Most anyone who’s ever tried dieting knows diets don’t work. But it’s January, and if you’re like most people losing weight was one of your resolutions.
Instead of trying yet another new diet, have you ever considered why they don’t work?
Today we’re going to look at some diet research to answer the “why don’t diets work” question. We’ll also explore an idea that might be new to you – the idea of set point weight.
The things that researchers have found about why diets fail may not surprise you, but the 7 “no-diet” steps that actually work for weight loss might.
Diets have been around forever and the internet is always awash with some new weight loss diet villainizing food and promising miraculous weight loss.
Atkins, Paleo, Keto, plant-based…the list of diets promising weight loss is a mile long and ever changing but they all have one thing in common: Limiting or eliminating food.
If you follow Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig or some form of a “eat anything” diet, you have to limit food. Follow a paleo, keto, atkins, plant-based, low-carb or no-carb diet and you’re eliminating entire food groups.
But they all operate on the same premise – less calories eaten equals weight lost. It’s the way they go about getting you to fewer calories that differs.
At its simplest this should work but (the dreaded but) it doesn’t.
If a diet actually worked, wouldn’t you expect it to have withstood the test of time?
Yup, me too.
The Research on Diets
Traci Mann, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, has been studying eating behavior and diets for over 20 years. And despite trying to make diets work, she’s only discovered why diets don’t work.
Maybe you’re thinking
- “they fail because I don’t have enough willpower”
- “I didn’t work hard enough”
and I want you to know you did have enough willpower.
You did work hard enough.
The reason your diet didn’t work wasn’t your fault.
Through her study of “diets” Traci has found the 3 biggest reasons diets don’t work are:
When you’re limiting or avoiding food your brain becomes more responsive to food. Food starts looking and smelling more appetizing and you find yourself always thinking about or wanting foods you’re avoiding.
Dieting causes your body to alter the amounts of hunger/fullness hormones it releases. Problem is, it’s not releasing them in your favor. Hunger hormones increase and fullness hormones decrease because your body’s protecting you. It doesn’t realize you aren’t eating on purpose.
This has to do with your metabolism. Traci’s found that when your body’s dieting your metabolism slows down (if you’ve read this post here, you already knew this).
Ummm, that’s the opposite of what any dieter wants happening.
So, why in the world is your body doing this to you? Shouldn’t it want the same thing you do, to lose weight and be whatever size you think it should be?
I hate to tell you, but your body disagrees and has a pile of mechanisms in place to ensure you’ll have to fight tooth and nail to get to a weight that’s lower than it wants.
Okay okay, I know you’re wondering about the person you know who went on a diet and lost X# of pounds and has kept it off forever.
Research has an answer for that as well.
About 5% of the population is able to successfully get below their bodies “set point”. Your body’s set point is the weight range it wants to be at.
The longer you’re a certain weight the harder it will be to go below that weight. Set points can be changed but it takes hard work and determination.
If the weight you’re trying to lose has been gained in the last 6-12 months it’ll be easier to lose because your body recognizes you’re above your set point.
The longer you’ve been at a certain weight the harder it will be to lose it. Your body has adapted to that being your new set point.
Does this mean you’ll never be able to lose weight? Nope!
But it does mean you’ll have to take a new approach.
An approach to weight loss that doesn’t include a diet.
A Diet Slave...
Most anyone can go on a diet and lose 10% of their body weight, they may even be able to keep it off for about 6-12 months.
But keeping it off requires you spend every single day focused on how much you eat and avoiding certain foods.
You become a slave to weight loss and everything revolves around what you can or can’t eat.
But this doesn’t consider life and all the distractions and bumps in the road life brings. This is another reason why diet’s don’t work. Diet’s don’t take life into consideration.
Not a manner that makes you a diet slave and overwhelms you with “no’s” and “cants”.
Let’s take a look at the fail proof “no diet” way for ensuring your body’s at the weight God created it to be.
The No-Diet Way
1. Focus on feeling good.
This might take practice but the most important step in allowing your body to adjust to the set-point it should be at, is changing your focus.
Instead of focusing on weight loss you’ve got to focus on how you feel.
- If your joints or back are hurting, how can the food you eat help them feel better?
So much of what ails us is due to the things we put on the end of our forks.
- How could focusing on how you feel change what you choose to eat?
Know that you’re worth it.
You’re God’s image bearer!
2. Love how you reflect God.
It’s time to stop looking in the mirror and wishing you were 10 pounds lighter or that your hips or rear looked different. It’s time to look in the mirror and rejoice at how God created you to reflect Him.
You’re His child, His image bearer.
Really let that sink in (and if you haven’t read this post, go read it).
Amazing things happen when you begin loving yourself just the way you are.
Your attitude changes, and joy and peace settle into every little part of you.
But most importantly…
You begin caring for yourself like the precious jewel you are.
3. Quit trying to lose weight.
Focusing on feeling good instead of weight loss allows your body to do what God created it to do – keep you at the weight God wants you at.
Begin caring for yourself just as you’d care for a summer garden or a cherished flower bed.
4. Stop dieting.
Say no to calorie counting, scheduled meals, and always watching how much of certain things you are or aren’t eating.
Instead focus on eating mindfully and paying attention to the internal cues God gave you.
- What will help you feel better?
- What foods will support your microbiome and in turn improve your immune system, metabolism, and mood?
The food you eat should be the best food you can afford and eaten because you’re wanting to be a great steward of the amazing you God created.
To learn more about mindful eating click here.
5. Move because you want to.
For many people exercise is a bad word. It’s the dreaded thing you have to do because you need to lose weight.
Since you’re not trying to lose weight anymore, it’s time to move because you want to. After all, God gave you a body created for movement.
- Go on a walk so you can rejoice at the beauty of God’s creation.
- Lift weights because you want to be strong enough to do anything God asks of you.
You get the idea…
6. Practice Godly mindfulness.
Godly mindfulness involves recognizing God’s the one you go to when you’re stressed, tired, emotional, hormonal, etc.
Food or drink will never be able to comfort or heal like your Creator can.
Practicing Godly mindfulness involves
- slowing down,
- evaluating what’s going on, &
- asking God to help you make decisions that are in your best interest.
The best part about Godly mindfulness is it’s a practice that’s beneficial in all areas of your life, not just health and nutrition.
- Explore the Bible→Holy Spirit→Mindfulness &
- Staying Healthy→Your Life→Mindfulness
7. Enjoy life to its fullest.
You have to decide to enjoy life regardless of what the scale or the tags on your pants say. Because when you decide to live life to its fullest and enjoy every moment of it, it’ll change the way you think about and care for yourself.
- go skip down the street,
- play chase with your kids, or
- sign-up for that 5K you’ve always wanted to do.
No matter what you think weight loss will bring you, it won’t.
It’s not going to make you
- more popular,
- more athletic,
- a better mom, or
- a better wife.
You’re all of those things right now.
If you’re struggling with this, would you stop and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal who God sees you as (more on this next week)?
- Then write down what God lays on your heart.
Don’t worry…you don’t have to show it to anyone.
Diet’s don’t work. They fail every single time and it’s not because you’ve failed.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Rejoice in that and decide to steward the beautiful body God gave you as best you know how. This is diet that works.
If you’re struggling, would you ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you?
That’s why Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit. He wanted us to have the same amazing resource He did. The Holy Spirit allowed Jesus to live a sinless human life,
- healing the sick,
- loving His enemies,
- setting captives free, and
- conquering death.
Rely on the Holy Spirit and expect God to amaze you.
If you’ve got any questions about what you’ve read today you can reach us here.
We’d love to help or pray with you.
Until next time remember...
Your heavenly Father has amazing plans for your life and He’d love it if you felt great while doing them.