3 Reasons Why Your Attempts to Diet Fail

by Aktive Learning on May 9, 2013

By Dave Tai (guest contributor)

The Weight Watchers diet, the Ketogenic diet, the Atkins diet, the Detox diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet are few of the multitude of diets available. Each diet offers different strategies: low carbohydrate, low fat, low calorie, vegetarian and even the creative use of fasting. What they all share in common is the promise of a healthier and happier you. They tell you that you will be bursting with energy, fitter in every aspect and most important of all, achieve your ideal body.

You may have tried some of them, and even seen some success at first. However it stopped working and left you disillusioned, back to your pre-dieting days and back to your pre-dieting body. We will explore why the regression happens and how you can avoid it the next time you take on a diet.

Reason #1: You are not exercising

27 push-ups later
(photo: istolethetv)
Putting all your faith in dieting to control your weight might not be the best strategy. In a study conducted on lab rats, one group achieved weight loss solely via exercising (swimming) while the other did so through dieting (caloric restriction). The exercising group saw a success rate of 78% while the dieting group achieved only 62%. Furthermore the dieting group had a harder time maintaining their weight loss. Why is this so?

The results from the study revealed that the exercising group experienced a loss of 5% protein and 16% water loss while the dieting group had a loss of 11% protein loss and 26% water loss. This result has multiple implications.

First, it was obvious that a significant portion of the dieting group’s weight loss came from water, therefore when the water level was increased their weight went back up again. Also, the dieters loss more protein than the exercise groups suggesting a loss of muscle mass rather than fat mass. Having a lower muscle mass actually decreases your metabolism, thus affecting your ability to burn fats.

Lesson No. 1: Losing weight is important, but what contributes to your weight loss is just as crucial.

Reason #2: You are not an island

We all have 365 days in a year. Can you recall a day which you spent alone without any human interaction at all? Such days are rare. The truth is we are social creatures. Take any diet and have a look at the requirements. Often they seem fairly doable, and they certainly are if you live alone and are isolated. For everyone else, once your social life gets in the way it is hard to stick strictly to your diet.

If you are on a fasting diet, what will you do when you meet your friends for lunch? Stare at them as they eat? If your diet restricts your food intake or specifies certain foods only, what will you do at gatherings, birthday parties or even simply when eating out?

The success of a diet relies on your discipline to stick to its prescription. Tested diets get their results with participants in an ideal setting where every single meal sticks to the specifications right down to the letter. If you are not able to replicate the same course consistently, you should not be expecting the same results.

Lesson No. 2: A diet only works if it can be integrated into your lifestyle.

Reason #3: You are not a robot

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(photo: RG&B)
You are human and as human beings, we do odd things. It is almost as if we are always trying to sabotage our own success. Have you ever tried saving money and ended up spending even more when you see that your savings go up a little? The same thing happens when trying to lose weight. Maybe after you experience some weight loss or after a workout, you end up eating a pizza, undoing everything you have worked for.

Although seemingly illogical, your behavior is in accordance with what Kevin Hogan describes in the book The Science of Influence as “The Law of Inconsistency.” Our perception of weight loss tricks us into thinking that we can afford to eat more since we are losing weight. In the end we justify the contradictory behavior and undo our own efforts.

Lesson No. 3: Your mind and body will do everything to convince you to stray from your diet. A true diet takes true discipline.

What Can We Do?

Based on the lessons learnt above, here are some tips for successful dieting on your next attempt:

1. Exercise combined with diet gives you maximal fat loss and minimal protein loss, helping you maintain your weight and metabolism.

2. Adopt one small change at a time to minimize disruption to your daily life and to help make it a part of your lifestyle.

3. Create a diet journal to be keep track of your diet, weight and the effectiveness of the program. It will help you be more conscious of the choices you make.

By guest contributor and fitness instructor Dave Tai. Via HealthMatters.sg, a Singapore Health and Fitness blog that aims to help you lose weight, keep fit, and live healthy. Click here to get our free guide “Eat Your Way to Health – Secrets of a Healthy Diet”.

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