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Why diets don't work long term

This time of year, a few months after the Christmas binge, most of us seem to be on some kind of diet. The list of diet books is endless, with a one or two highly publicised new diet books coming out each year. The truth is that none of them actually work long term.

Firstly, a diet in itself has a beginning and an end, so you know when you start the diet that at some point you will end it. Basically, it’s a quick fix and this is not how you will continue to eat for the rest of your life. Most of these diets are way too restrictive and it’s almost impossible to stick to them for a long time. You eventually crack and eat like crazy, undoing all of your hard work.

Most people carry on choosing a new diet or re-starting one that worked for a while because they initially see good results. But the reality is that after the diet has exhausted their willpower, they then begin eating as they did before. Within a few months, these dieters will probably have regained all of the initial weight lost and have added a few more pounds or kilos.

This start/ stop cycle (yo-yo dieting) is the reason why diets basically just don’t work and why most people actually end up fatter and heavier than when they started.

Most diets are very restrictive to begin with. There is usually a big cut in calorie intake, so, of course, people initially lose weight. The results are quick and there is a noticeable weight loss which attracts compliments and other positive comments. This is, of course, encouraging but people don’t think about what is actually happening to their bodies. To achieve such a rapid weight loss, dieters not only cut out all the bad food they usually consume, they also cut meal sizes and sometime whole food groups such as carbohydrates. As a result, they are putting themselves through a drastic change.

People not only lose fat, but they will instantly begin to shed water, their muscle is eaten away due to the extra restrictions of the first seven to ten days of the diet, so on the whole they are smaller, thinner and hold a lot less water. This is, of course, almost impossible to continue for long periods of time. So inevitably the dieter breaks the diet and begins to eat all the things they have missed. What this means is that they then quickly regain the water they have shed and slowly start to put on the lost weight and more.

A drastic diet – which is most of the diets out there – plays havoc with the hormones, eventually causing hormones to break down muscle so that it can be used as fuel. This is just counterproductive, as muscles are the engines which burn fat. The more muscle a person has, the faster their metabolism. So, as you can see, if the body begins to destroy its own muscle, it will eventually leave the dieter with a slower metabolism than when they began the diet.

A lot of people will read about a diet a certain athlete or fitness model has followed and decide to follow suit. You may ask why then this diet would work for an athlete, fitness competitor or celebrity who follows this super restrictive diet to get cut and lean and not for you. The answer is that they didn’t just diet. They started with a very healthy lifestyle, eating a healthy, clean, balanced diet and followed a well-planned and executed exercise routine. They will have lived a healthy well balanced lifestyle for a considerable amount of time. This of course means they are already walking around with a very low body fat percentage, which is very different from the average person on a yo-yo type diet routine. For the fitness model who needs to lose a few pounds or get cut for a competition or magazine shoot, a very restrictive diet as a sharpening tool is fine; not so for most people out there trying to lose some weight.

The problem is people are all so different; they have different genetics, and may have different health issues. So for a start, a one size fits all diet just won’t work.

So what do we do?

Firstly you need to start slowly beginning to clean up your diet, making small changes over time, this way you will stick to the changes you make.

Secondly, make sure you are consuming balanced healthy meals, trying to get a good balance between protein, carbohydrates, fats and fibre along with small sensible portions.

Thirdly, I suggest learning as much as you can about eating a diet to fuel your workouts and recovery, which would only help to maximise your fat burning capabilities.

Fourthly, begin a well-balanced training regime, starting slowly and building this into your weekly routine.

This then would be changing your lifestyle in a slow and sustainable way. Get this right and by the summer you will definitely be in much better shape than the beginning of the year. Following a yo-yo diet will almost certainly lead to failure and to feeling bad about yourself. You want to make the kinds of changes that last.

For more help and advice on making these changes and creating your own healthy lifestyle, please don’t hesitate to contact me on


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