Research: your “Diet” May Sabotage Your Weight Loss


“Diet” is a four-letter word.  Instead, let’s start eating and living healthily.

Diet Computer Keys

Diet Computer Keys

There are so many diets out there and each one has its own book.  You could literally read a new diet book every day of your life and still have a few more to read.  Most of them are fad diets that are marketed as quick ways to lose weight, but they are mostly centered around making a buck by separating you from your hard-earned cash.  The diet de jour changes from year to year, but the fact remains the same, most diets only work for short-term weight loss and many of the dieters gain back more weight than they lost.  

In my life, I have tried the grapefruit diet, multiple low-carb diets, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, and yes, the peanut butter diet.  I am sure there are more.  I have not gone so far as to try any of the new “cleanse” diets and probably never will.  I have to work and spending my day in the bathroom is not very convenient and it sounds too much like an eating disorder called bulimia.   

The most successful I have been at a diet would be either the South Beach low-carb or Peanut Butter diet.  I lost over 40 pounds with each, but as with most fad diets, these diets were impossible to maintain.  I, like most that try these diets, stopped and then gained the weight back and added a little more for good measure.  

So, what is my point?  Don’t you wish losing weight was as easy as typing the word on a keyboard?  The biggest problem is the term “diet” and the philosophy that most take in starting one.  This theory and terminology doom the plan to fail.  Because most of those who launch a diet plan for a temporary change in their intake to lose weight so, the plan will almost never work in the long term.  If anything, people who start a “diet” tend to gain more weight over time.   Studies show that dieting is a consistent predictor of future weight gain.  One meta-analysis of 25 prior

Diet And Exercise Sign

Diet And Exercise Sign  

studies is Dieting and Restrained Eating as Prospective Predictors of Weight, Lowe et al[1].  They found that not only is it a predictor of future weight gain, each time they go on a diet, the higher their post-diet weight will be and the hard it will be to lose weight again.  

Low-carb diets have been proven to work for the short term by research[2], but the problem comes with long-term maintenance, and with this, the research becomes murkier for fad plans such as the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets.  The evidence is conflicting, but this is likely due to the lack of long-term adherence to the diet and subject returning to their unhealthy habits.  Such restrictive diets are near impossible to maintain for a lifelong endeavor.  

One last study looked at long-term weight loss management and what made the subject successful[3].  They found that it is possible to be successful at long-term weight loss maintenance through a review of National Weight Control Registry data.  Findings from the registry suggest six key strategies for long-term success at weight loss: 1) engaging in high levels of physical activity; 2) eating a diet that is low in calories and fat; 3) eating breakfast; 4) self-monitoring weight on a regular basis; 5) maintaining a consistent eating pattern; and 6) catching “slips” before they turn into larger regains.  

The bottom line:  I recommend that you make a long-term lifestyle change and instead of going on a diet, make a plan to become a happier, healthier, and more physically fit person.  If you focus on nourishing your body, instead of depriving it, you will be more likely to be successful.  It is possible to achieve and maintain significant amounts of weight loss, but to do so, you must maintain the habits that got you there. 

[1]Lowe et al., “Dieting and Restrained Eating as Prospective Predictors of Weight Gain.”
[2]Gardner et al., “Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women.”
[3]Wing and Phelan, “Long-Term Weight Loss Maintenance.”
Gardner, Christopher D., Alexandre Kiazand, Sofiya Alhassan, Soowon Kim, Randall S. Stafford, Raymond R. Balise, Helena C. Kraemer, and Abby C. King. “Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women.” JAMA. American Medical Association (AMA), March 7, 2007. doi: 10.1001/jama.297.9.969
Lowe, MR, SD Doshi, SN Katterman, and EH Feig. “Dieting and Restrained Eating as Prospective Predictors of Weight Gain.” Frontiers in Psychology 4 (September 2, 2013): 577. [PMC]
Wing, RR, and S Phelan. “Long-Term Weight Loss Maintenance.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 82, no. 1 Suppl (July 1, 2005): 222S–225S. [PubMed]
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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