Why Diets Don’t Work and How to Shift Your Focus to Longer-Term Solutions

Have you thought about how many diets, detoxes, and plans you’ve tried in your lifetime?

When we have new students join the Mindful Nutrition Method, on average, they’ve tried at least three diets, plans, or trends prior to coming to see us for sustainable solutions. The takeaway point here is that they must not work, right? Otherwise, they wouldn’t be coming to us afterward. 

And guess what, our students aren’t alone! 

This is becoming increasingly more common with so many new trends, quick-fix plans, and diets coming out weekly. This overflow in the health and wellness space is resulting in more and more people feeling stressed out about food, overwhelmed, and simply fed up with dieting. Can you relate?

Our mission here at Nutrition Stripped is to help you find confidence in nourishing yourself with ease, so you can ditch the diets and make peace with food. In order to do that, we need to hop off of the diet train and learn why these diets are doing much more harm than good. 

Here I’m diving into the 5 reasons why diets don’t work for most of us, and discussing what you can do instead to mindfully care for your body and yourself.

Why Diets Don’t Work

First and foremost, when we say diets, we mean choosing to abide by food guidelines and restrictions as a result of personal choice (think cutting carbs, counting macros, or abiding by a strict eating schedule). What we’re not referring to here are medically-necessary diets that are guided by a health professional (such as a low FODMAP diet for IBS or a gluten-free diet for Celiac Disease). 

Most diets today involve the restriction of caloric intake in some way, shape, or form. That may involve restricting a particular food group, or simply decreasing intake altogether. In my experience as a Registered Dietitian and Mindful Nutrition Method Coach working with hundreds of our Mindful Nutrition Method students, I’ve seen the impact this can have time and time again. 

When your body experiences this decrease in energy, a few things may happen both physically and mentally:

  • Increased cravings for starchy carbohydrates, particularly those higher in sugar 
  • Decreased confidence and ease around food
  • A tendency to hyperfocus on food intake and food choices
  • Increased food guilt, stress, and anxiety 
  • A loss of control around certain foods 
  • A loss of control in particular eating scenarios 
  • An increase in digestive complications 

These complications lead to a variety of additional challenges that can prevent you from maintaining this way of eating for the long term. Let’s dive into what those are.

1. Dieting Can Take The Joy And Pleasure Out Of The Food Experience

If you know me, you’ve likely heard me say this before, and it’s worth repeating: food is more than nourishment. It’s tradition, culture, pleasure, and joy and it’s okay to celebrate the many roles food plays in our lives!

Every day, I cook meals that not only nourish my body but also make me so happy and filled with joy to experience.

I love being in the kitchen alone or cooking with my husband Jesse. I really enjoy trying new recipes with new ingredients, then sitting down to savor a delicious meal (not always “Instagram worthy” either). If we’re cooking and eating together, we love talking about our day and our plans for the future. It’s such a great time to connect.

Food is such a powerful way to bring nourishment and joy into our lives, but unfortunately, so many diets are really strict, and rigid, and completely ignore this. They remove joy from the eating experience and can make you feel as if cooking is a chore or that you’re meals are unsatisfying.

They can cause you to view food only as a means to an end, and constantly leave you “looking forward to” the next time you “can” eat that food item you really want to have, but “can’t”, causing a lot of stress as a result of focusing on what you should or shouldn’t eat.

Instead, try focusing on creating a positive, joyful experience around your meals.

This could involve finding recipes that excite you or even simply eating at the table without any devices or distractions. It could be turning on music while you cook a meal for yourself or inviting a friend over for a mini-pot luck night in.

Reframing food in this way can help you create a whole new appreciation for fueling your body with nourishment, love, and joy.

2. Short-Term Thinking — Start And Stop Mentality

The second reason why diets fail most people so often is short-term thinking. The 21-day this, 30-day that. What are you supposed to do after that time period?

They’re designed to try to get you a big result as quickly as possible. They often fail to then teach you how to integrate that into your life in a balanced way.

Switch from this short-term, one-size-fits-all thinking to long-term, sustainable thinking. Make choices for yourself that you can realistically sustain for years. Ask yourself, can I do this every day? If not, don’t add it to your life.

Think about this — following a diet can be a lot of work. You need to learn the rules, buy the right ingredients, follow the meal plan, and potentially skip on or work around your normal social outings. And then you end up following that for, let’s say, 30 days.

Imagine what would happen if instead, you refocused all of that time and energy on learning a new skill or developing a habit that would last you much longer than that. Maybe instead of following a trend or popular diet, you simply focus your energy on cooking more at home.

It’s this kind of long-term thinking that can give you the skills to navigate your health 365 days a year.

3. They Often Require You to Have Foods that Are “Off-Limits”

Oh boy, we’ve all been there, myself included. We’ve been so “good” on our diet, but then we go out to eat or go to a social gathering and are offered foods we “can’t have”. This increasingly makes us hyperaware, hypersensitive, and focused on that food choice. Right?

And that can cause two unhealthy extremes: either isolating yourself from others to avoid that temptation or completely overindulging, sometimes even to the point of feeling sick. 

So here’s my tip, don’t follow guidelines that tell you to eliminate specific foods or food groups for the sake of losing weight or because someone on social media told you to because they do.

Eliminating foods for the sake of dieting without medical necessity does so much more harm than good. It contributes to that yo-yo diet cycle of getting “on” and “off-track” and dieting over and over again. 

4. Diets Are One-Size-Fits-All — They Don’t Take Your Unique Body And Life Into Consideration

Following a popular diet’s guidelines doesn’t always align with your unique wants and needs.

While it may seem easy to pick a diet and follow it because you don’t have to think about anything, you end up following rules you think you “should” be doing, without actually evaluating what you need in your life and why.

This can create a big disconnect between your inherent wants and needs and what you’re actually doing. As a result, you can feel guilty, stressed, and overwhelmed around food as opposed to feeling peaceful and at ease.  

Instead, focus on what you really want. What works really well for you and your life? Jot down exactly what healthy looks like and feels like for you, and why you want those things in your life. Create your wellness vision. 

When you have that clarity, you’ll begin making decisions that align with your unique needs, rather than what someone else says.

5. They Ask You to Do Too Much All At Once, Making it Hard to Maintain

Lastly, diets are often structured in such a short time frame that they ask you to make dozens of changes overnight. When there’s so much change all at once, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with it all.

Instead, shift to slowly building up your changes and habits over time. Intentionally stack one on top of another so they’re all working together to build a solid foundation for your lifestyle change.

This means taking that vision of wellness you have for yourself and breaking it down into tiny action steps. It doesn’t mean waking up tomorrow and trying to do everything all at once. It’s taking it one item at a time and really working through it until it’s easy and fully integrated into your life.

Then move on to the next habit.

We covered a lot in this video, but if there’s one thing I want you to take away, it’s that we all have unique lifestyles and bodies to honor, but most diets, detoxes, or plans don’t take that into consideration.

Ditch the Scale and Measure Your Health in Other Ways

There are many ways to measure and reach your health goals without dieting — including ways to measure outcomes and success outside of the scale. I can’t tell you how important this is! If you let the number on the scale dictate whether or not you’re successful, whether or not you’re happy, you’ll constantly be in the diet cycle. 

Instead, focus on how you feel, the practices you’re engaging in, the habits you’ve implemented and the goals you’ve accomplished. 

Some examples might include:

  • Blood work or labs if you’re managing a certain health condition
  • Increased energy levels
  • Better digestion
  • Feeling more confident in general and around food
  • Expressing creativity and joy in your life
  • Honoring what your physical body allows you to do (i.e. give loved ones a hug, exercise, think, work, breathe, etc.)
  • Eating free from distraction
  • Feeling less stress around food and food choices

Learn How To Stop Dieting And Nourish Yourself In A Way That Feels Uniquely Right For You

By shifting your focus from these short-term fixes to long-term solutions that stem from what you need and want in your life, you can create a healthy lifestyle that’s maintainable 365 days a year, not just for 30 days. 

If shifting your mindset around this seems impossible, challenging, or really hard for you to do right now, you’re not alone.

Sign up to watch my free masterclass today, where you’ll learn about How To Break Free From The Diet And Food Obsession Starting Now. 

You don’t need to stress and obsess about food. There is a better way, and yes it’s possible to cultivate a positive relationship with food! Join this free balanced eating masterclass to learn how.

Watch The Free Masterclass

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