Stop Blaming Yourself When a Diet Fails! What you should really be focusing on so you achieve your goals.

behavior change dieting Jul 07, 2020

As a health coach and clinical nutritionist, I've seen it....a MILLION times (only slightly exaggerating). A perspective client will come to me, feeling so low and defeated. They tell me they've done Keto, and Whole30, and Weight Watchers, and Atkins, and Paleo, and any and all other fill-in-the-blank diets that are constantly thrown out into the media as the "cure" for weight gain. They tell me they've failed. And nothing works. And they feel so hopeless. To which I reply, "friend, the diet did it's job then." 

A diet is not designed for the long haul. No. None of them. Not even that one your sister or neighbor swear by. If it was then you wouldn't be here reading this. Somewhere along the lines, a diet failed you (notice how I phrased that?). You may have seen a few pounds drop. Maybe you even saw a significant amount of weight loss. At some point though, something changed and you may have gained some, or all, or all and then some back. Do you want to know why? It's because that diet didn't address the ROOT of the weight gain in the first place. 

It's easy to self-sabotage and say "I just wasn't disciplined enough". Ohhhhh Friend!!! This is the quickest way to get me to verbally slap you with some facts and love.


Nothing breaks my heart more than people truly thinking they've failed at something that wasn't achievable to begin with. Ok, seeing a sad puppy breaks my heart more, but you get my point. I'm going to scream this as loud as my computer will let me type: IT'S NOT YOU IT'S THE DIET!!!!

The diet industry is not in the business of healing people and holding their hand as they do some internal work on themselves in order to have a better relationship with food (that's my job but I digress). The diet industry is a business and is solely focused on making money. That may be a bold statement and I'm fully anticipating some hate mail but think about it. In what other industry do companies put out a product that they know won't work long-term and get no reprimand for it? Are they factoring in your personal health history, needs, and lifestyle to make sure it's a good fit? Nope. Are they selling something that statistically won't work after 5 years? Yep. Do they get in trouble or looked down upon for doing any of it? Naw. Do their consumers blame THEMSELVES when the product (diet) doesn't work? YES! How backwards is that?!

And don't get me started on weight loss shakes. Ok, I've started. There are few things in this world that I hate more than weight loss shakes. If you have been one of the unfortunate (or fortunate?) ones to hear me rant about these #sorrynotsorry . Let me tell you why these are the WORST. 1. It doesn't address the root cause of what's causing the weight in the first place. 2. Expecting someone to drink liquid meals for 2-3 meals per day is absurd. 3. Restriction NEVER results in long-term success. Ever. 4. It's expensive and doesn't work, but you blame yourself. 

Since opening my own practice I have had no shortage of shake pushers trying to convince me that THEIR product is not like that and THEIR'S is the best. Nope. It's not. I don't care how many vitamins and minerals it has added to it, if it's causing someone to restrict, it's not going to work. Now, I want to be clear. There is absolutely room in someone's life for a protein shake or smoothie. Sometimes mornings are a rush and it's the only thing you can grab. Having one after a workout is great as well for fast nutrients to tired muscles. It's the forcing someone to ONLY have that so they can see weight loss is what I'm so wholeheartedly against. I don't necessarily blame the shake pushers. It most likely is currently "working" for them and that's why they chose to sell it. I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer but it will ultimately fail them too. There is nothing magic in those shakes, friends. They don't have the key to sustainable weight loss. They don't address the real issue and the companies know that. It's the product companies I blame. 

So you may be thinking, OK, Steph, we get it. You hate the diet industry. What is your point and what can we actually DO to reach our goals. It's simple. Find the root cause of the weight gain and correct it. I could almost feel you all grumble when you read that. OK, it SEEMS simple, but this is in fact a very tricky thing. Let me go over a couple of the most common root causes of weight gain.

Root Cause #1: Hormones. These tricky buggers is usually where I start first with clients. Key ones to pay attention to are cortisol, insulin, and every single one involved with your thyroid (TSH, T4, T3, free T4, free T3, Reverse T3). This isn't even including,  the hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone which can also cause weight issues. There are others involved of course too but starting here is usually a good first step. When these are off, your body can be in a state of crisis (kind of dramatic sounding I know) and store weight. I should also point out that finding the cause of why these are off is highly recommended. 

Root Cause #2: Lifestyle. Lifestyle involves not only nutrition and movement, but it also involves stress and sleep. In my experience it is not a lack of education around these components, it's how to get them all balanced with the demands placed on you. This is where working with a coach can come in handy. For some though, it involves a bit of identifying the best way to fuel YOUR body. For example, some people need protein and lower carbs first thing in the morning in order to boost their energy and sustain them. Other people need higher carbs first thing and moderate protein to feel that same way. Figuring out how your body functions the best is a critical step. 

Root Cause #3: Gut health. I will make a whole separate blog post about gut health because it is such an important topic. I can't even put into words how important having a healthy gut is so I'll just bullet point it. The gut:

  • absorbs most nutrients. Nutrient deficiencies lead to hormone deficiencies and fatigue.
  • converts thyroid hormone to a usable form. If this doesn't occur it can send your thyroid out of whack and cause weight issues.
  • is responsible for much of the immune system. If not working properly can cause illness and fatigue.
  • produces most of the serotonin (happy feelings) in the body.
  • has a direct connection with your brain (read: brain fog and cranky mood can be a result if the good bacteria is off)
  • helps move toxins out of the body.

You probably get the point. The gut is super important and can tell a lot about the state of the person. 

Root Cause #4: Inflammation. Think about this for a minute. Have you ever eaten foods you don't normally eat and then felt terrible the next day? Let's say you had fried food and soda for dinner. The next morning you wake up and you notice a 4 lb weight gain on the scale (don't get me started on scales). Did you eat 4 lbs worth of calories the day before? Probably not (that's 14,000 by the way). This would likely upset you to see on the scale and you may think, oh it's because of water retention from the high sodium foods. Well, this could be. It could also be that your body was exposed to chemicals in the fried food, which it didn't recognize as food, (because they are chemicals). When the body doesn't recognize something as food it sends it's army, the immune system, to attack whatever it is. The immune system increases inflammation to help protect the body (but consequently makes it feel terrible). When tissues are inflamed there is an increase in fluids within the tissue which can sometimes show up on the scale. Just something to consider. 

Root cause #5: Your mindset. Let me tell you about a study that was conducted called the Minnesota Starvation study. Back in 1944, Ancel Keys, PhD wanted to study the mental effects of hunger on 36 men. You can read more about it here but let me sum it up. Over the course of about a year, the participants went from a normal diet of 3200 calories (normal for the men of that age), to a diet of 1500. What was discovered was that in the semi-starvation stage, the men noticed a decrease in heart rate, energy, sex drive, mood, and also they became obsessed with food. They reported dreaming and fantasizing about it! Now, keep in mind, they were still eating 1500 calories per day. Think about what a typical "diet" limits you to per day. Probably even less than that. The point is, when we are restricted, our bodies rebel, they are put into a survival mode, it sends signals for food (in the form of cravings and thoughts) and it's only a matter of time before you "give in" to a craving. When you are finally granted access to the "forbidden" food, it's only natural that you will over consume it. 

So if you've made it this far in this post, you hopefully understand that diets do not address the root cause of weight gain. Putting yourself in a restrictive mindset not only feels cruddy, but has physiological responses in the body that is like a ticking time bomb. I truly hope you are starting to realize that there is a reason you haven't seen sustainable results on the diets you have tried and I'd be happy to help you through some lasting change. Schedule a free 20 minute session with me to talk over your goals and how I can help. 

And remember, you absolutely can figure out the root of your symptoms! Talk with a nutrition professional who can help you figure it all out and put together a game plan that will address all of the root causes, help heal your body, but most importantly, heal your relationship with food.


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