“Weight Watchers definitely works though, because I lost weight when I did it,” she earnestly told me.
“And then what happened?” I asked her, although I already knew the answer. It was the same answer every yo-yo dieting client has ever given me.
“Well, I did put the weight back on but that’s only because I couldn’t stick to it. It definitely works, I just didn’t have enough self control.”
This answer kills me. Every. Single. Time.
The success rate of dieting is 3%. That means that 97% of people who diet will put on the weight they lose, plus a little bit more, within three years. These diets are designed to be so restrictive you can’t stick to it. But with some effective brainwashing, the people doing the diet think that it’s their fault they couldn’t lowkey starve themselves longterm. So they’ll do the diet again.
And that’s how the industry came to be worth $153 billion. That’s BILLION. With a B. It’s worth so much money because of repeat business. You doing the diet over and over and over again because “It works, I just couldn’t stick to it.”
When you go on a restrictive diet, your body kicks into gear to stop you losing weight. This makes sense, because weight loss back in caveman times was not a sign that things were going well for you. Quite the opposite in fact. So your hunger hormones are going to ramp up, your fullness hormones dampen down, and your metabolism slow down. Your body is trying to protect you from losing weight.
But beyond the physical side of dieting, restrictive diets damage your relationship with food and your body. If you’ve ever dieted you already know this. You get obsessed with every calorie. You become more and more dissatisfied with your body. And more and more stress hormones flood your system, making it even harder to lose weight.
But the biggest thing for my clients is this: denying yourself food when you’re so hungry means your body loses trust that you will feed it. And the longer that hunger is denied, the harder it is to rebuild that trust. When you do eat, your body naturally wants you to binge out, so it can get every calorie it possibly can, because it has no idea when you will properly feed it again.
This leads to intense feelings of shame and guilt, which leads to another diet. And in this way, you can get stuck in the diet cycle and remain stuck. For years.
“Let me ask you something,” I said to my client. “If you couldn’t stick to the diet, if it was so restrictive that it was ridiculously hard to stick to, did it actually work?
“Did you fail the diet? Or did the diet fail you?”
She knew the answer. And the answer helped her to escape from the diet cycle she had been trapped in for so long.