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  • Writer's pictureJean-Philippe Ricau- Registered Dietitian

A Dietitian explains why 95% of diets fail and why you should rethink your approach.

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

As a dietitian, over the years, I've had the privilege of working with numerous clients, each with their unique dietary struggles and aspirations.

One common thread I've seen is the almost universal obsession with fad diets and quick fixes, often leading to a vicious cycle of temporary success and long-term frustration. If you've found yourself caught in this frustrating cycle of dieting, you're not alone.


So people often ask me why most diets fail, and it's a valid question.


Let me get things straight. It's not because you lack willpower or self-discipline. The problem lies in the dieting mindset itself.


Woman upset because her diet is not working
Image Credit: Julien L on Unsplash

With a staggering 95% of diets ending in disappointment, it's time to uncover the truths behind this alarming statistic and rethink our approach to sustainable, effective weight loss.


In this journey, we'll delve into the reasons why 95% of diets often disappoint and explore the path to lasting success through a more realistic, scientifically-supported strategy.


We will not cover therapeutic diets tailored to address special genetic or medical conditions such as Celiac disease or diabetes.

Instead, we'll explore diets aimed at weight loss, energy enhancement, and detoxification – the diets that typically allure the majority of individuals looking for transformative health and body improvements.


For an extensive guide to these diverse diets, be sure to check out my previous article, "What Diet is Best for Me? Guide to 100 Diets with Benefits and Drawbacks" which covers over 100 different dietary approaches in detail.



Empty plate to show restrictive diets
Image credit: Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Why do 95% of diets fail?


  1. Unrealistic Expectations: People expect rapid, dramatic results, which can lead to disappointment and discouragement when those expectations aren't met. For instance, someone may hope to shed 20 pounds in a month, but when they only lose a fraction of that weight, they can become disheartened and abandon the diet.

  2. Restriction: Diets that eliminate entire food groups or severely restrict certain macronutrients can lead to cravings. When the person eventually indulges in a meal that includes the restricted items, they may feel like they've failed and tend to overeat.

  3. Lack of Sustainability: Diets that drastically change your eating habits are often unsustainable. Once the diet ends, old eating habits return, causing weight regain. (example: Crash diets that involve extreme calorie restriction or extremely limited food choices).

  4. Deprivation: Feeling deprived of favorite foods can lead to feelings of frustration and failure. One example we are all familiar with: Diets that forbid specific foods, such as chocolate, may result in periods of intense consumption when the dieter can no longer resist the temptation.

  5. Focus on Weight, Not Health: Some diets prioritize weight loss over overall health, which can lead to unhealthy practices and neglect of essential nutrients. Example: Some diets promote rapid weight loss through unhealthy methods like extreme calorie cutting or eliminating entire food groups, potentially causing malnutrition.

  6. Metabolism Adaptation: Calorie-restricted diets can slow down your metabolism, making it challenging to maintain weight loss. When the person returns to a regular diet, they gain weight more easily.

  7. Emotional and Stress Eating: Most people use food to cope with stress or emotions, because we are humans. Emotional or stress eating can undermine dieting efforts. If a diet doesn't address the underlying emotional factors, individuals are more likely to overeat when facing stress or emotions.

  8. Lack of Individualization: Many diets follow a one-size-fits-all approach, ignoring the uniqueness of each person's needs and preferences. Example: A diet that prescribes the same meal plan for everyone doesn't consider the person's specific dietary needs, making it less likely they'll follow it.

  9. Overemphasis on Quick Fixes: The diet industry often promotes quick fixes, while sustainable weight loss requires gradual, long-term lifestyle changes. Fad diets that promise rapid weight loss with no effort can lead to yo-yo dieting, as people jump from one quick fix to another.

  10. Lack of Professional Guidance: Fake nutrition experts are everywhere on social medias. Diet/nutrition is a science, requiring a diploma, knowledge and experience. Without expert guidance, it's easy to make mistakes or choose diets that are not appropriate for your health or goals.

  11. Lack of support: Many people who try to diet do so on their own, without the support of friends, family, or a qualified healthcare professional. This can make it difficult to stay motivated and on track.

  12. Diet culture: The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that profits from people's insecurities about their weight. This can lead to people feeling like they need to be on a diet all the time, which is unsustainable and unhealthy.

  13. Unrealistic body image: The media often promotes unrealistic body standards, which can make people feel like they need to be thin in order to be happy and healthy. This can lead to people feeling bad about themselves and their bodies, which can make it difficult to lose weight and keep it off.

If I had spent a few more hours on the article, I could have easily found another 10 reasons why 95% of diets fail, prompting a reconsideration of your approach..


What are the diets that actually work?


I educate my patients about the significance of incorporating positive habits during their weight loss journey – habits that they'll seamlessly carry forward even after concluding their sessions with the dietitian.


The key isn't merely eliminating certain foods but mastering the art of control. How?

This is what I will explain in next article called: "A dietitian explains how this simple diet can help you lose weight sustainably."

Let's explore the path to lasting success through a more realistic, scientifically-supported strategy.



 

FAQ Section

Why do 95% of diets fail?

Diets fail because they are often unrealistic, restrictive, unsustainable, and deprivational. They may also focus on weight loss over health, not address the underlying emotional factors that contribute to overeating, and lack of individualization. Additionally, the diet industry often promotes quick fixes and unrealistic body standards, which can lead to yo-yo dieting and frustration.

What are the diets that actually work?

The best diets are those that are sustainable and individualized. They should focus on overall health, not just weight loss. Some examples of healthy diets include the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the vegetarian diet. These diets are rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and they limit processed foods and unhealthy fats.

How can I make sure my diet is sustainable?

To make your diet sustainable, make gradual changes to your eating habits, choose foods that you enjoy and that fit into your lifestyle, don't eliminate entire food groups, focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods, allow yourself to indulge occasionally (the "cheat night"), and find a support system to help you stay on track.

Where can I get professional guidance on dieting?

You can get professional guidance on dieting from a registered dietitian. A registered dietitian can create a personalized diet plan for you that is based on your individual needs and goals.

How can I create a healthy body image?

To create a healthy body image, focus on your health and well-being, not your weight. Unfollow social media accounts that promote unrealistic body standards, surround yourself with people who love and support you, regardless of your size, and practice self-compassion and acceptance.


 

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