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20 Reasons Why 95% of All Weight Loss Diets Fail
- Updated: July 6, 2015
By Jeff Behar, MS, MBA – Most nutritionists and diet experts agree that many diets are not designed correctly and are not worth the paper they are written on. Yet millions of Americans will spend billions of dollars this year on the latest fad diets, quick fix exercise programs and weight loss products that they see advertised or hear about from friends. Nutritionist experts all pretty much agree that the key to losing weight and keeping the weight off permanently is through specific lifestyle changes which include daily exercise and to a sensible healthy eating plan which can be sustained over a lifetime and not opting for some quick weight loss fix.
Here are some of the top reasons why diets fail:
- Not keeping a log or diary of your diet progress. Studies have shown that those who keep a daily food log eat less. They also become more cognizant of what they are eating and are less likely to make poor food choices or binge. Recording your dietary intake also helps you to see patterns in your eating, track food triggers, and track how your body is feeling. Fix: Another smart move: keep a log of your time spent exercising every day, since it is easy to overestimate the amount of time you actually spend. Keeping the log can help keeps you honest to your exercise goals.
- No weight loss goals. Many fad diets today are designed for short term goals only. To lose weight successfully you establish both short term goals and long term goals. If your goals are only set on short term goals, like getting that dress you wanted to fit into for an upcoming event you will most [probably gain the weight back after that event. Fix: To lose weight successfully and keep weight off permanently you need to establish long term weight loss goals. You need to be thinking lifestyle changes. Use your diet to introduce yourself to new foods that you do not normally eat and that you can maintain in your everyday life. By introducing changes slowly they are easier to maintain for the long haul.
- Falling for fad diets or for diets that are unsafe or nutritionally unsound. You have probably heard the saying that” If it is too good to be true, than it probably is”. Safe permanent weight loss is a slow, gradual process that should improve your health and not jeopardize it. Fix: Avoid fad diets. Shoot for diets that include all food groups and that do not drastically reduce calories. Look for weight loss programs designed for 1.5 – 3 pounds of weight loss per week.
- Impatience. Another top reason why diets fail is impatience. Once people make the decision to lose weight, many want to lose weight immediately. Losing weight takes time. When they find that they’re only losing weight at a rate of one to two pounds a week, they become frustrated and give up, convinced that they are failing because they’re not losing weight as fast as they would like to. Fix: To lose weight effectively for the long term it is important not to be impatient and not to get frustrated. Remind yourself that it took months or years to gain that weight—it’ll take some time to lose it, too. Remember that dieters who lose weight slowly are much more likely to keep it off long-term. You cannot expect to lose fifty pounds in a month. It just isn’t realistic. Haven’t you noticed the fine print on those weight loss product commercials? The results that they are proudly advertising are not typical! Losing weight is not easy, and you shouldn’t expect it to be. Losing weight takes time. If it was as simple as these ads would lead you to believe, then obesity wouldn’t be such an enormous health problem in the United States and everyone would look like a supermodel!!! Losing weight is about commitment and lifestyle changes. Losing weight is about committing to a eating sensibly, and exercising daily. If you are patient and implement these lifestyles changes you will lose weight and be well on your way to meeting your long term weight loss goals.
- All-or-nothing thinking. Another top reason why diets fail is many have a all-or-nothing approach. If the slip a bit on their diet and grab something that they should not eat, instead of tightening their diet back up they give up all-together and either binge, or quit their diet altogether. Fix: If you go off your diet, like most people do on occasion, don’t’ beat yourself up for it. Instead of turning a small negative into a huge one, turn it into a positive one. If you grabbed a slice of cake because you could not resist, put in some extra time at the gym later, or take a brisk walk and burn away those extra calories. No harm no foul. Remember NOBODY is perfect. What is important for successful dieting and successful long-term weight loss is handling your mistakes properly. Tell yourself, firmly, that one diet indiscretion won’t ruin your weight loss goals. Focus on making “good” food choices, not “perfect” food choices.Making your expectations too high. Many people have expectations that are too high. The want to lose 50 pounds in a month, or they expect to have the same body and same metabolism that they had when they were a teenager. Although it is possible to fit back into the dress or pants you wore a few decades earlier, it will take more work and more dedication to reach that same result – if it is even possible. Fix: Be realistic in your expectations and weight loss goals. Losing weight can be hard work for most people. It takes longer than a couple of weeks to change this part of your life. Healthy weight loss should be about one or two pounds per week. By being realistic you are less likely to disappoint yourself and fail.
- Too little calories. Another top reason why diets fail is many dieters starve themselves and eat far too few calories. If you eat too few calories and are constantly hungry, you risk an eventual willpower blowout, leading to a major diet setback. Restricting calories can also cause a deficiency in nutrients which can also affect your health. Successful diets are designed to include adequate calories so you don’t that you are not hungry, but low enough to allow for a moderate weight loss of 1.5-2 lbs of weight loss per week. Restricting calories can also cause muscle wasting. Decreasing muscle mass will cause your metabolism to decrease, resulting in less calories being burned daily; a vicious cycle. Fix: Instead of cutting back calories too drastically, optimize your caloric intake by spreading out your meals into 5 smaller meals. Optimize your metabolism by exercising daily. By optimizing your calories and increasing the calories you burn you will lose more fat and reach your weight loss goals more effectively.
- Missing meals. Another top reason why diets fail is many dieters skip meals. Skipping meals is one way to eat less calories and will cause an immediate weight loss, but skipping meals will cause diets to fail in the long run and will hinder permanent weight loss because it causes the your metabolism to slow. Fix: eat small meals or snacks every three hours and gradually reduce your total calories daily while doing so. Implement exercise daily to help further the calorie deficit to maximize weight loss and optimize your metabolism.
- Dieting too strict. Another top reason why diets fail is many people diet too strict. This can mean eating too little food or banning all favorite foods. Low calorie diets can leave you feeling very hungry. Feeling hungry can cause you to eat too many calories at once which will stop weight loss in its tracks, when you are hungry you are also more likely to reach for the wrong foods to quickly raise your energy levels. Banning all your favorite foods is also a top reason why diets fail. When you ban ALL your favorite foods you are more likely to feel deprived. Studies show that when dieters feel deprived they are more likely to binge on the forbidden foods, and in may cases then quit dieting because they believe that they have failed (refer to All-or-nothing thinking). Fix: For successful permanent weight loss it is important that a diet be “livable.” If your diet is not “livable.” you will eventually give up. It’s best to choose a diet which doesn’t make you go hungry and also does not exclude all your favorite foods. Instead, eat smaller meals every few hours. Also allow yourself to have an occasional treat; just be honest about portion sizes and put in some extra time at the gym later, or implement a bit more exercise on these “treat” days. Notice I said “treat days” and not “cheat days”. Attitude is everything, and if you stick to your diet and weight loss goals, you do deserve a “treat day” occasionally.
- Binging. Many diets fail because of binge eating. Most binge eating while dieting occurs when your diet is too strict (see above). Fix: Allow yourself to have an occasional treat.
- Hunger. Low calorie diets can leave you feeling very hungry. You’ve often eaten the allotment of your daily calories and still feel very hungry. This is a very uncomfortable situation to be in. Often when you feel very hungry but you have no calories left to eat you either tough it out (which is not a nice experience) or you give in and eat something you aren’t supposed to. When you give in and eat something you’re not supposed to on a diet, it’s usually the beginning of the end.
- Eliminating food groups. Diets eliminating an entire food group (such as carbohydrates) and not optimal. Any diet that eliminates an entire food group is not sound. It will not allow for successful permanent weight loss. Eliminating certain foods or even whole food groups is not only unhealthy but also unrealistic for long term permanent weight loss. Fix: A successful diet should allow choices from all food groups in moderation, and be a diet approach that you can follow for the long term.
- Not recognizing eating triggers. Another top reason why diets fail is many dieters do not recognize the triggers that cause them to overeat. Perhaps you are a snack junkie while watching late night TV, or someone that reaches for bad foods when studying, or when stressed. Fix: Identify eating triggers and avoid them. If they can be avoided, stack the deck in your favor. For example: have fresh cut veggies available when watching TV or studying, instead of reaching for fast foods.
- Emotional eating. Overeating to ease emotional stress is a major pitfall for dieters. Many of us may not realize that we were brought up to bury our feelings behind a snack. Think about how many times you have seen a mother console her crying child by offering him a cookie. So many women are used to curling up with a pint of ice cream to soothe the pain of a break-up, or a fight with their significant other. These natural tendencies lead us to make allowances for ourselves when we are going through stressful times. Unfortunately, eating poorly will only lead to more stress, because you will be worried about being overweight and not being able to follow through with your diet. Rather than eating to numb the pain, try exercising, writing in a journal, or calling a friend. If you can stick to your diet in a stressful situation, then you will be able to feel more confident that you will be able to meet your weight-loss goals. Handling stress is an important test of a dieter’s will and determination.
- Not planning ahead in your grocery shopping, meals and special “food” occasions. If you don’t take the time to plan your day-to-day strategies, you are more susceptible to buying and eating the foods you intend to stay away from.
- Metabolism slows down. When you repeatedly lose and gain weight your body will learn to adjust to become more efficient. That means the body will slow its metabolism. This means your body will burn fewer calories when at rest and throughout the day. Then when you overeat your body will store as much fat as possible because your body because of the previous calorie restriction is anticipating the next “famine” and makes it harder to lose weight and keep it off. Fix: Do not restrict your calories excessively. Instead “cycle your calories” and add exercise into the mix. “Cycling” your calories means not eating exactly the same amount of calories daily. For instance if your goals are a 1500 calories a day diet, instead you would eat 1200 on day, 1800 the next, etc. Short-term cycling can also provide a dieter some cheat days without guilt, and that is very important. Cycling calories also provides higher-calorie days to exercise harder, feel more energetic, feel less deprived while also still providing long-term calorie shortfall needed for effective weight loss.
- Not incorporating exercise. One of the biggest reasons why diets fail is failure to incorporate exercise into the weight loss program. Incorporating exercise is important for long term weight loss for several reasons. First it provides a calorie deficit. To lose weight you must burn more calories and/or eat fewer calories. Exercising helps widen the calorie deficit that helps maximize weight loss. Exercise while dieting also ensures your body will break down your fat stores, not your muscles, for energy. Exercising also helps keep your metabolism from slowing (also referred to as the diet plateau). If you do not incorporate exercise into your weight loss program your weight loss will most likely hit this diet plateau. Adding exercise can also keep you motivated to stick to your diet, even on the weeks when the scale won’t budge. The bottom line: multiple research studies have concluded that the most successful diets include a combination of diet and exercise. If you don’t exercise enough, your weight loss will be slower, and you are more likely to gain back any weight you lose. Fix: Try to add at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
- Not incorporating resistance exercise into the mix. While all forms exercising helps burn calories and raise your metabolic rate, incorporating resistance exercise can help maintain, and even increase muscle mass while dieting. By increasing muscle mass you will burn more calories daily, even when sleeping!! Fix: Try to add at least 40 minutes of resistance exercise a minimum of 4 days a week.
- Not dealing with stress. One of the main reasons why diets fail is people inability to deal with stress. Stress can derail an effective weight loss program in several ways. Stress can cause dieters to reach for bad food. Stress can cause dieters to binge and over eat. Stress can cause dieters to learn to reach for comfort foods. Long term chronic stress can cause increases in cortisol levels. Prolonged elevated levels of cortisol levels can cause the thyroid to slow, metabolism to slow, increase fat storage and cause several unhealthy conditions within the body. Fix: Implement stress reduction techniques. Exercise, and meditation are just two of many stress reducing tools available.
- No support system. Numerous studies show that another big reason why diets fail is the dieter does not have a support system that is supportive towards the dieter’s long term weight loss goals. Fix: For the best success, surround yourself with family and friends that will be supportive towards your weight loss goals. Not making yourself a priority. Finally, your weight, diet and health are very important, and must be a priority in your life if you are to successfully lose weight and permanently keep the weight off. Fix: Making yourself a priority by scheduling time to exercise, and scheduling time to distress, and shop for healthy food. If you do not take care of your own health and make yourself a priority you will most likely fail in your weight loss efforts.
- Seeing your diet as a temporary fix, not a lifestyle change. Perhaps you’ve managed to lose weight in the past, for a special occasion or event. But you inevitably return to your old eating habits straight afterward—and pile the weight back on. Your diet is a quick fix, rather than a permanent change to make your lifestyle healthier. Fix: Use your diet as a great excuse to try out lots of new foods. Aim to change your tastes and find ways of eating healthily that you want to stick to for good.
Bottom Line for Diet Success
Dieters with long term successes are proof that the best plans include adequate choices from a wide variety of foods, are flexible and reasonable, and partner with exercise and support from peers. A diet that encourages weight loss slowly over time will help you form better habits to make your diet the beginning of a lifetime of healthy eating!
About the Author Jeff Behar
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA, is a well-known health, fitness, wellness author and anti aging, champion natural bodybuilder (2014 Masters Grand Prix Champion, 2015 California State Masters Champion), and a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert with over 30 years of experience in the health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, and anti-aging fields.
As a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, Jeff Behar’s has been featured on several radio shows, TV, and in several popular bodybuilding publications such as Flex, Ironman and in several highly regarded peer reviewed scientific journals. Jeff Behar is also the CEO and founder www.MuscleMagFitness.com and www.MyBesthealthPortal.com and a Medical Commentator on exercise for The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, the worlds largest medical academy for anti-aging and regenerative medicine, provides medical professionals with the latest Anti-Aging, regenerative, functional and metabolic medicine.
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