In an effort to achieve their ideal weight, Americans plunk down a staggering $65 billion a year on diet programs and services. The weight loss industry is fueled by numbers from the Centers for Disease Control that reveal that 69 percent of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight or obese.
Yet despite all those dollars spent, research studies show that although many people lose 5 to 10 percent of their starting weight in the first six months on a diet program, two-thirds of American dieters regain the weight within a year, and 97 percent gain it all back within five years.
Why? Diets don’t work.
Most diets are focused on calorie restriction and/or elimination of certain foods and do not focus enough on whole body wellness. Real sustainable weight loss doesn’t come in a package or through a program; it comes in the form of lifestyle reform. Need more proof? Here are my eight reasons why most diets fail.
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1. Unrealistic Dietary Restrictions
Many diets are doomed from the start because they are based on extreme restrictions in terms of calories or foods. No carb, high protein, low fat, all this, all that diets can become the diet of the month, depending upon which celebrities are endorsing them. These programs are very hard to maintain because they often ignore nutrition, so health can be compromised. Dieters on these extreme plans may see weight loss results fairly quickly, but they also feel deprived and depleted and cannot maintain the plan on a long-term basis. In reality, you need a variety of fresh foods to make sure your body gets the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it needs to function efficiently and effectively.
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2. Unhealthy Dietary Choices
Many diet programs feature food products that are about as far away from fresh, healthy whole foods as you can get. When you take a look at the label of diet food products, you are likely to see a list of additives, chemicals and flavorings. When you combine these unhealthy ingredients with low caloric intake overall, your body can be literally starving for the nutrients, enzymes and minerals that it needs to survive.
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3. Synthetic Supplements
In addition to packaged or frozen diet meals, many weight loss programs include the use of synthetic supplements or fat burners. Be very wary of over-the-counter and prescription diet aids that contain caffeine, phenylpropanolamine, ephedrine hydrochloride and phentermine/fenfluramine. These pills can cause a host of problems, including nervousness, irritability, restlessness, high blood pressure, insomnia, fatigue, hyperactivity and heart palpitations. Other symptoms can include headaches, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting and intestinal trouble.
The use of a diuretic or laxative in weight loss is not only dangerous, it can cause an ongoing rebound effect. By their very nature, laxatives and diuretics cause the body to lose fluid. Your body then reacts by retaining what fluid it can, which then can cause bloating, which in turn can cause the dieter to take more laxatives or diuretics. Keep in mind that caffeine is a drug that acts as a diuretic as well.
The best way to get the vitamins and nutrients you need is by consuming them in the package nature intended — that is by eating foods in their most natural state. Many diet meals artificially add vitamins, but when these nutrients are isolated from the food they come in — and possibly partnered with chemicals and solvents –our bodies cannot absorb them in the same way. The additives can actually cause more harm than good.
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4. Multiple Meals Throughout The Day
Many diet programs encourage participants to eat many small meals throughout the day. Although having six small meals may sound like a good way to keep from feeling hungry, it may serve to sabotage weight loss. What’s more, having to digest multiple meals throughout the day can be very taxing on your digestive system. When your digestive system is stressed, the secretion of ghrelin, a hormone that helps your body feel full after a meal, is hindered. As a result, you may crave more food, especially unhealthy options.
On the other hand, when you eat a plant-based diet rich in nutrients, you will feel fuller longer. Plant-based foods are considered quick-exit foods, meaning your body will need less time and energy to digest them. As a result, your body will have more energy to cleanse and renew cells.
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5. Lack Of Emphasis On Detoxification
An often overlooked aspect of staying lean and healthy is detoxification. A nutrition reform plan that results in sustained weight loss includes this cleansing process. As I always tell my patients and clients, “What you expel from your body is as important as what you put in it.” The typical American diet is loaded with fats, sugars, caffeine and processed foods. When you move towards a plant-based diet, you will begin to shed the toxins your body has stored from these ingredients. You will notice that pounds come off naturally as your body sheds the toxins. By drinking plenty of fresh, filtered water and organic vegetable and fruit juice, which will hydrate your cells and promote detoxification, you will be able to help this cleansing process work more effectively.
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6. Not Enough Exercise
Regular exercise is critical for long-term weight loss. The problem is that many weight loss programs leave dieters too weak and malnourished to have the energy to exercise optimally. The diet becomes a vicious circle of deprivation and exhaustion. I firmly believe that movement is medicine. Exercise is a great way to boost your metabolism and increase overall health. Exercise works to increase circulation and lymph functions and encourages the release of endorphins, hormones which help in the detoxification process. When you fuel your body with a healthy, nourishing plant-based diet, you will have the energy you need to exercise.
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7. Too Much “Unhealthy” Protein
The average American “meat and potatoes” diet contains an excessive amount of protein, and that excess has something to do with the obesity in our society. Our bodies need only a fixed amount of protein each day. Therefore, if you consume 100 grams of protein a day, but your body can only use 50 grams of it, your body will store the extra calories as fat.
A high-protein diet is not only difficult for the body to digest, but it can create too much acidity in the body. Excessive protein triggers inflammation and can lead to a buildup of amino acids, insulin or ammonia in your blood stream, according to a 2006 Australian research report published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. This excessive build-up can leave your body more susceptible to disease and illness. A diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains offers an ample supply of protein which the body can readily convert for energy and for new and repaired muscle tissue.
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8. Lack Of Knowledge About Healthy Eating Choices Away From Home
One of the big problems with embarking on a diet “program” as opposed to a reformed “lifestyle” is that you can easily fall off track when you are away from your normal routine. Many weight loss companies encourage you to eat “their” foods, so what happens when you are at a restaurant or on vacation? Even dieters with the strongest willpower can easily “fall off the wagon” when faced with a myriad of unhealthy but tempting menu choices.
According to a food and health survey conducted two years ago by the International Food Information Council Foundation, 52 percent of American adults believe it is easier to prepare their tax returns than to learn how to eat healthfully. This study shows that the ever-growing diet industry has done a great job of marketing.
Don’t be fooled or discouraged. It is possible to maintain your health and nutrition standards and eat out when you’re away from home or on vacation. It’s all about making smart meal choices, no matter what your options are. Always start every meal with a salad (opt for olive oil and vinegar instead of heavy dressings) or a satisfying plateful of vegetables, lightly sautéed or steamed, which will greatly aid the digestive process.
Educating yourself about plant-based food options and healthy substitutions will build up your confidence and help you maintain healthy eating habits for the long term. By feeding your body a diet rich in plant-based foods — coupled with exercising and detoxing regularly — rather than focusing on a certain number on the scale, you will ultimately achieve weight loss and whole-body wellness for the rest of your life.