Fit For You: Why Diets Don't Work

Jan 26, 2017

Many people set New Year’s resolutions regarding weight loss, exercise and health. From Atkins to Paleo to cleanses, there is never a shortage of diet fads and trends.  Yet, every January people make the same resolution - over and over again.

"A lot of people think of [January 1] as a cleansing date. It's when you get fresh with everything - your eating, your exercise, health and other life goals," says certified dietitian and Wisconsin Athletic Club nutrition director Kim Flannery.

However, what also comes around in the new year is a very black and white outlook that "tends to have the effect on the body of a lot of up and down health related things, weight in particular," she notes.

Diets simply do not work, Flannery says. As a dietitian and nutritionist, she works with many people who express frustrations and anger over their weight. "It takes a toll, especially for lifetime dieters...It just beats a person down after a while, such a feeling a failure."

Instead of returning to restrictive diets and trends, Flannery says, the key to long-term health is changing your outlook and making self-care a priority.

"If the self-care isn't there and you follow a plan, people will find they're constantly being derailed by life," she explains. "I think plans are great, but the externally based motivation of  an extreme or traditional diet just isn't all that effective [and] isn't a real good measure every time you get on the scale of what you've actually been doing."

Ultimately, Flannery says that changing your habits and behaviors to work toward the ultimate goal of a happier life with more control over your choices will generate long term-success. Simple changes could include recognizing your sources of stress and make changes to either lessen them.

Flannery's tools for mindfulness include:

  • Awareness - "Be aware of what's going on in the body and the mind and how certain foods affect you."
  • Stress Management - "Deep breathing is the most basic thing that we can do for calming ourselves. Research is showing that deep breathing is also great for restoring your will power."
  • Flexibility - "Diets are very black and white; good food/bad food, don't do this, do this. But...a bit of intelligent flexibility is really great and is going to help you towards your goals."
  • Self compassion - "[Be] able to forgive yourself for when things don't go exactly as planned. A huge derailer for people is the 'I blew it' kind of thing, because we fail ourselves so quickly."

"The main thing that determines who's going to be successful with health and weight loss and all of that is who's going to be able to keep going with this and learning, honestly. It's a life-long thing," says Flannery.

Although our society pushes instant results and trends, she notes that if you can get past the superficial and stay mindful of your choices, new healthier habits will come naturally along with weight loss.

"The weight loss will happen, don't worry about it," Flannery says. "It's going to be a side effect of your better self-care, your better lifestyle. It feels a lot more positive, it's going to be more fun, it's going to be less fearful. And once you do make those changes there's also going to be a lot less fear of gaining back the weight because you know you have those tools."