If you need to do a particular diet, or weight loss program, more than once, there’s a good chance that program is not effective.

11th July, 2016

A common thing I hear in my practice is how “x” was a really good program because I lost 5-10-20kg. A client recently told me how amazing one such program was as she dropped 20kg in just a few months. That she had regained all the weight plus 6kg, she didn’t attribute at all to the program. She felt her weight regain was simply due to her inability to say with the program, a very strict and regimented no carbohydrate plan written up by her personal trainer.

Given how good my client thought the program was, I asked why she didn’t go back to the program? She responded simply that she didn’t want to eat like that; I said no one should have to eat like that in order to achieve good health, no one. That said, if you want to eat in such a restrictive manner, and it doesn’t take all the joy out of eating, knock yourself out.

What bothers me the most is that my client thought it was her fault, not the weight loss program, that led to the weight regain. She didn’t regain the weight because she was unable to stick with the plan, she regained the weight because such a plan is near impossible to stick to!

In addition, if she had not done the program, she most likely would not have gained the extra 6kg. The program failed her as it was not sustainable, didn’t teach her skills to manage her eating long-term and restricted calories to the point her body retaliated with extra weight regain to help counter further attempts to starve her body. You can learn more about the science behind this here.

Another client was telling me how her friend keeps her weight in check using a popular online body transformation program. This young lady does the program, a tight calorie controlled one, drops 5-6kg and then stops the program. She then regains the weight over the next few months, feels awful about herself and so starts the program again and has been doing this for the past 3-4 years.

“The program is excellent!” she says, “I always lose the weight and feel great!”

This poor lady swings from feeling fabulous to feeling awful. She feels the regain is entirely her fault for being “too lazy” when not on the program. In addition to torturing herself this way, her friends are finding it increasingly difficult to eat out with her and the constant diet/weight loss advice from her about what food one should and shouldn’t eat, are slowly driving them away.

I fear for where this lady will end up in another 5-10 years, at present she is only young and has yet to feel the full impact of the physiological and psychological damage of yoyo dieting. Maybe she’ll be fine, but years of working with such clients and history shows us that most people who fall into this pattern, are worse off down the track.

This type of yoyo dieting results in distorted eating habits and views, increased anxiety and emotional distress around food and body, low self worth and increases the risk of eating disorders.

A key message is:

In the words of dietitian Evelyn Tribole:
“It’s the only thing we buy that, when the product fails, we all
blame ourselves and then go buy another version.” (or the same version)

So if you’re considering embarking on another diet or program, or are simply sick and tired of dieting, maybe it’s time to try a Non-Diet Approach (also called intuitive eating).