


  10. Thanks for these great tips. I currently lost 20 pounds and am trying desperatly to not gain it back, and possibly lose more weight. Being on a diet is def not fun. But i find staying busy away from home is best.

  11. Dear Amy,

    You’re very welcome. I’m glad my article is helping. Yeah, dieting sucks, which is why I don’t recommend it for most people. More often than not you’re going to get good success with the basics. Plenty of protein, lots of veggies and better quality food. That and exercising more with weights and a little bit of cardio.



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