Why diets don’t work

If you start a diet you have high hopes that you will lose weight, improve how your body image, feel mentally happier and give your self-esteem a boost.

In an ideal world, all of this will happen! But the reality is a lot different from that.

A lot of people get lost in the jungle of diets and everybody is confused which one of the countless lists of diets is the one that is actually working. Is it the Keto Diet, should I try Intermittent Fasting, is Vegan the way to go or should I just stop eating at all to lose weight?!


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There is always a new diet trend around the corner. They all promise to be the best and most effective way to lose weight and be the happiest you can possibly be. It is important to remember that diets are unsustainable. With every diet, you get to a point where you are sick of counting calories and suppress the desire to enjoy your favorite carbs.


Definition of  “Diet”

If you look up the definition of diet in Wikipedia it says:

“In nutrition, diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism. The word diet often implies the use of specific intake of nutrition for health or weight-management reasons. Although humans are omnivores, each culture and each person holds some food preferences or some food taboos. This may be due to personal tastes or ethical reasons. Individual dietary choices may be more or less healthy.

Complete nutrition requires ingestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids from protein and essential fatty acids from fat-containing food, also food energy in form of carbohydrate, fat, and protein.
Dietary habits and choices play a significant role in the quality of life, health, and longevity.”

Diets and dieting have become so mainstream that you can easily lose track of which diet means what?

Compare that definition with what people actually do when they are dieting. They follow a strict meal plan almost religiously and their thoughts circle around what, what not and when to eat.

While this behavior doesn’t apply to all people who are on a diet I´m convinced for the majority it does. And this widely spread practice is not healthy. It can damage your health as well as your mental health and how you picture your body image.

The thought “I can’t lose weight” makes people so desperate that they are willing to do anything to lose some pounds.



Common misconceptions of a person’s weight

We all have stereotypes in our heads how healthy must look like. The media is stirring this pot by promoting a certain weight and certain looks as healthy.

Thin equals Healthy

Have you ever found yourself categorizing someone as healthy who is thin? Well, we could be very wrong to think that. So often we equate the numbers on the scale and the weight as an indicator for health. We don’t know any facts about the person we are placing into a category. That person could suffer from a serious health condition and that can be the reason for low or high weight. Maybe the person wants to gain weight and is struggling to put on a few pounds.

You can be thin and sick or you can be thin and totally healthy. You never know what’s going on inside of the body. You can be thin and be in a bad condition but nobody would assume it just from looking at you.

Thin people’s health habits can be highly misinterpreted.

The truth is that the shape of our bodies reflects a lot of genetic and epigenetic factors.


Looking good equals Happiness

Someone who looks good on the outside must be happy. What other problems could there possibly be, right?!

Feeling amazing doesn’t mean you look good. And “good” is a very individual and personal feeling. My conception of “good” is not the same as my neighbor’s conception.

We often put so much pressure on ourselves that we have to look good and seek acceptance from other people. By chasing that goal it is easy to lose happiness because you are so fixated chasing a look you might never reach.


Overweight equals Laziness

Overweight people are often confronted with the misconception that they must be lazy. Too lazy to work out, too lazy to cook healthy food and too dumb to understand nutrition. Conversely, this means no overweight person is intelligent. Writing that down sounds already so stupid and it can not be further from the truth.

Your appearance and body shape has nothing to do with your IQ. The overweight can be a result of a health condition, mentally or physically, or the person just doesn’t care about a few extra pounds. Not everybody defines their self-esteem about the number on the scale. 


Top 3 reasons why we eat

1. Emotions

Imagine we had no emotions. Then there would be no joy in eating ice cream at a hot summer day or no excitement for a big pizza we like to eat when we meet our best friends.

The food that we eat influences our emotions and influences chemical effects in our bodies.

In theory, a diet dictates what to eat and what not to eat. On paper, it sounds easy to not eat chocolate anymore or give up the daily glass of red wine. In reality, it is far more complicated to give up chocolate.


2. You crave the forbidden foods

The things that are high up on the list of forbidden foods get more and more appealing over time.

Let me say first, that no food is in generall a forbidden food. But when you try to lose weight there are foods which are beneficial to weight loss and there are foods that are not.

The craving for unhealthy food can get uncontrollable up to a point where the hunger can´t actually be stopped until we eat that particular food.

We are all individuals and everyone experiences food cravings different. So there is not the one thing that fits for all to stop food cravings.


Here are some things you can try to overcome food cravings: 

  • experts believe a craving only lasts about 3-5 minutes: wait before you eat
  • reduce stress: feeling stressed can trigger emotional eating
  • stay hydrated: can you lose weight by drinking water? – hunger and thirst can produce similar sensations in your mind
  • sleep enough: sleep deprivation causes hormonal imbalances which contribute to overeating
  • avoid hunger: under-eating can make food cravings worse, make sure to eat regularly and stay ahead of the hunger

Pro Tip: Think of the nutritional benefits you get if you decide to eat a more healthy alternative to the food you crave. For example, if you crave potato chips you can replace them with homemade, oven-baked sweet potato chips. That way you nourish your body with healthy nutrients.


3. Habits

Eating habits can work against us. A Netflix marathon with unlimited junk food, going out with friends to enjoy some cocktails, birthdays with a sweet birthday cake. These habits are learned over many years and are implemented in our lives so deep that we can’t imagine changing the situations. It’s like we are taking the pleasure out of the Netflix marathon when we cut out the junk food.

That’s not the case! These are just foods we get used to. Like we get used to actions we regularly do.

You can get used to new habits (healthier habits). Just get creative and try it.

For most people, the restriction is the hard part to deal with and not the addictive component of the food.

The chances are good that you can successfully change your habits into new ones.


Can’t lose weight – what is the solution?

The key to lasting weight loss is not to follow a diet trend!

Stay away from every diet that gives you tips on “How to lose weight in 3 days!”

You have to find a lifestyle you can enjoy for the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean it must be a lifestyle to achieve size zero. It must be a lifestyle that makes it easy for you to follow. You don’t have to work out seven days a week to lose weight.

If you wonder “Can you lose weight just by walking?” the answer is YES. If you don’t like gyms or any kind of group fitness, it’s fine to include regular long distances walks into your new routine. Every movement counts and everything is better than sitting on the couch!

Do the best that is possible for your circumstances.

Your ideal weight is not the same ideal weight as someone else has.

Find balance in what you eat and what you do.

Don’t restrict yourself from anything but pay attention to when the limit is reached and navigate in the right direction again.