How to stop quitting your diet

Today, I want to share Stephanie’s story with you. Why? Because she wanted to quit her diet after the first week.

…And she wanted to quit countless times after that.

She went on to lose 155 pounds and she’s kept if off for years.

  • Can you imagine if she quit after the first week?
  • Can you imagine she quit after the second month or any of the other times she wanted to quit?

Here’s a little secret:

Wanting to quit is part of the process. That’s human nature.

  • It’s not a question of “if” you’re going to want to quit along the way.
  • It’s a question of “what” you’re going to do when you inevitably feel like quitting.

I love learning about people who are/were at the top of their game. I’ll watch interviews, read their biographies, articles, etc.

They all wanted to quit at some point in their journey. From Bruno Mars to Andre Agassi to Steve Jobs to Michael Jordan to Jeff Bezos to Tom Brady.

NOW, here’s the thing:

Wanting to quit….and actually quitting is very, very different.

Here’s another secret: Every one of these success stories wanted to quit at some point during their journey, including the countless other success stories we’ve yet to add.

Thankfully, we are not our feelings. We are not our thoughts either.

Simple example: Most of the world’s work is done by people who don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning.

Just because we feel like something doesn’t mean we have do it…

And just because we don’t feel like something doesn’t mean we can’t do it.

Here’s another secret: I thank my lucky stars every day that I get to do what I do.

This is my life’s work. I intend to do this for the rest of my life.

It doesn’t mean I’ve never thought about quitting, though. I push through the tough moments and get back to it because I’m on a mission here. I know the work we’re doing is too important and I believe in what we do more than anything.

Any worthwhile journey will have ups and downs.

This is absolutely inevitable.

When we’re frustrated is when the real work begins. It’s not always smooth sailing. We can’t give up every time we feel frustrated.

It’s so fascinating to me…

  • Think about a time in your life when you persevered.
  • Think about a time when you wanted to give up but didn’t.
  • Think about a time when you were resilient.

Why do we persist with so many things in life, but when it comes to our health and fitness the second (the moment!) – we’re not into it, we want to give up?

Why do we have so much patience when it comes to everything else but when it comes to our health we have none.

There is nothing more important than our health. We all “know” this.

Ask anyone who loses their health. It becomes ALL they think about.

Some more thoughts about quitting, in no particular order.

1) Don’t quit because your life is crazy and you feel like it’s out of control.

Too often when things feel like they’re falling apart, we stop taking care of ourselves altogether. Unfortunately, that only perpetuates those feelings of powerlessness.

When you take control of what you’re able to, it allows you to deal with everything else better.

2) Don’t quit because now isn’t a good time.

We either realize our goals or rationalize them away. That desire never goes away. Clearly, there’s a part of you that wants to lose the weight. There’s a reason you’re reading this.

When you want to quit is the work. The old you would think of reasons why now isn’t a good time.

Don’t let yourself go down that path.

The truth is: There’s never a great time to lose weight. There’s always something going on.

3) Don’t quit because you feel like you’re having a breakdown.

Breakthroughs often feel like breakdowns.

The breakthrough here?

Pushing through even though you feel like quitting. I promise when we make it through the rough patch you’re going to be so happy you stuck with it.

Besides, aren’t you tired of starting over every few months?

4) Don’t quit because of the discomfort.

A client wrote this to me the other day:

“I’d rather be uncomfortable and alive than comfortably dead.”

Good point.

Besides, the discomfort will soon become comfortable. I promise.

What’s easy now was once hard. What’s comfortable now was once uncomfortable.

5) Don’t quit because of what you’re “giving up”?

Focus on all the reasons why you want to lose weight.

Too often we only focus on what we’re giving up. We forget about all that we’re gaining.

Think of five ways your life will be better when you lose the weight.

6) Don’t quit because you can’t win this game with one shot.

Every basket counts.

Don’t let the power of small improvements fool you. Too often we think that if we can’t make massive changes they’re not worth doing. Massive changes almost always come from a bunch of small changes over time.

We’ve been doing this for 10 years now. I promise you this works.

Why am I sharing this?

Because I really believe nothing tastes as good as being healthy and fit feels.

I know some of you may roll your eyes on that one.

You’ll think I’m crazy…until you truly feel what it feels like to be strong, empowered, and in control. There’s nothing like it.

The best part?

That feeling and attitude spills over into every other area of your life.

THAT is what I’m after for you. Everything else is a wonderful side effect.

The sad part? Many people quit before they ever feel that.

Not you though. You’re going to be so happy you stuck with it.

And if you don’t feel like sticking with…lean on us. That’s what we’re here for.

It’s easy when it’s easy. The real work happens when it doesn’t feel easy.

And this is why we get the results we do. We’re with you every single day, through the ups and downs giving you expert feedback and guidance, until you reach your goal. Anything and everything that might get in the way, we’ll help you through.

What are you waiting for? You are worth it.

More Stories For You

  • Gratitude: The Secret of Happiness (And Weight Loss Success)

  • How To Change Eating Habits (Permanently)

  • I don’t have time to go to the gym. What can I do?

Juice fasting, low-carb, Paleo, the Master Cleanse—if you’re someone who struggles with her weight, you might always be looking for the hot new diet that will magically make it all easier. Sorry to break it to you, but staying slim and healthy is usually about making a commitment to lasting lifestyle changes—not the latest trendy diet. Fiorella DiCarlo, R.D., pinpoints the bad habits you need to break to finally see lasting results.

Related: 8 Tips That Make It Easier to Stop Eating When You’re Full

Everyone has an all-time favorite junk food or an item that you can’t stop eating once you start. But crossing it off your grocery list forever will only heighten its appeal. “Try not to restrict any food from your diet because they will become more attractive when they are forbidden,” says DiCarlo. “Instead, allow yourself the food in moderation.” Granted, you know your own habits. If you’re certain you will eat a whole box of cookies if it’s sitting in your pantry, then you should only buy yourself one cookie. And when you’re consuming it, eat it mindfully. “Slowly enjoy every aspect of flavor, texture, and aroma so you are truly satisfied,” says DiCarlo.

Find out how almonds can help you lose weight:

Skimping on Sleep

If you’ve ever felt bleary-eyed at your desk and inhaled an entire croissant without even paying any attention to what you were doing, you know that your sleep affects your eating habits. “Sleep loss is the number-one culprit that can throw your hunger cues out of whack,” says DiCarlo. The good news? This may be the most enjoyable habit to break—and the benefits of getting enough sleep can extend into all part of your life.

Related: Get More Sleep: 10 Sleep Myths Busted

You’re in a wedding next weekend and know that only eating cottage cheese will kill five pounds, easy. Or everyone in your office is trying the juice cleanse, and you feel almost left out if you don’t participate. Resist the urge. Strict diets are unhealthy, but there’s more to it than that: “Studies show they don’t work, they slow your metabolism, and you will gain all the weight back,” says DiCarlo. If it’s making you dizzy with hunger, it’s definitely not a long-term solution. (Drop stubborn pounds for good with Take It All Off! Keep It All Off!)

Binge Drinking

Getting drunk and then housing a pizza might be a behavior associated with college life, but that doesn’t mean you stopped at age 22. “Alcohol lowers inhibitions and therefore increases mindless eating,” says DiCarlo. “To curb this, don’t drink on empty stomach, pace yourself, and keep healthier snacks in the fridge for when you get home and defenses are down.”

Related: What Nutritionists Eat When They Only Have 5 Minutes to Prep a Meal

It seems like simple math, right? If you skip lunch and eat a normal dinner, you just saved a ton of calories. But that’s not how it works. “Your hunger hormone—ghrelin—and satiety hormone—leptin—work best when nourished every four hours,” says DiCarlo. “If not, they go out of whack and can cause overeating later.” Try planning your meals ahead of time, especially on days you know you’ll be crazy busy and might be likely to skip.

Related: 31 Healthy Breakfast Recipes That Will Promote Weight Loss All Month Long

It’s a bit of a holdover from the ’90s, but low-fat cheese, butter, and cookies might still be hanging out in your kitchen right now. Remember that fat is not the bad guy. “We need fat to keep us full and promote satiety,” says DiCarlo. “Removing fat from food will leave us craving more and overeating later.” Picking fat-free versions of certain foods can even cause you to take in fewer nutrients from them. “Removing fat from foods like dairy prevents absorption of important fat-soluble vitamins like A and D—and calcium, as well.”

Kaitlin Menza Kaitlin Menza is a freelance features writer.

Losing the Diet is Not Losing

← Posted: May 09, 2014 by Anne Cuthbert, M.A.

Disordered eating begins with your first diet.

You may have had very good reasons to start that first diet. Perhaps a family member was concerned about you and how the other kids would treat you. Perhaps your mother commented negatively on her body and you realized the importance of looking thin. Perhaps your body was criticized for how it looked. Maybe you and your friends decided to diet together.

Whatever the reason, your first diet started you down the path to disordered eating-ville. Here’s how it works.

You start your first diet and you lose some weight. Great. You get compliments from others and it feels good. You stop the diet and start eating again. The weight comes back on and maybe even a little more. So you start another diet. The yo-yo cycle begins.

What also begins is the development of the “Binge Part” (aka “Binge Voice”). This Binge Part starts to rebel against the diet. “I won’t let you starve me!” It yells and drives you toward the fridge and cupboards for more food.

With each diet you embark upon, the Binge Part gets bigger and it’s voice louder. 100 diets later and it may be pretty loud.

You likely hate this voice and wish it would go away and leave you alone. If only it would go away, you reason, you would be able to lose weight and keep it off. Your life would be good, you would feel good enough, in control, and all would be well.

The Binge Voice won’t go away and, in fact, it will get worse over time! The reason is that the Binge Voice is the healthy part of you!

It is trying to keep you from deprivation and ultimately starvation. It is trying to keep you sane; because dieting is unhealthy for your body. The yo-yo cycle of weight loss and gain is much more unhealthy than staying the same weight (research shows this). In addition, dieting causes bad moods, obsessive thoughts, isolation, shame about your body, periods of restricting and bingeing, and an overall craziness around food and body image.

So listen to the healthy voice and get healthy. Start by losing the diet!

Dieting was the first step toward disordered eating and therefore it’s the first step to healing and having a healthy relationship with food and your body.

When I talk to clients about this, they feel scared, even terrified. They believe that if they give up dieting, they will gain a ton of weight. They don’t. They fear that if they give up dieting, they will lose control. They don’t. They fear that if they give up dieting, they will be giving up
on themselves. They aren’t.

Because you are giving up dieting not giving up on you!

What giving up dieting means:

  • No longer feeling ashamed for eating tasty food
  • No longer wanting something to eat but depriving yourself of it
  • No longer feeling a hunger that leads straight to bingeing
  • No longer being crabby from denying yourself food you love
  • No longer saying no to the cake at the party only to binge on one later
  • No longer being in a cycle of losing weight and then gaining it back again
  • No longer fearing weight gain
  • No longer fearing your desire to eat
  • Learning new ways to deal with your feelings rather than emotional eating
  • No more salads unless you really want one
  • Knowing you will want a salad eventually and even soon
  • No longer listening to what someone else says you should eat
  • No more thinking about food all the time
  • No more thinking you can control your body’s weight only to find out once again that your body always wins
  • No more gaining back all the weight and maybe even more
  • No more worrying about what will happen when the diet ends or when you lose control once again
  • No more hating your body
  • No more feeling like a failure

Just a few of the things you will gain:

  • Trusting yourself again
  • Eating a variety of foods and feeling completely satisfied
  • Having a meal last the length of a meal, rather than an on-going torment of dissatisfaction
  • Enjoying veggies, cooked just the way you like them
  • Eating at a variety of restaurants with your friends and family without thinking about the menu first
  • Closer relationships with those you care about
  • Exercising because you enjoy it and love yourself enough to do it regularly
  • Resting because you don’t feel like exercising that day and feeling perfectly okay with this
  • Learning to not care what your family members or friends say to you about your weight/health
  • Taking responsibility for your health in a way that truly feels healthy
  • Learning to like, accept, and even love your body because you see more what it can do rather than what it doesn’t look like
  • Living your life rather than thinking about food and your body all the time
  • And so much more!

Imagine it. Imagine having all the above in your life. Imagine how much more peace you will experience. Imagine no longer having the urge to binge. Imagine accepting yourself as you are. Imagine living your life fully rather than being distracted by how you look. Imagine feeling beautiful just as you are – because you are!

You can have all of this! Just take the first step and give up on dieting. Because when you give up on the diet to solve your problems, then you get to start facing your problems and learn how to cope in a healthy way – a way that brings you the true happiness you seek.

How to give up dieting:

To take this first step, you can begin anywhere you want. You don’t need to give up dieting completely, unless you are ready for that. You can just start by eating what you want of just one food. Try it this week. Pick a food that you’re going to eat whenever you want it. Go to the store and buy several containers of this food item. Take it home and stock your cupboard with it. Whenever you want it, eat it and eat as much as you want. When you feel done, put it away. When you want it again, take it out and enjoy it. Repeat.

What will happen, and more quickly than you might ever imagine or hope, is that you will desire this food less and less. Once that Binge Part of you knows it can eat that food whenever it wants, it won’t want it anymore. After all, it never really did, it was just rebelling against not being able to have the tasty food. So when you allow those yummy treats to be eaten, you will start to listen to your body and what your body really wants to eat. That’s when you have freedom with food and can eat what your body needs and what you love and feel perfectly healthy about the whole thing.

Of course, you can do this with all foods if you’re ready for that! In fact, the more you can start to eat whatever you want, whenever you want it, the faster you will have the freedom with food you want. But taking a little time to get there, by allowing yourself to enjoy one food at a time is perfectly perfect too!

I hope you can see how losing the diet is not at all about losing! Instead, it’s a way to claim you back from the cycle of dieting and bingeing.

Try it for a week and you too will see a shift in your relationship with food.

Anne Cuthbert, M.A., LPC, is a liscensed professional counselor in Portland, OR. You can find out more about her practice by visiting her website or her profile.

Tags: body issues, mood and feelings, anxiety, addiction and behavior

Anne Cuthbert, M.A.

I help women trapped in a cycle of obsessing about food and weight make friends with food and…


Body Image Issues, Eating Disorder, Sexual Abuse, Obesity


Ladds Addition


In people, dieting also reduces the influence of the brain’s weight-regulation system by teaching us to rely on rules rather than hunger to control eating. People who eat this way become more vulnerable to external cues telling them what to eat. In the modern environment, many of those cues were invented by marketers to make us eat more, like advertising, supersizing and the all-you-can-eat buffet. Studies show that long-term dieters are more likely to eat for emotional reasons or simply because food is available. When dieters who have long ignored their hunger finally exhaust their willpower, they tend to overeat for all these reasons, leading to weight gain.

Even people who understand the difficulty of long-term weight loss often turn to dieting because they are worried about health problems associated with obesity like heart disease and diabetes. But our culture’s view of obesity as uniquely deadly is mistaken. Low fitness, smoking, high blood pressure, low income and loneliness are all better predictors of early death than obesity. Exercise is especially important: Data from a 2009 study showed that low fitness is responsible for 16 percent to 17 percent of deaths in the United States, while obesity accounts for only 2 percent to 3 percent, once fitness is factored out. Exercise reduces abdominal fat and improves health, even without weight loss. This suggests that overweight people should focus more on exercising than on calorie restriction.

In addition, the evidence that dieting improves people’s health is surprisingly poor. Part of the problem is that no one knows how to get more than a small fraction of people to sustain weight loss for years. The few studies that overcame that hurdle are not encouraging. In a 2013 study of obese and overweight people with diabetes, on average the dieters maintained a 6 percent weight loss for over nine years, but the dieters had a similar number of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease during that time as the control group. Earlier this year, researchers found that intentional weight loss had no effect on mortality in overweight diabetics followed for 19 years.

Diets often do improve cholesterol, blood sugar and other health markers in the short term, but these gains may result from changes in behavior like exercising and eating more vegetables. Obese people who exercise, eat enough vegetables and don’t smoke are no more likely to die young than normal-weight people with the same habits. A 2013 meta-analysis (which combines the results of multiple studies) found that health improvements in dieters have no relationship to the amount of weight they lose.

If dieting doesn’t work, what should we do instead? I recommend mindful eating — paying attention to signals of hunger and fullness, without judgment, to relearn how to eat only as much as the brain’s weight-regulation system commands.

Relative to chronic dieters, people who eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full are less likely to become overweight, maintain more stable weights over time and spend less time thinking about food. Mindful eating also helps people with eating disorders like binge eating learn to eat normally. Depending on the individual’s set point, mindful eating may reduce weight or it may not. Either way, it’s a powerful tool to maintain weight stability, without deprivation.

I finally gave up dieting six years ago, and I’m much happier. I redirected the energy I used to spend on dieting to establishing daily habits of exercise and meditation. I also enjoy food more while worrying about it less, now that it no longer comes with a side order of shame.

Why do dieters succeed or fail? The answers have little to do with food.

As a longtime health reporter, I see new diet studies just about every week, and I’ve noticed a few patterns emerge from the data. In even the most rigorous scientific experiments, people tend to lose little weight on average. All diets, whether they’re low in fat or carbs, perform about equally miserably on average in the long term.

But there’s always quite a bit of variability among participants in these studies.

Just check out this chart from a fascinating February study called DIETFITS, which was published in JAMA by researchers at Stanford:

Javier Zarracina/Vox

The randomized controlled trial involved 609 participants who were assigned to follow either a low-carb or a low-fat diet, centered on fresh and high-quality foods, for one year. The study was rigorous; enrollees were educated about food and nutrition at 22 group sessions. They were also closely monitored by researchers, counselors, and dietitians, who checked their weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other metabolic measures throughout the year.

Overall, dieters in both groups lost a similar amount of weight on average — 11 pounds in the low-fat group, 13 pounds in the low-carb group — suggesting different diets perform comparably. But as you can see in the chart, hidden within the averages were strong variations in individual responses. Some people lost more than 60 pounds, and others gained more than 20 during the year.

To learn more about why this happens, I asked the lead DIETFITS researcher at Stanford, Christopher Gardner, if he would introduce me to some of the study participants. Over the last week, I’ve spoken to Dawn, Denis, Elizabeth*, and Todd — two low-fat dieters and two low-carb dieters — about their experiences of succeeding or faltering in trying to slim down. Dawn and Todd lost a lot of weight on the study, while Denis lost very little and Elizabeth gained a few pounds. You can see where these participants fell on the chart here:

Javier Zarracina/Vox

While these four DIETFITS enrollees are not necessarily representative of the 600-plus people who participated in the research, their stories can teach us a lot about why diets fail and succeed. As it turns out, the keys to their fate during the study had little to do with their low-fat or low-carb eating regimens. Here are four themes that emerged from our conversations.

1) Your job can make it harder — or easier — to lose weight

At the beginning of the study, Todd Moore weighed 269 pounds. After a year on the low-carb diet, he’d lost 58 pounds — making him an outlier and an incredible success.

When I asked him what contributed to all the weight loss, his answer was surprising: It was, in part, a change of job — and a big shift in daily patterns that came with it.

Todd had been working as an electrical technician for a medical company in the Bay Area when he heard about DIETFITS in 2014. His role involved a lot of manual labor — rolling around on the floor, working to repair CT scanners or X-ray machines — and he felt his weight was often getting in his way. He was also driving a lot between appointments in hospitals, often turning to burger joints or Taco Bell for fast and convenient food.

“ eat to get something in my body and go to the next spot so I could work,” said the 47-year-old father of three. “It was rushed and hurried, and not too much thought was going into what I was putting in my body.”

Joining the study “was really life-changing for me,” he said. Weight had been a problem since his childhood, but he managed to finally get to a body size he’s comfortable with — and he’s kept off the extra pounds to this day.

One of the major reasons for his success? He went from working in the field at hospitals, and spending much of the day on the road, to doing IT support from an office only two miles from his house.

“ preparing my meals and staying focused. I had more time throughout my day when I’m not driving,” he said. That meant more time to exercise and to shop for healthier items at the grocery store.

These days, he’s no longer eating low-carb, but he follows a plant-based diet. “ determining factors in our lives making us eat the way we do,” he said. And so he advises would-be dieters to reflect on how their jobs may be nudging them in unhealthy directions.

On the other end of the spectrum, Denis McComb lost only 4 pounds during the study, from a starting weight of 233. And he described how his job got in the way of his success. As a state of California safety engineer, he sits in front of a computer after what can be an hour’s drive to work, or he drives around doing field visits.

“A lot of times at work if I’m on an inspection, I’ll bring a Clif Bar with me or stop fast food and grab something to eat to satisfy hunger,” Denis said. “It’s hard; you have to fight every day, every inch.”

Ultimately, he says he has little time and energy for the physical activity and meal planning he knows he needs to lose weight.

2) The built environment around you matters

Elizabeth Smith* also followed the low-carb diet — but she gained 6 pounds on the study. One thing that hindered her weight loss, she thinks, is the less active lifestyle she’s adopted in America.

Twelve years ago, Elizabeth immigrated to the Bay Area from Germany with her husband and three kids — and weight gain followed. By the time of the study, the number on the scale had climbed to 191 pounds.

The reasons Elizabeth gained weight in America are clear to her: Growing up in Germany, her family rarely ate in restaurants and cooked most of their food at home. She also relied on public transit and walked a lot every day. “It’s super easy to get your 10,000 steps in in Europe,” she said. “You don’t pay attention or have to make any effort.”

In car-dependent California, she’s had the opposite experience. “I have to take at least an hour walk to get close to 10,000 steps,” she said. Eating healthfully outside home feels a lot more challenging too: Many of the default options are highly processed, sugary foods, served in giant portions. “It’s just so insanely exhausting to just have a relatively baseline healthy lifestyle ,” she said.

Elizabeth didn’t shift her diet much for the study, she says. She had already been cooking a lot at home and focusing on high-quality, fresh ingredients — though she did manage to eat fewer carbs throughout the year. Still, she found it difficult to fit in regular exercise. And the study emphasized food quality rather than cutting calories — something she feels may have also contributed to her weight gain.

“I was substituting the sweet foods with super-yummy low-carb foods. I would make eggs, tomatoes, avocados, which are healthy — but if you eat too much, you’re still going to gain.”

3) Family health concerns can be a nudge to change behavior

Dawn Diaz lost 47 pounds following the low-fat diet for the study, from a starting weight of 215 pounds. And when I asked Dawn why she thinks she succeeded this time after failing in all her many previous attempts to lose weight, she told me about a specific — and very difficult — situation that helped give her extra motivation.

Just before she joined the study, one of her sisters was diagnosed with cancer. The health scare kept making Dawn think she had to find a way to live a healthier lifestyle. Around the same time, her younger daughter began struggling with an eating disorder.

“I thought, ‘I’m not setting a good example by encouraging excessive food intake,’” she said.

These personal tragedies helped focus Dawn; it was no longer just about getting the number on the scale down. She wanted to fight to be healthy at a time she was seeing her sisters suffer in poor health. And she wanted to fight to be healthy for her two daughters, to set a good example for them.

Similarly, Todd mentioned a scare before joining the study. He had realized his behavior on alcohol often hurt the people around him and decided to quit drinking. “That was the beginning of what happened to me afterward,” he says.

Becoming sober made him reflect on “what kind of person I wanted to be long-term.” He realized he wanted to be a healthy dad and husband, and what he learned about his body and nutrition through the study gave him the tools to achieve that.

4) The quality of your diet may be more important than whether you’re eating low-fat or low-carb

As you can see in the chart, the participants following the low-carb and low-fat diet had virtually identical distributions of weight loss. This fact was not lost on the four participants I spoke to.

In the study, Dawn Diaz was assigned to the low-fat diet, which initially disappointed her. (She had tried the Atkins low-carb diet in the past, and it had helped her lose weight quickly.) But she soon realized focusing on the quality of the foods she was eating, and how she was eating them, probably mattered more for her in the long run than whether she was eating more carbs or fat.

“Eating whole foods ,” she said. “It fills you up; you feel like you’ve eaten enough. I try to avoid the fast food.”

Dawn learned this from the researchers, who described quality nutrition to the study participants this way:

… focus on whole, real foods that were mostly prepared at home when possible, and specifically included as many vegetables as possible, every day … choose lean grass-fed and pasture-raised animal foods as well as sustainable fish … eliminate, as much as possible, processed food products, including those with added sugars, refined white flour products, or trans-fats … prepare as much of their own food as possible. …

Dawn started planning her meals based on groceries she bought and sitting down to eat them (instead of eating in the car, as she used to). She also started organizing activities like walks or hikes with her daughters, rather than her default weekend activity of bringing them to restaurants for big meals. Overall, the study changed her relationship with food, she said.

Perhaps even more importantly, both Todd and Dawn — the pair who lost the most weight — did not feel like their new diets were hardships. They enjoyed learning about nutrition and healthy food preparation. They drew inspiration from the life circumstances they found themselves in. They felt empowered on the diet, and felt that the habits they picked up were sustainable and easy to maintain — at least for the moment.

Interestingly, the focus on quality did not work for Denis and Elizabeth, the pair who did not lose much or even gained in the study. Denis felt he had a hard time saying no to junk foods and didn’t have enough time and motivation to prepare healthy alternatives consistently. He also felt frustrated by the fact that he struggled to apply everything he learned about nutrition. Elizabeth, meanwhile, felt she could have used more advice on how to cut calories and portion sizes, instead of all the focus on eating healthy foods.

And that leads us to one of the burning mysteries of diets: how to explain why some people fail where others succeed — or the extreme variation in responses. Right now, science doesn’t have compelling answers, but the unifying theme from the four study participants should be instructive: The particulars of their diets — how many carbs or how much fat they were eating — were almost afterthoughts. Instead, it was their jobs, life circumstances, and where they lived that nudged them toward better health or crashing.

*Elizabeth asked that her name be changed to protect her privacy.

There’s a tendency to blame willpower or your mind if a diet becomes difficult to stick to when in reality, your body is simply trying to survive. Here’s what you need to know about your biology.


Every year, millions of people opt to go on a diet for the promise of a newer version of themselves. One of the first questions people usually have when it comes to changing up their eating habits: why can’t I stick to a diet?

Before we get into the answer, we need to dig into the concept of a set range weight theory.

There are several different systems in place throughout your body that helps regulate various biological functions, including breathing rate, body temperature, and blood sugar. They’re called “homeostatic mechanisms”, and their functions are to keep your body at equilibrium around a set range. For example, when you’re in a hot environment, your body sweats to release heat – but when it’s cold, you shiver to produce heat.

Each of us lives in a body that has a preferred weight, similar to a homeostatic mechanism. It’s usually referred to as the “set range weight” or “defended range.” It’s important to refer to this concept as a range, not a point. There are several estimates for how wide this range is, but it’s likely anywhere between 10-20 pounds.

Your body’s job is to defend this range, i.e., to keep your body at the same relative weight. Contrary to what we’ve been taught, we don’t need to micromanage our body weight – our body does it for us through a complex set of mechanisms. It appears that the bottom of our set range weight is defended more strongly than the top, meaning that we resist weight loss more than we resist weight gain.

So how do you know if you’re in your set range? It’s the weight your body reaches when:

  • You’re not dieting or restricting.
  • You’re moving your body in a joyful, life-enhancing way.
  • You’re providing your body with its energy and pleasure needs through food that nourishes your body and soul.
  • Your brain space and energy are directed towards living our your life and not obsessing over your weight.

So, what happens when we diet and attempt to push our body weight below our set range weight?

First, it’s important that we clarify that diet can technically mean either “eating pattern” or “attempt at weight loss”. However, most people are familiar with the latter through conscious attempts to lose weight, restriction of calories, and elimination of whole food groups.

During this period, people are often on a recurring “diet-binge” cycle, and why diets set us up for failure and keep us in a perpetual rhythm of dieting.

We begin a diet due to a trigger, whether that’s an ad, a magazine article, a friend telling a “success story,” a doctor making comments, a celebrity testimony, or another event. We cut out calories or food groups, decide on a “clean eating” pattern, or track food on an app.

In the background, our body is panicking due to underfeeding. It increases stress hormones, hunger hormones, and fat storage hormones. It decreases fullness-producing hormones to protect us from starvation. Eventually, we become more and more preoccupied with food, and our body’s cues begin to outweigh our self-imposed diet rules. We eat, and feel like failures for doing so.

So we resolve to start another diet, and try harder this time.

This perpetual binge-shame point of the cycle is a problem, especially as we believe that with more willpower, we can successfully stick to a diet. However, the willpower argument fails to acknowledge the several physiological systems we have in place that override our will to diet. These side effects of dieting include:

  • Decreased fullness due to suppressed production of leptin, the “fullness hormone” (initially) then early fullness due to slowing of digestion
  • Slowed metabolism
  • Cravings
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Muscle loss
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Low energy levels
  • Poor digestion
  • Loss of a menstrual cycle and/or poor reproductive health
  • Increased risk of disordered eating or eating disorders
  • Guilt and shame when diets inevitably fail

So let’s go back to the original question: why can’t you stick to a diet? You’re not designed to.

Your body is too smart to let you intentionally underfeed it – and while it can’t tell the difference between intentional restriction and starvation, it has protective mechanisms in place to avoid the former. However, unlike with medications, we’re not typically warned of the side effects of diets before they are prescribed.

We have been brought up in a culture that values specific body sizes and shapes, views body size as controllable, and sees anyone in a different body size as less-than or lacking willpower If this environment of fatphobia and weight stigma has left you feeling skeptical or doubtful of this information, that’s okay. You may have been hoping for answers and a quick solution to why you can’t stick to a diet,

But the real answer lies in recognizing that diets aren’t a prerequisite for health.

Adapted from the original article.

Amy Hanneke, RDN, LD is a Registered Dietitian and owner of Satisfy Nutrition. Through an anti-diet approach in her nutrition coaching practice, Amy firmly believes in helping individuals live a life without restrictions, full of joy, self care, and delicious food. Learn more about Amy at Satisfy Nutrition.

This is What Happens After You Give Up on Weight Loss

I hit my heaviest weight was when I was 24-years-old and living in Paris. (The actual number doesn’t matter, since weight sits differently on everyone.) What matters is I thought my body was disgusting. Everything I wore made me feel ugly and undesirable. I was also dealing with an extremely unfortunate hair-growing-out situation that would have made my face look heavy no matter my actual weight. Let’s call a spade a spade and say: It was not a good time for me, body-image wise.

Depression had settled over me like a thick shroud even before I arrived in Paris. The more depressed I got, the more I ate. The more I ate, the bigger I grew, the more I hated my body. The more I hated my body, the less I wanted to get dressed and go out, and the more depressed I got. Ah, cyclical behavior. I hid and watched episodes of Sherlock over and over again, leaving only when I became so sick of Benedict Cumberbatch’s lean frame I couldn’t look at him any longer.

I started to hide my larger body under my baggiest shirts and stopped wearing shorts despite the unseasonable heat in France that year. That mentality followed me across the ocean when I moved back to Texas that October. When I got back, I was too emotionally drained to do much more than keep up appearances—I accepted the old job I’d had before France and tried to start putting my life back together.

My first order of business was getting better. The first checkbox on my list was to try on not hating my body for a change. I had long poked and prodded myself and spent years with my stomach sucked in to fit into jeans better.

One morning, mid self-hatred routine, I stopped and stood there with my head hung, fighting tears. I was tired of it—tired of feeling fat, tired of hating feeling fat. “Here’s a revolutionary idea,” I said to my reflection in the mirror. “What if you buy some clothes that actually fit you?”

I wiped away tears, looked myself in the eye and made a suggestion that ended up changing a lot: “What if you just decided to be okay with your body as it is?”

I had been a toned athlete in my teens. But that day, the best way to describe my body was ‘round.’ The difference of several years, of college and depression and irregular exercise, was obvious. I hadn’t been proud of my body when I was an athlete; deciding to love it when it looked “worse” seemed radical in my head.

Into boxes and the trash went the clothes that didn’t fit—the skinny jeans I’d been striving to fit into for years, the too-tight shirts I never wore anymore. I replaced them with clothes that actually complimented my rounder figure because I thought the problem was the clothes. In my head, the equation went: If I just thought the clothes looked good, then I would be happier.

It worked, but not for the reason I thought. I felt good in the clothes, so I started to let go of the other anxieties about my body. I didn’t wake up every morning and hug myself or praise each part of my body for it’s existence, but I stopped actively self-hating and that was a huge step. I stopped eating weight-loss geared foods, and started eating food I enjoyed because it tasted good. Without the cardboard-esque frozen meals I discovered the joy of eating real meals that tasted good because of the real ingredients.

The weight came off so slowly that I hardly noticed it. Then in December I got extremely ill and was stuck on a liquid diet of protein shakes. I dropped weight dramatically and came out of my illness in early 2015 still deeply depressed and suddenly very thin. As I got healthier, I continued the lifestyle choice: I ate better because it tasted better, and the weight stayed off. I lost a lot of weight during that illness, but I’m sure if I’d continued my pattern of eating better, I would have lost the weight either way.

But something more important came out of it – an understanding of the healthy side-effects of self-acceptance. Sure, the weight loss was nice. But it felt ironic to me, losing the weight almost as soon as I decided I didn’t care about it. It took me a long time to realize it was precisely because I had stopped stressing about my weight that I was able to focus on eating what made me feel good. Accepting my body ‘as-is’ was the best decision I ever made.

Share this:

Valorie Clark

I’m Texas expat currently living in Paris, and I make a living as a storyteller, and freelance writer, and the founder of Running Away from Home. I write most often about food, culture, and travel, and the beautiful (and sometimes bizarre) ways those intersect. I always say yes to adventures. You too? Let’s sit together.

There is an old saying that where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you really want a goal, and are motivated to do what it takes to obtain it, you can be sure to reach your goals in most cases. Sometimes it really takes an incredible amount of “will” to accomplish something. What do we do when our “will” seems to be at its limit?

Many people start the weight loss journey with enthusiasm and energy. They want a healthier weight, so they alter eating habits, start exercising, and change their lives in significant ways. What happens when the journey is longer than expected? Or the goal seems to be moving away more quickly than you can move toward it? You may be tempted to leave the path you’ve started, but if you are motivated enough, you should be able to work through the difficult moments.

Bolstering your motivation is important in order to stay on track. There are a few tips and tricks that can help maintain this motivation at every step of the way.

Keep your Expectations Real

As with everything in life, losing weight in a healthy, sustained way takes time. If expectations are too high—such as those given by certain fad diets—there are bound to be disappointments, which can be huge motivation crushers. If everything goes well on your weight loss regime, it will generally take at least a month to notice any real changes with your body.

Don’t Start With a Bang

Keeping motivated can be a difficult thing to manage. When you first set out, you’re motivated by everything—change your eating habits, go to the gym regularly, take walks, take the stairs, and so forth. But just as a marathon runner who starts running the race at full speed would run out of energy (regardless of the motivation), you can also “burn out” if you take too much on too soon.

Focus on Yourself and Not the Weight Scale

Stop making the scale the sole judge of your success. Instead, think about how well you feel when you return from jogging, or after a healthy meal, or when hubby starts seeing the difference. These are motivation-boosting milestones on your weight-loss journey that you can be mindful and appreciative of. Remember to enjoy the journey, not just rush towards the destination.

Set Smaller Goals

If you wish to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year, you may be in for a disappointment. It is a great goal, but one that is difficult to reach. If you set smaller goals to reach, and set more of them, there is a better chance you can reach one. When you do, there’s motivation to make the next one, or you’re better enabled to handle setbacks when they come. Bigger goals seem to happen without even noticing them.

Don’t Skip Meals

It can be a great temptation to skip a few meals throughout the day and try to jump-start weight loss this way. Skipping a meal, however, is only going to hinder your progress. Eating right has worked well thus far, and that isn’t going to diminish. Try eating healthy snacks instead, or cut out any unhealthy options you are still allowing yourself to eat. Cut out bread completely, or eat only natural carbs such as fruit. Eat some green, cleansing vegetables also as a healthy alternative. You can also try adding a super supplement, exogenous ketones, to your protocol. These can greatly support your weight-loss journey by boosting your metabolism and switching your body to start burning fat for energy.

Do More Strength Training

If you have been focusing on cardio this could be a big part of your plateau. Metabolism slows down when you lose weight because your body thinks it doesn’t need to burn calories as quickly. One way to speed metabolism is to strength train. If you do strength training for about 30 minutes per day, your muscles will be toned and natural in appearance.

Get More Sleep

A lack of sleep can slow down your metabolism and stop your muscles from repairing themselves. Try to get to sleep early enough to get a minimum of 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try eating more foods that naturally increase melatonin production or a nighttime tea before bed. Use an app or watch to track the amount of sleep you get each night to try to stay consistent. This is a great way to focus on this goal.

It’s also possible that your body is overworked. Muscle fibers deteriorate and reconstruct as you work out. If you’re not getting enough rest, they won’t rebuild, but will continue to collapse. Try taking three days off and give yourself a rest. It may sound like a setback, but you’ll be happy that you did it. You can still take a walk if you need to stay moving, but take the rest, and then get back to work.

Almost everyone who undertakes this weight-loss journey hits a plateau at one point. It is normal and just a bump in the road of your journey. If you work hard, you can overcome it with some adjustments. Try each of these points to see if they will help you get through, and keep up your motivation!

The 5 Most Common Reasons People Give Up On Losing Weight

Putting ON weight is a lot easier (and more fun) than taking it off. No matter how you gained the weight or how much you have to lose, 5 pounds or 205 pounds, it will be difficult. But don’t let the roadblocks or obstacles stand in your way. Here are the top 5 reasons people give up their weight loss goals and how to prevent them from taking you down too!

It’s Taking Too Long

Remember how you gained weight slowly over the course of your freshman year? Well, the pounds have to come off slowly too. As soon as you accept this, it will no longer be an obstacle. Safe weight loss is about 1 or 2 pounds a week. So, do the math and you will have an idea how long it will take before you’re even close to your goal. Use the time to celebrate your smaller goals to keep yourself motivated.

You’re Hungry All the Time

You cannot consume more calories than you are expending if you hope to lose weight. If you are choosing high-calorie foods, you will only be able to have a few bites to stay within your limits. That will leave you feeling hungry. Similarly, if you are skipping meals in order to fit in these high-calorie foods, you will be hungry most of the day. Instead choose foods that are high in water like fruit, low-calorie like vegetables and high in fiber like whole grains. These foods will fill you up longer which prevents those hunger pangs.

You Miss Your Favorite Foods

Pizza, fries, ice cream. It is hard to lose weight if you spend all your time thinking about the foods you can no longer eat. But, the plain and simple truth is that diets are not sustainable. If you are on an eating plan that is too restrictive, you will not be able to keep it up. If you eat healthy most of the time, you will be able to have your favourite foods now and then. A little splurge will prevent you from feeling deprived and help you stay the course.

You Hate Exercising

If you don’t like running on a treadmill, don’t. There is bound to be a physical activity that you enjoy so find it, and do it. Perhaps you don’t like working out alone, join a class or enlist a fit friend to help. The more fun and excitement you can create around your workouts, the more likely you will be to do them. And don’t forget to mix things up now and then. If you’ve found a workout you love, that’s great but you don’t want to burn yourself out on it either.

You’ve Tried Everything And Nothing Works

When you are eating right and exercising and that number on the scale isn’t moving, it can be frustrating. There are lots of reasons this can happen. You might not be doing the ‘right’ exercises or perhaps you are eating too many healthy foods that are high in calories. If you need to, seek advice from a professional, like a nutritionist or a personal trainer. Another great option is joining a weight loss program that offers regular support. You may be making tiny little mistakes and not even know it! Keep heart and ask for help! Have you overcome any of these obstacles? Tell us how! Source: Women’s Health, POPSUGAR

Can’t stick to diet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *