The end of January is approaching and I am just wondering how many people will have started 2016 with trying out, yet again, another diet. Many of them will be successful in losing weight in the short term but their chances of keeping it off for five years or more is only 5 percent. And when they gain back the weight everyone will blame them, including they themselves. My question is: Why bother?

What does the word diet really mean? For most people it conjures up thoughts of the measures people take to lose weight. It is also a term used by food manufacturers to indicate that something is ‘supposedly’ healthy or has less of some seemingly undesirable ingredient. But the word diet itself simply refers to what we eat. We hear people say they’re “going on” a diet, but your diet is what you eat day-to-day.

So why do they fail? There are seven reasons:

  1. Physiologically we are different. We have different needs and requirements. One diet may work wonders for your neighbour but might not be the right plan for you.
  2. Diets are hard to do. Most diets involve a significant change in a person’s normal eating habits over an extended period of time. But habits die hard; we cling to them because they fit in with our lifestyle and the people around us
  3. Dieting relies on will power to keep us on the right track. Willpower is often very strong at the start of a diet when we are desperate to change but it can ebb and flow with the state of our health and the pressures and triggers of day-to-day life
  4. Diets make you feel hungry and deprived. Research shows that no matter what your size, diets make you hungry and create powerful cravings for the very foods you are trying to avoid, e.g. sugar and fat. On top of these cravings, dieters also have to manage feelings of deprivation: ‘Everybody is eating what I’m not allowed to. They can have it – why can’t I?’ This kind of thinking is likely to lead to rebellious overeating. Diets can promote an unhealthy relationship with food and create a sense of deprivation.
  5. Diets are not sustainable. People perceive diets as something you go on when you want to drop weight. A diet only works for as long as you are on it. Most people get bored with rigid eating plans and go off the rails from time to time. The trouble is that for many people a lapse is a sign of failure.
  6. Some diets are gross and not even real food! Highly processed, refined and void of nutrients and above all unappetizing. How can you maintain this regime after you have finished the plan?
  7. Diets fail to address the emotional aspect of overeating. People often eat to help deal with emotional problems, rather than because they’re hungry. This is normal, but some people gain weight because they turn to food for emotional comfort or to cope with negative feelings like anger or loss – for example, after a bad day at work, after a row with a loved one or as an end to a long week. Dieting doesn’t solve the problem of emotional eating. If anything, it makes people more depressed because it becomes one of the issues that cause overeating. And losing weight can make things worse, because people have to cope with the pressures and expectations of their new body shape.

Then why do we keep ‘going on a diet’? Because it brings us in a state of euphoria and gives us a sense of achievement; we have done well. I we fail we will be even more driven as it must be possible again. The success of the diet industry is based on our feeling of being in control and trying to get that feeling again and again. Have you ever wondered why there are so many diets around and why new ones appear all the time? Because they don’t work!

The first step towards permanent healthy weight loss is somewhat ironically to lose the diet and the diet mind-set. Instead think about a Healthy Eating Plan that you could live with and enjoy for life. The best answer to dieting is: A lifelong programme of everyday healthy, pleasurable eating coupled with regular exercise. To lose weight, eat less and exercise more.

My six week healthy eating programme can help you on your way. They are available both on and off line. For more information press here