Why Diets Don’t Work

…and what you can do instead

There’s a reason why the diet industry is worth so much money. People place a lot of importance on the way they look and whilst people also lose weight for health reasons, aesthetics have always led to easy sales. Diet is a term used to describe what a person eats, but over time, it has become synonymous with weight loss. In this blog I’m going to use the term diet to mean a weight loss, restrictive way of eating and not a person’s general eating habits. Let’s just get into it.

Why diets don’t work

  1. Diets restrict

Diets either restrict food in general or certain food groups, the focus is always on reduction and starving your body is not the best way to lose weight. When we restrict what we eat, our body goes into starvation mode. Physically, when our body detects that it’s not getting enough energy it can turns to using our muscle and lean tissue as stores of energy. The body preserves fat because it doesn’t know when it’s going to get more energy. Your body also stores what food you do eat as fat because it wants to have enough fuel to survive. This slows down your body’s metabolism and is often why people find it hard to keep weight off when they have lost it. Neurologically, our appetites go crazy when we restrict, undereating increases the levels of hormone Neuropeptide Y which makes you crave high carbohydrate foods. This craving can lead to binging which combined with the physical impact of staving the body is just havoc for the body and definitely does not help with fat loss!

Diets also assume a one size fits all approach to weight loss when this simply is not the case. There are so many factors involved; some of the core considerations related to weight loss are…

2. Different genetics

More than 340 different genes are implicated in how we store and burn fat. That gives a lot of room for variation between people. Our genes impact how much fat we store, where we store it, if we crave high sugar foods, our metabolism and so much more. This vast amount of difference between individuals means a generic weight loss diet is never going to cater to your own unique needs.

3. Metabolic variances

Our metabolism involves all the chemical processes which keep us living, moving and breathing. It’s how we convert food into fuel, the rate at which this happens and how efficiently. Genes play a role but so does the amount of exercise we do, the types of foods we eat, our stress levels, the amount of sleep we get as well as other factors. We each have different metabolisms so we have different caloric needs. This is why some people seem to be able to endlessly eat without putting on weight and some seem to only look at a bagel and put on a stone. We’re all different.

4. Gut microbiomes

We all have unique gut microbiomes (even twins), our gut microbiome impacts the way we digest food, how it gets transported around our body and how it gets used. Your gut microbiome may be well suited to digesting and using carbohydrates so being on a low carbohydrate diet may not work for you at all. Or your microbiome may be really good at absorbing fats and so you need to reduce your fat intake a little to reduce the amount of fat stored. Without taking into consideration your individual gut microbiome a diet is not going to work for you and your specific needs.


It all comes down to how unique we are as individuals. We all have different bodies and different needs so different quantities of different nutrients are needed. Personalised information as to what is the best nutrition for your body really is the best way to ensure what you eat is best for your body. This being said there are some general guidelines which can help everyone if you want to focus on reducing your weight without restrictive dieting.


What you can do instead

  1. Fill Up on Veggies

Make sure vegetables take up a lot of space on your plate and eat them first, if you have anything left on your plate at the end of a meal, make sure it’s not vegetables!

2. Add Foods Don’t Remove Them

Introduce new foods to your diet – try beans, lentils, a vegetable you don’t usually eat. Experiment with ‘healthier’ foods you don’t usually consume but don’t make other foods off limits. The more we stop ourselves from eating something, the more we want to eat it, just bring your focus to other foods instead.

3. Smaller Portions

Try eating a smaller portion of food you usually eat. Notice if you need extra food or if you’re just eating it because it’s already on the plate.

4. Slow Down

When we chew our food more thoroughly, we get fuller with less food and our body can access more of the nutrients. Slow down your eating, chew properly and notice when you feel full.

5. Plan for Snacks

Snacks can be a downfall for some, when you get those cravings for something small between meals and you reach for whatever’s easiest. Make sure you have snacks prepped and to hand – nuts, hummus and cucumber, some blueberries. It doesn’t have to be some complicated recipe just have snacks ready and make them the easiest choice so you don’t reach for that bag of crisps every time!


For personalised advice on nutrition and weight loss get in touch

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