Enemies of A Successful Diet

By Jean Antonello, RN, BSN, obesity and eating disorders specialist and author of The Great Big Diet Lie, How to Become Naturally Thin® by Eating More, Breaking Out of Food Jail and Naturally Thin® Kids,

If you’re trying to lose weight by dieting, watch out for these three stumbling blocks. They’ll trip you up sooner or later, and your diet—all that pain and effort—will surely go to waist.

Diet Enemy #1: Excessive Hunger

Excessive hunger is not a normal state. It precipitates such symptoms as headache, poor concentration, irritability, shakiness, palpitations, fatigue, and depression. Obviously, it is something to avoid!

Excessive hunger can be prevented by eating on time—right when you get hungry or soon thereafter. There’s no other way, and really, there’s no better way. But dieters hate to eat while they’re on a diet, and tend to ignore hunger until it is intense or excessive. They think that the less they eat, the more they’ll lose in the least amount of time. Unfortunately, there are many bad side effects with this approach. Excessive hunger is the first and worst. Ultimately, it leads to overeating, weight gain and diet failure.

Diet Enemy #2: Unrealistic Expectations

Most dieters think that if they eat sensibly—eating balanced portions of good food when they get hungry—they will gain weight, but they never really try it for any significant amount of time. They may start out that way, and in two days the scale goes up. “I knew it. I just knew it,” they say. “See, I’ve gained. I can’t eat at all without gaining.” What they don’t realize is that weight is not gained or lost permanently in two days. Two months, yes, but not two days.

This is an important point. The scale is not a god, sending divine judgment on your efforts to get thin. It is only an instrument which reflects general trends upward or downward. On a day-to-day basis, it is affected by salt and fluid intake/output more than anything else. You can’t go by it. Perhaps month to month, but not day to day.

Permanent weight loss takes time. If you expect it to go fast, you’re bound to lose the diet game and gain it all back.

Diet Enemy #3: Dieters Don’t Know What Normal Eating Looks Like

Another problem for overweight people on traditional diets is that they never learn what normal eating actually looks like. A typical diet is simply not normal eating. Sometimes they have studied dieting so long that their notion of a normal portion is actually too small to satisfy their needs. Sometimes, because of chronic dieting, they find that normal amounts of food are inadequate to satisfy their excessive hunger. And often these dieters come from overweight families where eating is never normal; either dieting family members frequently eat too little food or far too much. So new, improved diets just keep giving them extreme ideas of what “normal eating” should be like.

Why Diets That Work for a While Eventually Fail

What’s wrong with a typical weight loss diet?

First, the diet is artificial. It typically differs so much from a person’s typical eating patterns that dieters cannot learn it well enough to replace a lifetime of other eating habits.

Second, the weight loss is usually too fast and often seems too slow to the dieter. Physical changes are often not dramatic enough compared to the tremendous hunger and self-restraint the dieter must withstand. Compliments are scarce. The menu is dull. Consequently, the dieter gets bored, tired of the suffering and impatient for a size 10.

Third, the diet is not her own. Somebody else made it up. Somebody else doesn’t have the foggiest idea about her hunger, habits, health, work, or home situation. She is not entirely responsible for her own weight loss as long as she is on someone else’s diet.

Fourth, when her motivation is low and hunger is high, there’s nobody around to help her get through, to build her sagging spirits, to bolster her courage. If there is a supportive person or group, they are as misguided as the dieter. The do not understand their bodies, even if they are slim, and they do not understand what causes bodies to be overweight.

Fifth, food is a source of fear. This factor is extremely powerful yet often completely ignored. The fear of eating is nurtured by traditional diets, which support the fallacy that eating too much, by itself, causes obesity. If this were true, controlled eating, or eating less consistently (traditional dieting) would automatically lead to thinness. We all know this isn’t true either. The fear of eating, even the most healthful foods in normal amounts, keeps anxious dieters eating too little food while they try to lose weight. This leads to excessive hunger which, eventually, leads full circle to overeating and weight gain.

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