5 Major Pitfalls of Dieting

5 Major Pitfalls of Dieting


Diets just don’t work.  But we can’t give up trying them over and over again.

Most of us know this to be true in experience.  I rarely meet a woman who at some point in her life hasn’t tried a diet.

And the thing is, when I meet women who have maintained their natural weight for long periods of time, they aren’t dieters.

They have come to know their bodies well enough and understand what they need to be nourished clearly enough that food and weight are no longer an issue in their lives.

And what’s more, they are now freed up to put their precious time and energy toward more important things.

The dieting trap: Why do we keep trying new ones year after year?

Each time we start down the path of a new diet we believe that if we just stick to the rules, we’ll succeed.  But research tells us that 90% of dieters gain all (or more) of their weight back.

Here are 5 major pitfalls of modern diets that keep us from losing the weight.

1. Restriction

Many diets ask you to severely limit a major nutrient.   One diet says to cut out the carbohydrates, another tells you to limit your protein, and still others tout that fat-free is the way to go.  Here is the truth:  Your body needs all forms of nutrients. You were made to consume all the nutrients found in the major food sources on Earth.   Go too long restricting one and you are bound to find your body taking over in the form of increasing cravings or impaired functioning. Understand what kinds of nutrients are the highest quality and how much of each you need and you are on the road to regaining your health.

2.  A focus on the “can nots”

The psychology of modern diets emphasize what you can not eat. Think about the rules of the last diet you tried.  Whether it is a nutrient you can’t have (no fat),  the number of calories you can’t have (no more than 1200), or a food type you must avoid (no fruit)– diets that keep your mind on what you can’t have are going to backfire.  What we put our focus on increases in our lives. If we set ourselves up to have a laundry list of things we can’t eat– you better believe our thoughts about those foods are going to increase.  And now you are battling all day with thinking about the foods you aren’t supposed to.  Tempting our willpower like that is a lose-lose scenario.

One of the principles of integrative nutrition is to crowd it out. Focus on adding good things in.  Your body will let go of the foods that no longer serve you in time (most people have a hard time believing this at first– but regaining a trust in our bodies is integral to a balanced, healthy life).   And when you do let those food cravings go you have now broken the power they have on you.  You know you could have a slice of that cake because you never put a restriction on yourself– but most of the time you choose not to because it actually doesn’t feel good after you eat it– and when you do decide to indulge you truly enjoy it!

3.  Too much too soon

Have you ever decided start a new diet on a specific day?  “Next Monday, that is it, I am doing this for real.”  Then we expect ourselves to transform our diets, eating habits, ways of coping with our day, stress patterns, and moods all overnight. It is just not realistic.  Small, consistent steps are the only way to gain lasting change.  This is important because it sets us up for success.   We can master one change at a time and then move to the next.  It also allows us to know which step isn’t a good fit.  A shift toward a healthier diet must not only be doable in your lifestyle but it also must actually work for your unique body type and needs.  Having a plan and moving slowly but surely toward your goal really works.

4.  “One size fits all” mistruth

No one body is alike.  There is no one diet that fit every person’s needs. You have a unique biochemistry, food tolerances, nutrient needs, metobolic rate, blood type, constitution, activity level, stress level, personal preference…understanding your needs is a personal process.  Part of why modern diets fail so many people is that they don’t work for so many people’s bodies.   A process that requires you to look inward and get to know what you need to function at your best is the way to life long health. And it gives you the tools to reassess when things feel imbalanced as you change and grow instead of looking to a cookie cutter diet plan every time you need to readjust.

5.  Too much thought on food

How much thought do you think a person 100 years ago put on the food they were going to eat that day? Aside from how they were going to attain it– humans were not meant to fill their minds with obsessions over what to eat. It is paralyzing and begins to twist our lives away from the greater purposes of living.  You are not supposed to over analyze and calculate before every meal.  It is true that we have lost a certain amount of instinct around eating because we are so removed from the land and where food comes from– BUT the way to fix that is to re-acquaint ourselves with the natural order of things.  Relearn the basics of how to nourish ourselves well.  Reconnect with how food impacts our energy levels, moods, mental states and body shape. Then use that knowledge to establish a right relationship with feeding ourselves and free up all that mental space to pursue things in life that give us meaning and purpose.

I used to have that space in the back of my mind scanning the latest magazines for the next new diet I might try that promised lasting results in record time.

It’s been years now that I’ve completely shifted the way I think about feeding myself and I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin, I’ll never look back.

Have you experienced any of these dieting pitfalls before?


20 responses to “5 Major Pitfalls of Dieting”

  1. The points you mentioned are all familiar to me, particularly that weight-loss attempts backfire if I focus on the “can nots”. It is much more helpful for me to tell myself “I choose to drink 8 glasses of water and eat a healthy protein at each meal” rather than ” I am not allowed to eat any sugar or treats”. I haven’t lost all my pregnancy weight from my third child (she is almost four) and honestly, the main reason I’ve rejected consciously working at losing this extra 7 lbs or so is b/c I then become food-obsessed (and unhappy & grouchy with my family). I am interested in your ten week series!

  2. i am also interested in your ten week series! i am pregnant now, but i would love to learn more so that when i am not pregnant i can get back to my pre-pregnancy weight by implementing lifestyle changes rather than sticking to a diet.


  3. I agree – diets don’t work for the long-term. I wrote a series on mindful eating and that has worked better for me than any diet.

  4. So glad to hear of some interest in the course–looking forward to sharing more about it soon (and offering an early bird discount for sign ups the month of May!)

    Kika– I understand what you mean about food-obsessed– I think it is an experience many women go through when we try and get back into a healthy shape.

    Roger– I couldn’t agree more– it is just backward that we obsess over the calories in our meal and then scoff it down without even realizing we are chewing! Being mindful when we eat is a very powerful tool!

  5. Hi Lisa,
    This is a great post. We all know diets don’t work but you outline precisely WHY they don’t. I’ve never really been one to diet but I do go on health kicks from time to time and that brings me right back to point 2 on your list. I get so focused on what I can’t eat, that I just want it even more and then when I do give in and have some it’s usually in excess…which is never good!

    You’re exactly right that we all need to be comfortable in our own skin and eating well and being healthy is a lifestyle change there are no quick fixes. Thank you for this!!

  6. I decided to let my kids show me the way to healthy eating, and they have. Just today, they all stopped halfway through their special fudgecicle at the park because they were “full.”

    They know there will be plenty of food later when they need it, and so there’s no issue to worry about! Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.

    Could it get any simpler?


  7. That sounds like a great course and I’d be interested, too…I am not a chronic dieter because I tend to resist the limitations that diets bring-all of your points ring true with me. I’ve tried a few and just knew they wouldn’t work for me. I struggle with weight issues and find I’m not losing that baby weight no matter how I try! It’s depressing…I would really love to be free from the obsession of body image, weight, food, etc. and like you say, pursue life!

  8. Jamie– Aren’t children our greatest teachers?! I completely agree– when I watch my son self-moderate the foods he eats I am reminded at how intuitive it really is. But I also feel some of that ability is because I set him up for success– most of the time he only has “real” foods to choose from (as opposed to chemicalized artificial junk food)– so when a snack/junk type food is an option, he doesn’t have much taste for it–unfortunately I don’t see the same natural choices being made for other kids that get bombarded with unhealthy options all day long. Just a thought.

    Becky– That is my total motivator for health counseling…that letting go of issues that bog us down and sparking the fire for our lives again!

  9. EXCELLENT advice. This, coupled with Simple Mom’s “daily docket” are helping me to get my life back under control and get things marked off the to-do list! Now if I could only stop reading all those RSS feeds! 😉

  10. I feel like you are specifically talking about me, and everything that I have tried.

    I also become obsessed with foods during dieting, and it does make life at home harder.

    I take small steps everyday with my family to be healthier, but I still hate to admit that I still always think of dieting so I can loose the extra 10 pounds.
    I am looking forward to reading more from you.

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