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Why Diets Don’t Work the Second Time


Have you ever tried a diet and it worked exactly as predicted?! You felt great, saw results, it seemed easy and you felt as though you finally figured it out! 

Then life happens.

Maybe it’s the holidays, maybe it’s a global pandemic, maybe you are triggered by the conspiracy YouTube videos your Uncle won’t stop posting.  Whatever the case, old habits creep in and before you know it you aren’t feeling nearly as great as you were before. 

So, you go back and dust off those old rules and get back on track.

But nothing happens. You don’t feel better. You aren’t seeing results.

It doesn’t make sense because you are doing EXACTLY what you were doing before. Then you either quit or decide that you need to cut more carbs, cut more calories, only eat kale and oxygen.  It feels like you and your body are in a fight and you are willing to do ANYTHING to get things moving.

So what gives? Why was it so easy the first time and the second time feels like a full on boxing match?

Sometimes it’s a metabolism thing

The typical response is that your metabolism to blame. That your body has gone into starvation mode or that you aren’t eating enough. Starvation mode is a bit of a myth, but it is true that you body will changes the way it deals with food when you are in too much of a deficit. Your metabolic rate will reduce slightly and typically your digestion slows so you are actually absorbing more calories. 

These symptoms are exacerbated with yo-yo dieting so the more diets you jump on and off (and the more drastic they are) the more likely you will need less food to maintain.  We have been talking a lot about this over on my Instagram Stories so meet me over there to learn more. 

The good news is our metabolisms are resilient, so it will increase as we continue to care for our bodies.  So you may not have to worry too much as long as you are cutting ties with that yo-yo and finding a more sustainable solution.

The even better news is although these things that are happening inside our bodies are a factor, the things happening outside of our bodies have a FAR greater impact.

More often it’s a behavior thing

When we think about diets we think about rules.  No carbs, count points, eat clean, etc.  We give these rules all the credit for our success, but we take the personal blame for our failure…that hypocrisy is for a different blog!

Point being, the rules don’t have as much to do with your success as your behaviors and environment.

I want you to think back to the time it “worked” and see if any of these things were true:

  • You were more proactive than reactive to your hunger. You prepped your food so you didn’t have to worry about deciding what to eat for each meal and succumb to decision fatigue.
  • You were sleeping better.
  • You had a support system to lift you up when you struggling with motivation.
  • You were more active outside of exercise.
  • You ate complete meals rather than grazing.
  • You didn’t treat every weekend like it was 1999 (or really any other year than 2020).
  • You were 100% committed.

Weight loss and health does not happen in a vacuum and it is more often the culmination of a lot of small positive behaviors rather than a list of rules. I’m not discounting the nutrition science (you know I love science) but as we talked about in Are You Balancing on a Two Legged Stool, behavioral solutions and emotional eating are the other two pillars to healthy heating.  When you are struggling, at least one of those tends to be off.

What do you do with this information?

Now that you have a list of things that supported you last time, check to see if any of these behaviors have slipped through the cracks.  If you are struggling to think of what applies to you, the three most common ones I’m seeing in my practice are:

  • Trying to wing it and not being prepared
  • More sedentary outside of exercise
  • Using food and alcohol as a substitute for connection – this is a big one and can’t change completely, but don’t discount the power of a connected conversation with a friend.

Instead of pounding on more rules, add in these supportive behaviors. I think you will be surprised. Rules get all the glory, but these behaviors are the secret sauce to figuring this out once and for all.

If this is helpful and you want more help with how to balance nutrition science, behavioral solutions and emotional eating, my signature course The Hunger Solution will be enrolling in a few weeks!  Visit this page to join the waiting list. Because once you can balance these three pillars, food will enhance your life, not control it!

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