Why Diets Don't Work

Wouldn’t you like to count away the pounds and not count calories or points?

Better yet, wouldn’t you love to ditch the binge eating from stress and learn how to reduce stress naturally? 

Like so many others, I used to struggle with my weight, before I learned these valuable lessons I am going to share with you.

I used to be a couch potato and was 40+ pounds overweight. And as you can probably imagine, I hated it. 

I hated having to wear double digit sizes. 

I hated it when my hairdresser put a smock on me because it was snug around my neck and prominently displayed my double and triple chins. 

I hated feeling decades older than I was. 

And I knew that if I didn't do something about it, I'd be on the yellow brick road straight to high blood pressure and diabetes that run so prominently in my family.

So a little more than 12 years ago I took action and joined a gym. And with the help of a personal trainer, I shed all that excess weight and more. It was amazing! Not only did I look great, but I felt great too! I became a gym rat and an endurance athlete.

But all the while I did not have an accurate understanding what healthy eating truly meant.

I'll never forget the words my trainer told me, "Losing weight is just burning more calories than you take in." That became my mantra, the guiding principle in my life. It was my everything.

I became obsessed with counting every morsel and crumb. 

I lived on Lean Cuisines because they were quick, easy and had set portions because portion control was something I thought I struggled with (when you limit yourself to 1200 calories a day, you will always believe you have portion control problems because you're simply not eating enough food!)

And every time I "was bad" or "cheated" I felt guilty and remembered my guiding principle that I needed to burn more calories than I ate. 

Perhaps you've been given the same advice, or you've followed a particular diet. Let's be honest - at some point or another, we all have. Here's why this way of thinking - and living - doesn't work.

What Are Diets?

Before we dive into why diets don't work, let's talk about what a diet is.

South Beach, Atkins, Vegetarian, Paleo are just a few popular diets that you've probably heard of. In nutrition school, I studied over 100 different dietary theories. Each of them with their own protocols of what to eat and what not to eat. 

While some of them are pretty wacky (the Cabbage Soup Diet anyone?) many of them teach solid principles and practices that unfortunately are misinterpreted and often mucked up by the media. 

Some people follow a way of eating because it supports a personal or religious belief.

Others follow a diet for medical reasons. I followed a Low FODMAPS diet for an entire year when I suffered through severe IBS and SIBO symptoms.

But most people diet to lose weight but often fail at it.

Why Diets Don't Work

The number one reason why diets don't work is a lack of self-awareness. 

When you are honestly in touch with your body and understand what's going on with it, you can "diet" for the right reasons. And when you "diet" for the right reasons you are likely to be more committed to it.

Now when I refer to a "diet," I mean it in the context of "foods enjoyed because they support an individual's health," not in a restrictive "you can't eat that" or "you can only eat 1200 calories a day" type of diet.

"Supporting an individual's health" is key. Most fad diets don't work because they don't take into account the individual person.

No two individuals are the same. We have different genetics, live in different environments, have different lifestyles; we enjoy various activities, and we eat different foods. So how can one diet protocol address all of these unique circumstances? It can't.

It's like trying to fit a square peg into a circle making the diet feel all the more restrictive and unrealistic. In short, you set yourself up for failure.

So What's the Answer?

To support our individual health, we need to know our body so we can learn what works for you. Not what works for your best friend. Not what works for your favorite Kardashian. They are not you. 

You need to be so finely in tuned with your body, that you are AWARE of what your body needs to thrive and what it needs to function optimally.

When you have this self-awareness, you will know what good foods will not compromise, inflame or hinder your body so it can systematically work together to get you into a state of perfect health.

How to Be Successful "Dieter."

"If you want something in your life you've never had before, you'll have to do something you've never done before."

I can't tell you how many people have said, "Well I want to lose weight but I can't eat healthy because I don't eat <insert unfamiliar food."

Well my dear, if you aren't familiar with healthy foods and you aren't open-minded and willing to try them, you aren't going to get healthy.

I get it; change is hard. Trying foods you aren't familiar with is hard - but how will you know if you don't at least try them?

I drank smoothies for years but never added veggies like spinach or kale to them because I'd never tried it before. And the idea of green stuff in my smoothie scared me. I didn't want to waste a perfectly good smoothie by adding some veggies that would make it look gross to it. 

But then I did. And guess what - I didn't hate it. In fact, I loved it. And because I was willing to be curious and open-minded, it opened the doors for a whole new way of creativity for me - creating different smoothies with new ingredients to play with!

More Success Tips

1. Be in tune to the messages from your body

Your body tells you when a specific food works for you and when it doesn't. Headaches, brain fog, cravings, an upset stomach, irregular bowel movements, they are all signals that what you are eating isn't working for your body - right now.

Your job is to be open (that word again) to accepting those messages - whether they're what you want to "hear" or not.

The best tool to put these messages into context is to use a food journal.

I like to call a food journal a "Food Mood Poop" journal because that's typically what you track. 

Besides just tracking what you ate, you can also track when you ate (because timing is everything!), your moods, bowel movements, how much water and fluids you've drunk, and the quality and quantity of your sleep.

While you can certainly use apps like MyFitness Pal, they don't allow you capture your whole story. It's like counting calories but not looking at exactly what you are counting. I recommend using a good old-fashioned hand-written journal. Again, avoid the "square peg in round hole" struggle. 

Connecting and correlating these things together can give you a picture of your overall health and show you what things you need to focus on to bring your health (and weight) into better balance.

2. Establish a support system

Change is not easy, and it can sometimes take a village...

Surround yourself with people who have your best interest at heart, and wants you to succeed.

This could be a significant other, family member, friend, or colleague. 

Find someone to share your goals with who will cheer you on and give you encouragement and support you when you need it. This may also mean letting go of people who undermine you and your efforts. And that's okay; you have permission to do so.

Let's Be Friends!

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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.