Why I Hate Diets

I had a client recently who told me that she needed to figure out which “diet” would be best for her and wanted to see what I was about (i.e. would my plan and ideas work for her). Word to the wise, hearing this does not  make a dietitian happy (see this page for why dietitians are the nutrition experts).

Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried a diet. Raise your hand if you think you need to go on a diet. Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought of trying a diet. Hand raised yet? This is a subject that crosses just about everyone’s mind at one time or another. For those of you who have tried a diet… are you still on it? Did it work? And I don’t mean temporarily. I mean right now… did your diet work to the point that you are happy with where you are now?

I may ruffle a few feathers with this post. You may disagree with the things I have to say, but stay with me. There are 11 definitions for the word “diet” according to dictionary.com. I am suggesting that we discuss the word here with the first definition that pops into your mind. I’m betting to guess that it has something to do with weight loss. Am I wrong?

Here are 5 reason why I hate diets:

1. Diets don’t last.

Popular diets promise to produce results in a certain period of time. From 1 day to 2 weeks to 3 months, every time frame is out there. Let me get under your skin and challenge you to believe that you need to make changes that will last throughout your life. No, you do not need to diet for your whole life. But lasting weight loss and then weight maintenance requires making certain changes that can last. Yes, it can be hard work. Whenever behavior modification is involved, our human nature fights it. So hard work, yes. But the weight loss will occur and you will be able to keep if off for life.

2. Diets are associated with deprivation.

Diets tend to have periods of severe restriction of foods from eliminating carbs to replacing real food with a special “cleansing drink.” This is not sustainable. If a diet restricts 1 or more food groups, it is a fad diet and should not be trusted. period. All foods can fit into a healthy “diet (way of eating).” Restriction of food groups (even in phases) suggests that certain food groups make you gain weight. This is not true. When the number of calories you intake are more than the energy you burn, you will gain weight… not because of a specific food!

3. Diets promote unrealistic expectations.

If a diet promotes greater than 1-2 lbs weight loss per week, please don’t trust it. We aren’t on the Biggest Loser here. We aren’t working out 8 hours per day. So for the average individual it is extremely difficult to lose more than 1-2 pounds of true fat in a week. It takes a 3500 calorie deficit to lose 1 pound. Break that down into 7 days and you must eliminate 500 calories per day or exercise enough to burn an extra 500 calories per day above what you ingest. 500 calories a day is realistic. Some diets promise 10 pounds weight loss in the first week. I will promise you that the weight you are losing is mostly water weight and will come back on as soon as you get off that diet. Think 3500calories x 10lbs= 35,000 calories you need to eliminate in a week for true weight loss. That’s a 5000 calorie deficit per day. Not realistic.

4. Diets aren’t individualized.

Why in the world would you want to read a book that 1 million people are also reading and think that it will work (long term) for every single one of those people.You are an individual. No one else has your exact body (twins come close 🙂 ). No one else has your metabolism or body type or composition. Certainly there are principles that are good advice for most, but those principles still look different for each person. This is why a dietitian should be your greatest resource. An RD gets to look at you, talk to you, evaluate and assess your lifestyle and give you ideas for what may work best for you. Your dietitian can give you a plan especially designed for you. That should excite you! Of course, we make suggestions and may have to adjust these based on the results we see, but that’s the beauty of seeing a nutrition expert. We can make it work!

5. Diets imply desperation.

When do you try a diet? When you’re at the end of your rope? When you decide that you don’t like the way your body looks or how you feel? Business Week reported that $40 billion a year is spent on weight-loss programs and products. Why are they making so much money? People are desperate. Can we both agree that the diets aren’t working? In a perfect world we could all learn proper healthy eating strategies so that we never get to the point where we need to lose weight. Well, this isn’t a perfect world. So here we are and you feel helpless. Ditch the diet! Find a way to make small changes that will add up. Is it quick? No. But it will work. Oh, and try to visit a dietitian if you want some help along the way 🙂


Thank you for letting me rant. I hope this is more encouraging for you than the opposite. I want you to know that things can change. Popular is not always best. You can do it! And I’m here to help!

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