The one and only way to lose weight is by creating a calorie deficit; this is the fundamental PRINCIPLE of weight loss that is governed by the law of thermodynamics, as I explain here.
If you have ever managed to lose weight, you will have done so by consuming fewer calories than you burn, whether you knew it or not.
The METHOD of how you do it is fundamentally what will make or break your diet. Whilst the ‘law of weight loss’ never changes, the way in which you do it can vary greatly.
For example, you may not be a breakfast person so it is easy for you to intermittent fast or you may find reducing carbs an easy way to cut back.
Ultimately, you need to find an approach that you will adhere to in order to be successful.
WHY DOES A DIET FAIL?
So, we have established how a diet fails but there are a number of reasons why this can happen.
- Your weight loss remedy is just pure pseudoscience that doesn’t even attempt a deficit i.e. taking a ‘magic’ diet pill, raspberry key tones or drinking green tea. An approach that requires no behaviour change is highly unlikely to work.
- You simply cannot adhere to the chosen approach i.e. you love bread and pasta but have chosen to go low carb.
- You have miscalculated your daily energy expenditure so are not burning as many calories as you think.
- You are focusing more on the method than the principle i.e. eliminating a certain food group. Yes, reducing sugar, fat or carbs can be useful but it may not always automatically lead to a calorie reduction. Just like eating ‘clean’does not automatically put you in a calorie deficit – YES, you can eat too much ‘clean’ food!
Your diet isn’t failing you because you:
- have too many toxins in your body
- you are too ‘acidic’
- you have high cortisol levels
- you have messed up your metabolism
- you are eating after 6pm
- you have a leaky gut
- you skip breakfast.
It is failing because you either haven’t worked out the appropriate deficit or you simply cannot stick to the plan.
BUT I AM DOING EVERYTHING ‘RIGHT’….
This is where you need to start being honest with yourself. Are you really accounting for all the food you eat in a day? As I already mentioned, eating ‘healthy’ food all the time does not automatically lead to weight loss. If you eat too many calories, no matter where from, you WILL gain weight.
Also, bear in mind that exercise alone wont help, especially if you aren’t tracking your intake. Being more active can often make you hungrier which will negate the extra calories burned. Ask yourself if you are really committed to losing weight. If the answer is yes but you are struggling, then here are some ideas that may make your attempts more manageable.
STRATEGIES TO PROMOTE ADHERENCE
- Find ‘your’ way. If you have tried a number of ‘diets’ but keep failing then you haven’t found the best way for you. There are so many different ways to create a calorie deficit and research consistently shows that neither is better than any other. The MOST successful dieters are the ones who can stick with it whether this be through intermittent fasting, low carb, low fat etc….find what suits you best and you are more likely to be successful.
- Look at what habits you can change. If you can adapt your eating behaviours, you will be significantly more likely to reduce your weight. Research has suggested that the more changes you make, the more successful you will be. You can find more information on these behaviours here.
- Eat more filling foods. Feeling hungry is a common reason why people fall off the wagon. The trick when on a diet is to consume your calories wisely. You can do this by increasing your protein, this is more satiating than carbs or fats, and by eating more whole, unprocessed food. Foods that are more nutrient dense and contain more fibre will keep you fuller for longer and stop you raiding the biscuit jar!
- Be flexible, not rigid. Another common mistake people make is to be too restrictive. They take an ‘all or nothing’ approach. This strategy usually ends up leading to food cravings and over eating at some point. A more flexible approach, where you allow the things you enjoy in moderation, is more positively associated with successful weight loss.
- Increase your sleep. Sleep plays a major role in helping us to regulate our weight. Lack of sleep disrupts our satiety hormones (the ones that tell our brain we are full) which means we feel hungrier. It can also impair our glucose tolerance which in turn affects our weight. Most people need 6-8 hrs per night.
- Exercise. Increasing your activity levels can also help to create a larger deficit by burning more calories. Bear in mind, however, that people to react differently to exercise; some people don’t feel more hungry when they exercise whilst others do. Just as some people will match their exercise with healthy habits whilst other won’t and see it as an ‘excuse’ to eat more. You need to figure out where you sit with this. Try keeping a diary of when you exercise and when you feel hungry in relation to this. You can then sensibly plan exercise accordingly i.e. if it makes you hungry, exercise not long before a meal and then make sure you include protein to help fill you up!
- Monitor progress. Losing weight can be a long, hard process that often feels fruitless. This is why monitoring your progress is so important. Sometimes you may not be able to feel or see the result yourself but pictures and measurements don’t lie. For more information, see here.
- Have support, especially around social events. Dieting can also feel lonely but evidence demonstrates that having support can dramatically improve your adherence. This is especially the case when it comes to social events etc. If you can, reach out to a nutritionist to guide and support you or find an understanding support network. This really can make all the difference.
- Finally and perhaps most importantly, be realistic! When you start your journey, it is necessary to have a goal in mind. But don’t let this overtake your enjoyment of the process. Life does and will go one! Friends and family will not disappear so you can magically get back in to that little black dress. Consider what your priorities are and what you are really willing to sacrifice. If you have a lot of social events coming up, that’s fine! You can still lose weight, you just need to factor them in to your plan and accept that it may take slightly longer to achieve your goal. It is much better to live your life AND lose weight than stop, start, stop, start and never really progress.
EAT MORE TO LOSE WEIGHT?
So on that note, will eating more really help you? If increasing your calories means you are more likely to stick to a diet and will allow you to have a life, then yes eating more may will help. But not because it ‘boosts’ your fat burning abilities or you have reached a ‘plateau’. The chances are that if you are trying to starve your self, you aren’t actually adhering to a deficit. That little bit of bread that no-one saw you eat or the kids left over cereal that ‘doesn’t’ count all adds up. You could actually avoid this by being more flexible in your approach and allowing yourself more calories; not feeling so deprived or so hungry may help to instil more positive behaviours. It will also facilitate a social life which will keep you more motivated and generally much happier.
At the end of the day, if you are not losing weight on 1200 calories then you are either eating more than you think or you are already very lean and this is your maintenance!
If have reached the end of this blog then the chances are your diet is failing you! So, first work out where your calories need to be to reach your goal within your desired time-frame. THEN find the most effective way of achieving this that suits your lifestyle and preferences. If you cant stick to what you are doing, then change it!
As Einstein would say “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
This was brought to you by Rebecca Flannery, Evidence Based Nutritionist at Transformational Nutrition.