The Trouble With Diets

As we begin the new year, millions of Americans are working to fulfill their resolutions. Not surprisingly, losing weight and improving fitness levels are statistically among the most popular resolutions each year. What is surprising, though, is that only about 20 percent of people actually accomplish these goals. In fact, regardless of resolutions over two-thirds of Americans report that they are on some sort of diet and obesity continues to be an issue.

So, why do diets fail? What pitfalls should you be aware of if you are attempting to lose weight? Being aware of common obstacles can help you take steps to avoid them so that you can follow through on your goals.


Lack of Sustainability

Many health and fitness experts encourage people not to think in terms of diet anymore, but to focus on lifestyle change. This is because diets can be overly restrictive and leave you stuck to following a certain plan or only eating a specially prepared meal. Once those products are taken away, however, which can happen if you go on vacation or otherwise have your routine broken, it can be difficult for you to know what dietary decisions to make.

A similar problem exists with crash diets and most fad diets, which are designed to make you lose weight quickly. You may lose a few pounds over the course of a week but as soon as you return to your regular eating habits, the weight will come back.

Overly restrictive diets are also difficult to maintain, since no one enjoys eating the same foods over and over. The key is to focus on what to eat, rather than what not to eat and find foods that you enjoy. If you genuinely enjoy eating a healthy diet it will be easy for you to stick to it because you won’t feel as though you’re missing out.

One study even showed that these fluctuations many dieters experience can increase cravings for junk food. The swings between following a diet and indulging create similar neurological responses to those seen in alcoholics and drug addicts. These findings emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy, long-term view of diet.


Underestimating Food, Overestimating Yourself

Despite all of the magic-bullet foods and workouts that promise enormous fitness benefits, a simple truth remains: Weight loss or gain is a matter of balancing calories. Excess calories become fat so to lose weight you have to create a caloric deficit. Because of this, monitoring your calorie intake and expenditure is still one of the most effective ways to lose weight.

The problem is that many people underestimate the amount of calories they take in over the course of a day. Pay close attention to your portion sizes when preparing food at home and try looking up the nutritional information of a meal ahead of time when eating out. Also, there are several apps available for smart phones that allow to track this information, complete with the nutritional facts for thousands of meals.

On the flip side of the equation, people tend to overestimate the amount of calories that they are burning. It can be frustrating to realize that running a 10-minute mile only burns about 115 calories when you feel so exhausted afterwards. Remember, though, that everything you do throughout the day counts. The American Heart Association recommends making it a goal to walk 10,000 steps per day to maintain a healthy level of activity. Purchase a small pedometer that you can keep with you and you will likely be surprised by how active you are in just going through your daily routine.

These are just some of the problems people encounter when trying to lose weight. What issues have you dealt with and how have you overcome them? Please share with us in the comments!




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About jonathan.thompson

Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Running Coach with the American Council on Exercise, specializing in nutrition. In addition to his real-world experience working with clients, his articles and blogs on fitness advice have been published on many websites and magazines.