Diets never work in the long run because they are just a time out from facing the 200+ food decisions we have to make every day. Four professionals express their opinions on why diets fail.

My Take on Why Diets Never Work

When we follow diets we allow someone else or some program to dictate our food choices. We are relieved of the burden of navigating the caloric tempting food environment in which we live. That makes it easier in the short run. Since all diets are based on calorie deprivation, as long as we stick to the diet we will be rewarded by a lower number on the scale. That reward will keep us on the diet for a period of time. But, at some point we crave our favorites, attend a social event or just get sick of the prescribed food. Then, inevitably, the weight will come back on as soon as we return to the habits that caused the extra pounds to creep on in the first place.

The unavoidable reality is that our world isn’t designed to make it easy to be healthy and diets aren’t the quick fix they’re portrayed as. Instead, the only adjustment that works in the long run is to change your eating habits through lifestyle change.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff’s Explanation on Why Diets Don’t Work

Yoni Freedhoff, MD, CCFP, is an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa. He is author of The Diet Fix and founder of the Bariatric Medical Institute, a nutrition and weight management center.

Here’s his explanation for the widespread failure of diets.

• People don’t go to sleep at night wanting to make unhealthy choices and hoping to gain weight. It’s just this constant barrage of nutritional chaff. Nobody stands a chance in that environment unless they have very fortunate genes or live very different lives than what are now considered to be normal.

• A huge part of the problem is our simplistic approach to dieting. I think we need to step back. It’s not helpful to ask, why are there more people with obesity despite knowing all that we do about healthy living. Nor is it helpful to ask if the solution is, do we just quit dieting?

• Suggesting that all diets are problematic doesn’t help. Dieting is broken in the context of the belief out there that you need to suffer in perpetuity if you want to succeed.

• Some studies have shown that just 20 per cent of people are able to maintain their weight loss after one full year, while others show that most people will regain more than two-thirds of the weight they lost within two years of losing it.

• So if you want to diet for health — not just weight — reasons, is there a way to do it right?

• You can start by throwing out the idea that if you try hard enough you’ll achieve your goal.

• The food environment pushes people towards low-quality food with high calories.

• This idea that simply wanting it badly enough will allow a swimmer to forevermore swim tirelessly against a very strong current is flawed.

• The results that people want are the results they’re told they’re supposed to have. But in actuality, you don’t need to have lost precisely 40 pounds to be healthy. If you’re doing it for health reasons, he says, even 10, 20 or 30 pounds can be beneficial.

Dr. Vera Tarman’s Explanation of the Failure of Diets


Vera Tarman MD, M.Sc, FCFP, CASAM, ABAM Diplomate, is an addictions medical expert and author of Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction.

She explains diet failure this way:

• Normal is a processed food industry that isn’t invested in healthy eating. It’s a world where hyper-palatable foods with addictive ingredients like sugar and flour are in easy, often affordable reach.

• The solution we keep grasping at is diet.

• The problem is that dieting is not a solution for good health.

• Diets are not sustainable, healthy lifestyles. It’s kind of like a diet is a Band-Aid to a bad living environment.

Mary Bamford’s Take on Diet Failures

Mary Bamford, RD, is a Registered Dietitian with Renascent in Toronto.

Here’s her take on diet failures.

• Too often you won’t succeed because you’re just cycling between diets in search of a weight management fix.

• So if you want to diet for health — not just weight — reasons, is there a way to do it right?

• You can start your individual fix with a multidisciplinary approach.

• Talk to your doctor about finding the best evidence-based diet for you and make sure there is an expert there who can help you change your mindset as well so you’re not focusing heavily on the scale and the shame it can carry.

• It’s very personal. It’s about figuring out what’s the best food pattern that works for you as an individual.

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