I’m sure many readers will have experienced a diet that “failed” in the past. These are often ones which you manage to stick with for a few days, even a week or two, then give up on. Usually, the diet was impractical or you just weren’t feeling committed to it.
Sometimes, though, a diet seems successful: you follow the plan for a set period of time, you reach a goal weight, you fit back into those jeans. But then, just when you think you can relax, the diet fails. How? You put back on all that weight you lost.
How many diets fail?
The picture, unfortunately, isn’t good: estimates of the number of diets which fail is typically given as about 95% (the most conservative estimates put it at about 80%). “Failure” means that a dieter successfully lost weight, but didn’t manage to keep it off for as long as a year. Some reports suggest that only 1% of dieters manage to lose weight permanently.
Some types of diets are more likely to result in long-term failure than others – particularly strict plans that involve eating under 800 calories per day (known as Very Low Calorie diets) and diets which change eating patterns radically (replacing meals with milkshakes or cereal bars).
Why do diets fail?
The most common reasons why diets fail to result in long-term weight loss are:
- The dieter followed a plan which didn’t help to re-educate his/her eating habits
- The dieter ate well below the minimum calorie guidelines during the diet
What’s your reaction when you reach a milestone or goal and finish your diet? Do you go back to “eating normally”? The problem here is that, for most of us, our normal pattern of eating is what resulted in our weight gain in the first place …
What are the problems with a failed attempt to diet?
There are two key reasons why a failed diet is bad for you. The first is psychological; it’s very demoralizing to put in a lot of effort, successfully lose weight, then undo all that hard work. If you felt elated and proud at achieving your weight loss goal, you’re likely to feel disappointed or even angry with yourself for allowing it to slip away again.
The second reason is that “yo-yo dieting” is bad for your body. Any benefits from the weight loss are negated by piling the pounds back on … and this can make it harder to lose the weight again in future. Some people gain back more weight than they lost, putting themselves in an even worse position.
What sort of diets don’t fail?
If you want your weight loss to be for good, not just until you’re back from holiday or the wedding’s over with, then follow a diet plan with the following features:
- Your diet should consist of balanced, nutritious meals – not endless bowls of cereal or soup, or “meal replacements” such as shakes or bars.
- Your diet should be made up of foods which you like and which you would eat even if you weren’t on a diet
- Your diet should re-educate your eating habits. For example, you might learn to cook with a little spray oil rather than tablespoons of oil.
- You should be exercising as well as dieting: getting active helps you to burn off fat, but the muscle you build will use more calories even when you’re at rest.
Over to you … have you managed to lose weight in the past, only to pile it back on? What are you doing to make sure you succeed – long-term – with your diet?