why most diets failWhy do most diets fail in the long term?

As in today’s societies 60% of more are overweight or obese it is no wonder that many people have tried one or more diets only to face the jo-jo-effect or weight cycling at the end. Big efforts with little success ending in huge frustration.

Why is this?

Here is how Prof. Dr. med. Thomas Ellrott, leader of the Institute of Nutritional Psychology at the Georg –August University in Goettingen/Germany, explains this inconvenient truth:

  1. There is a difference between weight reduction and weight stabilisation.
    Diets usually achieve a short time weight reduction. Diets don’t match the requirements for weight stabilisation and vice versa.
  2. Our eating habits have developed over centuries.
    Short phases of sticking to a certain diet do not overwrite eating pattern that have stabilized over many more years. Without complementing behavioural therapies diets are bound to fail.
  3. Diets are one part of life style only.
    Our body weight not only determined by nutrition but also by energy intake, psycho-social and genetic impacts. Therefore professional therapies consider a combination of diet, physical activity and behavioural changes.
  4. Public communication causes consumer confusion.
    Today’s media do best when selling negative slogan, simplified news, scandals and contradicting messages. Everyone can publish the latest nutritional findings without sufficient scrutiny. The main goal is less the desire to inform you and me but rather to increase sales and clicks.
  5. There is no “one-size-fits-all-diet”.
    Any dietary intervention will only work for some, never for all concerned.
  6. Food selection is not mainly driven by health motives.
    The main drivers to select food are pleasure, taste, convenience and price. Although basically we all want to eat healthy, health is not amongst the major selection motives.
  7. We need the right social environment.
    Our eating habits are influenced by “social modelling”. We benefit from a social network of health and fitness conscious people rather than a group of overweight fellow sufferers.
  8. Variety increases consumption.
    Buffet experiments have shown that people eat more the bigger the choice is. Nowadays large food stores offer more than 200,000 different products. There is so much to try. Once having paid for the buffet why not economical and eat as much as possible?
  9. Big sized portions and packaging increases calorie intake.
    Big and perceived cheap portions and packaging invite us to eat more. There is still enough left for next time. We stop to listen to the internal “stop” signs but learn to stop once we get external “stop” message: The empty plate, box or bag.
  10. Orders don’t work.
    Ordering people what, when and how to eat as well as rigid control targets often lead to non-compliance. Kids stopped from having sweets or coke will buy exactly that once having pocket money and being out of sight. Flexible control rules will avoid destabilizing frustration caused by strong feeling of failure. The best condition for success is self-regulation (the ability to plan, prioritize, become aware, control impulses, delay rewarding, control emotions etc.).
  11. Unrealistic goals lead to failure.
    Trying to lose 15 kg in only 6 weeks is probably by far too challenging. Missing an important target leads to frustration, loss of motivation and defeat. Unrealistic goals are a form of self-sabotage.
  12. The human genome is optimized for survival in periods of hunger and droughts.
    For most of its time the human species had to learn to adapt to hard times. There was no need to create a genetic code for the survival of extreme abundance of food. Man had rather learned to eat as much as possible when there was little to find. Only the last 50 years have turned this behaviour from being an advantage into a disadvantage. “Eat as much as possible” today is the recipe for illnesses and death. It will take many more centuries until maybe evolution will have developed a stronger “stop – its enough” sign.

Have you ever put yourself on a diet? Which one? And what were the results? Share with us in the comments below.

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