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Why Popular Diets Fail: The Truth About Sustainable Weight Loss

Updated: May 9

Slimming World. Weight Watchers. Juice Plus. Low-carb. Cabbage soup. 1:1 Diet. Herbalife. Slim Fast. All of these are diets that my weight loss clients have done before. Yet they are still struggling with their weight today.

There’s a complex explanation and a simple one. The simple one is that it doesn’t matter what weight you start with, any form of calorie restriction can trigger several biological adaptations to prevent starvation. It’s a protective mechanism.

The more complex explanation... These biological adaptations ultimately affect our metabolism. Our metabolic health is essentially ‘reset’, and we now need fewer calories to sustain the new weight. To overcome this metabolic adaptation, when you come off the diet you will need to continually consume a reduced calorie intake. As soon as you start eating a normal amount of calories again, the weight creeps back on. It’s why, for most weight loss individuals who have followed a low-calorie diet, up to 50% of weight lost is regained after 1 year, with the remaining weight regained in the following years.

A fascinating study looked at 14 contestants who had been on the popular US show, ‘The Biggest Loser’. A lot of the contestants lost more than 40kg. So it could be said that this was a successful weight loss programme.

But… in the years that followed the weight slowly crept back. 6 years after the end of the show 13 of the 14 contestants regained a significant amount of weight, with 4 ending up heavier than when they started.

This is one study with a very small population sample. But this same pattern can be found with many of the other so-called ‘successful’ diet programmes. Another study showed that a 10-week low-calorie diet leading to weight loss caused an increase in the concentration of the hunger hormone ghrelin. One year on from the 10-week intervention, ghrelin levels were still raised, alongside a decreased level of satiety.

This altered metabolism and ghrelin levels, as a result of calorie restriction, is why Slimming World, Weight Watchers and the 1:1 Diet all see clients coming back again and again as their weight loss isn’t sustained.

The biological pressure to get your body weight back to the highest-sustained lifetime level… i.e. the maximum body weight you have previously been… gets stronger as weight loss increases.

plate with tape measure to suggest weight loss
In other words, our body is desperately trying to avoid starvation, and in doing so is doing what it can to get back to the pre-weight loss weight.

It sounds a bit doom and gloom for weight loss, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. And that’s because there is SO much more to weight loss than calories in/calories out. Yes, what we eat is important, and how we move is vital too. But there are so many other factors that can also hinder weight loss.

Weight loss is all about optimal health. Your body is a set of interconnected systems, and if any of those are struggling then sustainable weight loss will be an uphill struggle.

You can lose weight without the negative impacts of low-calorie dieting, by focusing on

  • Supporting your thyroid

  • Feeding your good gut bacteria

  • Managing your stress levels

  • Getting adequate sleep

  • Consuming enough protein

  • Eating a rainbow of vegetables every day

  • Managing blood sugar spikes

  • Enjoying healthy fats

All of the above involves fresh, tasty and filling food. And none of that involves cutting your calories to a low level which negatively impacts your metabolism. Or buying the dieting firms ‘products’, often filled with forms of nutrients that are not so easily absorbed by the body. Or feeling like you are ‘on a diet’ with the restrictions and feelings of guilt that go along with that.

It’s time to reframe weight loss.

It’s not about the number on the scale. It’s about optimising your health, nourishing your body and having a positive relationship with food. All of which will lead to the long-term weight loss that you are trying to achieve.

There are several ways you can work with me for weight loss. My Weight Loss DNA Health Package gives you some incredible insights into how your genetics may be affecting your weight. You can even combine this with a 3-month Nutritional Therapy programme where we use your DNA results to underpin your personalised Nutritional Therapy programme, which includes regular support and accountability throughout. To discuss what would the best option would be for you, pop me an email at and we can have a chat.

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