Why Diets Don't Work

I'm going to sum up all of the diet and nutrition books in existence into one sentence.  Ready?  Here it is:

In order to lose weight, you must consume less calories than you burn.

That's it!  That's the law of energy balance and that's the only way that you will lose weight.  If it's that simple, then why is the diet industry a multi-billion dollar industry?  Why are there so many types of diets out there and why don't they work?  Well, as they say, the devil is in the details.

I'm going to walk you through the typical dieting experience and show you why they don't work and why you'll end up more overweight at the end of the diet than you were when you started!

Let's say that the graph above represents the typical dieter.  They're consuming around 2500 calories per day while their metabolism is burning a little less than that, therefore they're steadily gaining weight and decide to go on a diet.  Let's say that they decide to cut their calories drastically and only consume 1500 calories per day.

Because they lowered the number of calories consumed and they are now burning more calories than they consume, they will see some initial weight loss.  That's the law of energy balance that I mentioned at the beginning of this article.  However there's something that you should know about your body.  It loves homeostasis and will try to do everything it can to maintain that consistency.  When you drastically cut your calories, your body will start to notice that you're losing calories too fast and fear that you may starve soon if you continue losing calories at this rate.  So as a way to counteract this cut in calories, you body will lower your metabolism so that you aren't burning so many calories.

If you've ever dieted, you've probably noticed that you will lose some weight initially, but even though your consistently eating fewer calories than you burn, you're not consistently losing weight.  Eventually your weight loss will slow down and even stop.  This is because your metabolism has adjusted to the new lower calorie diet that you're on.  Out of desperation, our dieter decides to once again lower their calories to 1000 calories per day.

Once again, they will see a little initial weight loss.  However, the body will soon catch up and lower your metabolism once again.

At this point the dieter is starving from consuming so few calories each day, they're angry that they're not losing weight, and they decide to throw in the towel.  They give up on their diet and go back to eating what they were eating before the diet and increase their calories consumed back up to 2500.

But, now look at the graph above.  Their metabolism is still very low from their dieting, however their calories consumed is much higher.  So, even though they're eating the same number of calories that they were before the diet, they gain back all of the weight that they lost and then some!  They end up heavier than they were before they went on the diet!  This is why diets are a bad idea and don't work.


But, don't give up!  There are ways to safely lose weight without lowering your metabolism.  I'll explore some of these in detail in future articles, but here are a few ways that you can safely lose weight without "dieting":

  1. HIIT Cardio - High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Cardio has been proven to burn fat faster than other types of cardio and even continues to burn fat after you're done exercising. 
  2. Fasted Training - Training when your insulin levels are at their baseline is called fasted training.  Your body breaks down and burns more fat when you are in a fasted state than when you are in a fed state.
  3. Calorie Cycling - You can cut your calories drastically in order to lose weight as long as you don't do it for a long period of time.  Calorie cycling involves having a 2-3 day period of low calorie days, followed by a 2-3 day period of normal calorie days.  This way you aren't in a calorie deficit long enough to lower your metabolism, but you still benefit from the lower calorie days.
  4. Gradual Calorie Cut - If you don't cut your calories drastically, you can still lose weight by gradually cutting your calories.  Start by cutting your calories by 100 or 200 calories.  That's small enough that it won't send your body into a panic and lower your metabolism.
  5. Intermittent Fasting - Intermittent Fasting is a pattern of eating that allows your body to temporarily be in a fasted state.  Typically, you will fast for 16 hours each day, and eat for 8.  You still consume the same number of calories that you would in a normal day, you just consume them all within that 8 hour period.

There are many other ways to safely lose weight without lowering your metabolism, but these are just a few examples.

Hopefully you now understand why diets don't work and you know some correct ways to lose weight.  If you'd like more information about anything in this article, feel free to email me at michael@uproarathletics.com.  Also be sure to check out the rest of the Uproar Athletics website for athletic apparel, online personal coaching, and nutrition plans customized specifically for you.  


Michael McGill

Uproar Athletics

Michael McGill
Michael McGill


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