Why Some Diets Fail
In a world where we are bombarded with various diets, what does the evidence say?
Imagine this: you are on your way to work and pass a coffee shop. You smell the freshly-baked bread, and can almost taste the rich aroma of a hot cappuccino. As you become mesmerized by the intoxicating draft of decadent pastries you realize: I’m supposed to be on a diet! Has this ever happened to you? Me too!
Four years ago I was a sucker for sweets, a pushover for pies. Pick your alliteration for the emotional draw I had to self-indulgent food and the simultaneous restrictive thought process about dieting. Webster would have labeled me as an “emotional eater." Many of us walk the delicate balance of dodging that dessert or giving into the garlic bread to fit into our skinny jeans. We torture ourselves counting calories, trying skinny wraps, sacrificing the food we love just to feel we have succeeded! When will enough be enough?
I implore you to ask yourself: Is there another way to go about “dieting”? Do we really have to give up the food we love? Are we doomed to cave to the latest dieting trends of veganism, gluten-free living and eating clean?
Read on. Perhaps there is a way to be flexible while also keeping structure….
According to the 2014 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control:
37.9% of American adults age 20 years and over are obese
70.7% of Americans age 20 and over are overweight 1
That means that 3/4 of Americans are overweight! Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
There is so much information on the internet about diets and much of it can be confusing or misleading. In my practice, I strive to focus on the solution and deliver unbiased science-based information about healthy strategies to lose weight. Understanding the physiology of how the body processes energy and stores fat along with having a strong and willing mindset leads to long-term weight loss success.
Let's take a look into a couple of the popular diet trends...
1. " Low-carb diet" (also similar-Atkins diet, South Beach diet):
The premise: Restricting carbohydrates so that fat is the main source of fuel. These diets promote increasing fat and protein while restricting carbohydrates. The Atkins diet has 68% of calories from fat, 27% from protein and 5% from carbohydrates. Low carbohydrate diets recommend limiting complex and simple sugars, causing the body to oxidize fat to meet energy requirements. This diet recommends two weeks of extreme carbohydrate restriction, followed by gradually increasing carbohydrates to 35 grams per day. The South Beach diet recommends restricting carbohydrates for the first two weeks and gradually increasing low glycemic index carbohydrates.
The verdict: While many dieters try "low carb" dieting and see results, this effect is short-lived and is mainly due to the diuretic effect of switching the body’s main source of fuel, glucose, to ketones. The body needs carbohydrates to function! Selecting the right type of carbohydrate to consume is the key.
Long-term "low carb" dieting leads to ketosis, where the body starts utilizing fats for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Severe carbohydrate restriction leads to a decrease in metabolism, muscle atrophy and increases the likelihood of binging. A study done by researchers at Deakin University in Australia2 also showed no advantage of low-carb diets in long-term weight loss, and found that much of the short-term weight loss was in the form of water and glycogen stores instead of fat.
Long-term effects on cardiovascular heart disease (CHD) risk factors, such as weight loss, HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, glycemic control, and blood pressure are unknown.3
The premise: This diet is characterized by an abundance of plant-based foods (fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds), minimally processed, locally grown foods, occasional sweets containing refined sugars or honey, olive oil high in polyunsaturated fat, daily small amounts of dairy (mainly cheese and yogurt), fish and poultry, eggs and red meat sparingly and wine in low to moderate amounts with meals.
This diet has been shown to be cardio-protective in both prevention of sudden cardiac death and secondary prevention. This diet has been studied and has been shown to decrease LDL, lower your risk of cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Patients on a Mediterranean diet have been shown to lose more weight, have lower C-reactive protein levels, less insulin resistance, lower total cholesterol and triglyceride and higher HDL levels, and have a decreased prevalence of metabolic syndrome.2 For example, the Lyon Diet Hart study3 looked at 605 post-myocardial infarction patients and found that when they followed a Mediterranean style diet, there was a 68% decrease in cardiac death and nonfatal MI. That protective effect lasted for over 4 years
Why do some diets fail?
1. Many diets are restrictive and cut out certain food groups. For example, the low carb diet or Atkins diet restricts carbohydrates. This is not pleasant OR sustainable.
2. Most diets force a person to rely on the pill, supplement, shake or product for a certain amount of time. Why is the failure rate so high for dieters? Why do people regain the weight? Putting a band-aid over a problem will help it temporarily, but it won't solve the problem. Once that weight loss aid is removed, the weight slowly creeps back. Meal delivery systems gives you meals, but what happens when your subscription is over, or when you go out to a party or out to eat with friends? The list goes on and on.
3. Minimal or no focus on the mindset component. We are all going to have our stressful moments or times when we have little Johnny's birthday party. How will you plan for those events? Having awareness and anticipating possible barriers or challenges can help you work through them.
What is the optimal way to lose weight?
Imagine someone asked you to build a shed. You'd need a hammer, nails and all of the other tools that my dad would know. The point is-you need tools, or knowledge, to be able to complete that project. The same goes for weight loss.
There is no short cut. There are no magic pills.
We must make the process fun and learn the principles to be able to translate it into long-term, PERMANENT, weight loss.
How do you know which "diet" is for you?
The problem with the word "diet" is that it is a temporary fix. The coaching I do helps clients focus on creating a permanent lifestyle change. Discovering what works best for your body may require support and knowledge about your specific medical history, food preferences, schedule and goals. When you discover what works for you, you will feel more confident, energetic, and happy that you made the choice to take care of your body.
1. “Obesity and overweight.” CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm.
2. Bilsborough SA, Crowe TC. “Low-Carbohydrate diets: what are the potential short- and long-Term health implications?” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition. US National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14672862.
3. Parin P et al. “Diets and Cardiovascular Disease: An Evidence-Based Assessment” JACC.. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109705003670
*Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor or health care practitioner before starting or changing anything related to your diet, exercise, supplement or prescription regimen. These statements are not meant to be taken as medical advice.