• icon01January 29, 2015
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Two out of five will quit within the first seven days, and only one in five will make it three months (1).

Of those who do manage to stick to their diets and lose weight after a few months, the majority—80 to 90 percent—will regain all their weight and more. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity adds even more pessimism to these diet fail numbers. Researchers found that only three percent of subjects maintained their weight loss after five years (2). Most had bounced back to where they started, or worse, gained weight.

What’s wrong with diets? Why don’t they work?

The weight cycling problem stems from the very way diet is defined. It usually refers to a temporary change with an end in sight—a fad. Instead of steady, healthy weight loss, many turn to unhealthy fad diets for immediate gratification. While weight may be lost rapidly with most fad diets, it’s likely to creep back on once normal eating resumes. Weight regain is not simply due to lack of willpower, as some claim. There are real physical consequences of fad dieting that set dieters up for failure. Here’s a look at four ways fad diets alter body physiology, and why it’s almost impossible to maintain weight loss on these diets:
Diet Fail Reason #1:

Muscle loss.

Restrictive fad diets put the body in a catabolic state, which causes tissue breakdown that affects both fat and muscle. The typical dieter engaging in calorie restriction loses 75 percent of their weight as fat and 25 percent as muscle (3). Dieting can have an even more drastic impact on muscle status. Dieters may be impressed with the quick weight loss on a typical fad diet; however, a majority of it could be muscle mass
Diet Fail Reason #2:

Slow metabolism.

Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, meaning it takes more energy (calories) to be maintained. Fad diets that result in muscle loss ultimately reduce metabolism, making it difficult to maintain weight loss. Additionally, strictly reducing calorie intake slows down metabolism in an effort to conserve energy—a mechanism that helped humans survive through times of famine. When metabolism slows and the body becomes more efficient at using energy, it doesn’t burn the calories needed to reach weight-loss goals and instead encourages weight gain.
Diet Fail Reason #3:

Depriving the body of essential nutrients.

Fad diets are often devoid of essential vitamins and minerals, which may lead to significant side effects—including irritability, headaches, mood swings, mental fatigue, and digestive upset—and serious long-term consequences. For example, extremely low-fat diets can interfere with
absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Low-fat dieters commonly lack adequate amounts of essential fatty acids needed for many organ systems in the body including heart and brain.

Diet Fail Reason #4:

Poor satiety.

Satiety (feeling full) is regulated by appetite hormones, namely leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is produced by fat cells and sends signals to the brain to reduce food intake when a person is full. Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone” and is produced primarily by the stomach and intestinal tract and initiates the cascade of events that signal hunger. According to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the off-and-on experience for dieters may be due in part to the persistence of hormones that drive the urge to eat (4). Perhaps even more surprising, alterations in appetite hormones were still seen in dieters a year after restrictive dieting.
Despite that, the failure of dieting has not stopped dieters from trying. In fact for 2014, the weight-loss industry is predicted to be worth $60.5 billion (5).
While fad diets claim to be the solution to sustained weight loss, science supports healthy lifestyle changes and balanced diets people can adhere to long term.
Ditch fad diets and commit to a healthy lifestyle for weight loss that can be maintained.

And remember, if you have any questions at all, I am always here to talk or simply Click here to email with your questions and I will reply to you.


Margaret McNamara


1. UK Department of Healthy. National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Retrieved on December 11, 2014 from
2. Kramer FM, et al. Long-term follow-up of behavioral treatment for obesity: Patterns of weight regain among men and women. Int J Obesity, 1989:13(2);123-36.
3. Varady K. Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss. Obes Rev, 2011.
4. Sumithran P, Prendergast LA, Delbridge E, et al. Long-tern persistence of hormonal adaptations to weight loss. New Eng J Med, 2011:365:1597-1604.
5. Bharat Book Bureau. The US weight loss market: 2014 status report and forecast. Retrieved on December 11, 2014 from


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