Do you start each month with a resolution to lose weight? Do you start a diet one year, only to find yourself oh-so-slightly heavier the next? The reality is that most people find dieting difficult. Those who don’t are usually the ones who need it the least. Being bad at dieting doesn’t make you bad or weak or lazy – you may simply be going about it the wrong way, or you may not have found the technique that works for you.
Some research has shown that our bodies get ‘set’ at a particular weight. If you go up or down from that weight, your body will actively work to take you back to the ‘set’ weight. It is estimated to take two years of maintaining a particular weight to ‘reset’ the body to the new figure – this means that dieting is a long-term process, not a quick fix before the sun lures us down to the beach for another year.
If you are having trouble with dieting, here are the top five reasons why most diets fail, and how you can fix the problem:
1. Cake has become the enemy
When a diet is so strict that it bans all your favourite foods, you’re going to be pretty miserable. Feeling deprived often leads to ‘binge’ eating, at which point most people say ‘I’ve broken it now, what’s the point in continuing?’ This cycle of deprivation and binge eating is both unhealthy and unhelpful for losing weight. Instead, try allowing yourself a small treat – cake is not your enemy, just not cake in large quantities every day. I personally like to moderate my diet by not keeping treats in the house – if I want a reward for a week of healthy eating, I have to leave the house to get it, which reduces your chances of eating out of boredom or habit.
2. Dieting for a day
As mentioned above, in order to really make a diet stick you need to maintain your ideal weight for a long period of time. When you see a diet as a quick fix, you may initially be able to drop the weight, but you’ll just end up putting it back on when you return to your old eating habits. Instead, think of your diet as a lifestyle change. If you can gradually work in these changes they are more likely to stick. Try changing the types of foods you eat, rather than just cutting out foods, and be realistic. If you hate cooking now, you’re not going to suddenly turn into a cordon bleu chef overnight, just because you’ve stocked the fridge with veggies and fish. Instead, look up simple, healthy recipes and give yourself a break.
3. Patience is a virtue
Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. People often give up on diets early on, when they aren’t losing weight as quickly as they expected. The reality of dieting is that some weeks you may find you lose very little weight at all, while other weeks you’ll notice more of a difference. Be patient with yourself, and understand that the weight showing on the scales is only part of the story. Focus on how you feel. Do you have more energy? Are your jeans fitting better? Is your skin clearer? These can all be signs that healthier eating is beneficial every week, not just the weeks where the scales drop.
4. The ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality
This attitude can be a diet death sentence. You go out for afternoon tea with a friend, absentmindedly eat a chocolate biscuit without thinking and then decide that your diet is ruined forever, so you may as well get a Big Mac with extra fries on the drive home. This mentality can be a sign that you don’t really want to be dieting in the first place. Try to think about why you are doing this – do you want to improve your health? Are you hoping to look slimmer for a special event? Remembering your motivation may help you to calm down and remember that one biscuit does not have to turn into a bad day, a bad week or the end of your diet.
5. Too many diets
If you have been yo-yo dieting for a while (losing and gaining weight in quick succession), you may find that your diets become less effective. This kind of dieting can cause your metabolism to slow down, so no matter how little you eat you still can’t seem to lose weight. Exercise can be a great way to improve your metabolism, so if you aren’t seeing results from your diet try adding a brisk morning walk into your routine to boost your metabolism and improve your body’s potential to lose weight.
What is your best method for sticking to a diet? How do you overcome setbacks to stay on track?