7 Reasons to NOT Diet for Weight Loss
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If dieting were the answer for weight loss, we’d all be swimsuit models.
I mean, who HASN’T been on a diet at some point?
And yet the obvious long-term result of all that dieting — and it doesn’t take an expert to see this — is that people continue to get less and less healthy and, in the long run, gain MORE weight.
The solution to this is to stop dieting and just start eating a little better.
This isn’t about semantics — there’s a big difference between the two.
Stick around and I’ll show you what that difference is and how you’ll have a better chance at long-term weight loss success if you never try a new “diet” again.
There is No “Best” Diet
It wasn’t until I stopped dieting that I finally gained total control over my weight and, ultimately, lost 40 pounds.
Now, hear me out… I’m not saying dieting doesn’t produce weight loss. In fact, pretty much ALL diets can cause you to lose weight.
But between Megan and myself, we tried quite the variety of diets back in the day, and even though a lot of them did “work,” the long-term results always left us disappointed.
Megan did a “healthy” rapid fat loss diet once where she pretty much just ate lean beef and rice for 2 weeks. The weight came off quickly… and then she gained it back just as fast.
I once tried a low-carb diet (just one version of many that are still popular to this day). I lost a few pounds right off the bat and then made no further progress. Despite those few pounds that I lost (which was well short of my goal), I only looked and felt worse at the end of it.
I could give more examples, but what I’d rather do is explain why most diets are a bad idea in the first place and then tell you what to do instead to just eat a little better and actually get results you can be proud of.
#1 — Dieting Says…
“Only eat these specific foods.”
Most diets come with a list of “diet-approved” foods, and those are the items you’re supposed to stick to while losing weight.
The problem is, this can unnecessarily complicate things by forcing you to eat foods you don’t like, or don’t know how to cook, or by making you bored of eating the same things all the time.
It also makes it difficult to know how to eat when you go to a party, a friend’s house for dinner, or eating out. It’s not realistic and is a big reason why people are unsuccessful with dieting.
What to Do Instead…
Eat some types of food more often.
It’s true that some foods are better choices than others, but there’s an extensive range of foods that will give your body the nutrients it needs so you can lose weight and feel your best.
It doesn’t take long to learn how to tell the difference between food choices that are more nutritious than others.
Once you can do that, you’ll have the skills to know how to eat well in ANY circumstance, whether it’s with the meals you already cook, at a friend’s house, a restaurant, or just when you want to branch out and try something new.
#2 — Dieting Says…
“Never eat these specific foods.”
Every diet has a different list of foods that are, apparently, out to kill you (or at least prevent weight loss). If you tried to avoid any foods that are labeled “bad” by at least one diet, you literally wouldn’t be allowed to eat anything.
(Of course, you’d for sure lose weight that way. 😜)
The only thing we’ve gotten from the “good vs. bad food” mindset of dieting is an unhealthy relationship with food, more weight gain, and declining health at a population level.
What to Do Instead…
Eat some types of food less often (but still eat them).
Forget about “good vs. bad” and think about “good, better, and best” food choices. Because all foods can be good in certain contexts.
Something like a cinnamon roll might not be “good for you” in the sense that it’s not super nutritious. But if you already get the nutrients your body needs from other foods, enjoying a cinnamon roll with the family on a special occasion (or just for fun) IS good for your mental health and relationships.
For our clients, we have an “Eat More, Eat Some, Eat Less” guide. You can have access to that (and more) in our 10 Day Kickstart to Weight Loss.
#3 — Dieting Says…
“Follow this exact meal plan.”
At this point, you might say, “Just tell me exactly what every meal and snack should be so I don’t even have to think about it.”
That’s not really a solution to the problem though.
With a meal plan, you aren’t limited to “good” or “bad” foods, you’re just limited in general. It’s even harder to adapt if you go to a restaurant, or if the grocery store is out of something that’s on your menu, or if you run out of time to cook the planned meal.
And that’s the real problem — you’ll be eating better when you can follow the plan, but when you can’t, or when the plan is over, you won’t be equipped to know how to eat better in real life.
What to Do Instead…
Get a balance of all foods.
Since there’s no such thing as “good” and “bad” foods, you don’t need someone to tell you what to eat.
You can eat whatever you want!
Obviously, you shouldn’t only eat Kit-Kats, but you shouldn’t ONLY eat broccoli, either.
Some people will need to eat veggies significantly more often than they do now, but can eat candy like normal. Others will need to cut back on the candy a bit, but already eat plenty of veggies. Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle.
It’s about finding an overall balance to help you feel your best and reach your goals regardless of the specific foods you choose to make it happen.
#4 — Dieting Says…
“Food is mainly for fuel, calories, etc.”
Some diets reduce eating to a tedious chore of counting calories and grams of protein, carbs, etc.
For weight loss, this can be extremely effective… theoretically.
After all, weight loss really is as simple as getting into a calorie deficit, and HEALTHY weight loss is dependent on getting enough nutrients.
The problem is that keeping track of literal calories and grams isn’t something most people want to do, and even fewer people are any good at doing it. This leads to one of two things:
1. You don’t keep up with it because it makes your life miserable.
2. You overestimate your ability to track accurately and then don’t lose weight.
What to Do Instead…
Use food for fuel AND pleasure.
I actually like to eat. I think most people do. It’s a pleasurable part of the human experience.
Fortunately, there are easier ways to track how much you eat than counting calories and grams (see Stop Counting Calories) because weight loss should NOT get in the way of your enjoyment of food.
Having said that, it also becomes a problem when food is ONLY for pleasure. Our bodies really do need a certain amount of energy and nutrients (aka fuel) to feel good. Sometimes that does mean eating veggies even when you don’t feel like it.
This is another place where you’ll need to find the balance that works best for you. (And we can make that process easier.)
#5 — Dieting Says…
“Eat exactly this much.”
If eating a specific number of calories is a diet’s sole focus, it can get unhealthy for a couple reasons.
For example, if you eat the right number of calories, but a high percentage of those calories come from cake and ice cream, you’ll still lose weight, but your body won’t get the nutrients it needs to function.
On top of that, some people get fixated on numbers and when they don’t hit their exact calorie goal, they feel like they’ve already failed and either beat themselves up about it or give up entirely, lose control, and eat everything in their pantry.
What to Do Instead…
Know how much to eat, but be flexible.
It is 100% necessary to not eat too much if you want to lose weight — it’s the ONLY thing that actually causes weight loss.
But it’s a small part in the big picture of healthy eating.
With that in mind, be confident about how much you should eat to reach your goals, but know it’s impossible to get it perfect. Sometimes you’ll need more, sometimes less. Be ok with living in a certain range and adapting as you go.
And remember that the quality of what you eat is every bit as important as quantity. You can focus more on one than the other for a while, but you’ll have to work on both eventually.
#6 — Dieting Says…
“Eat at exactly these times.”
Don’t eat before bed. ONLY eat in this 8 hour window. Eat protein within this many minutes of working out. Eat more often to rev your metabolism. Eat less often to burn more fat.
(👆 Just to give a few examples.)
Unless you stumble onto a routine that happens to be perfectly suited to your schedule, the only thing these types of rules do is make life — and weight loss — more difficult.
Besides, if this is your only focus, there’s a good chance you won’t be eating the nutrients your body needs to make weight loss sustainable (not to mention what it will do to your long-term health).
What to Do Instead…
Eat at times that work best for your schedule.
There’s something to be said for paying attention to when, or how often, you eat.
But it’s just one tool for eating better, not the whole toolbox. And eating on a specific schedule does NOT come with some secret, science-y, magical, bs that will cause you to lose weight faster, or lose more fat, or any nonsense like that.
The only reason to pay attention to when you eat is simply to find strategies that make it easier to reach your goals.
So, by all means, give something a try. But if it doesn’t make your life easier — or if you aren’t getting an appropriate amount of all the nutrients your body needs — try something else.
#7 — Dieting Says…
“Eat differently for weight loss.”
Sometimes people do need to make a 180. Maybe you’ve gotten into such bad habits that a complete reset is what it’ll take to make a change.
But even if that’s the case, you can’t make that change for weight loss and then go right back to your old habits.
Whatever approach you take to lose weight, it’ll be more likely for those results to stick if you can just keep on doing it for the rest of your life.
If that sounds daunting, it’s probably because you’ve only ever tried “dieting.”
If I had to give up my favorite foods, only eat kale and rice cakes, tediously track every calorie and gram, and carry a cooler of food with me everywhere I go so I can eat the “right” foods at the “right” times, I’d be scared of the idea of eating like that forever, too.
What to Do Instead…
Eat basically the same, for weight loss or not.
For most people, a 180 is NOT the best strategy. It’ll be easier to take what you already know (e.g. foods, recipes, restaurants, etc.) and whatever your current “routine” is (even if you think you don’t have one), and just stick to that.
From there, you can find the improvements that are easiest to make, but that will have the biggest impact on your results.
It could be eating slightly less of some foods or slightly more of other foods.
It could be learning to portion out your plate for a better balance of foods.
It could be figuring out how to make it easier to not overeat — maybe even rethinking your eating schedule.
It could be any one of these or a hundred other things. But the answer is definitely NOT just getting back on a diet. We’ve all tried that. It’s time to move on.
If you’re ready to stop dieting and want a plan that will teach you to eat better forever so you can lose weight (and keep it off), have more energy, and feel more confident in your body, you can try this approach out for yourself and see just how different — and doable — it really is…
There’s a big difference between going on a diet and simply eating a little better (even for weight loss).
Diets are about following specific rules such as what you can or can’t eat, when to eat, exactly how much to eat, etc. As a society, we’ve done a LOT of dieting and only gotten less healthy and gained more weight.
Eating better is about taking basic, well-established guidelines (e.g. prioritize whole foods, eat plenty of protein and veggies but get a balance of all nutrients, don’t overeat, etc.) and applying them with FLEXIBLE strategies that improve your current habits without getting in the way of real life.
If you want to lose weight (and keep it off), have more energy, and feel more confident in your body, you can test-drive this approach in our 10 Day Kickstart to Weight Loss for only $37!