Why diets don’t work.
Last Updated on October 18, 2023
Why don’t diets work? If you type this question into Google, you’ll find reasons ranging from “they aren’t sustainable!” to “they don’t work because people don’t stick to them!” But in truth, the answer—specifically as it applies to those who are overweight (particularly people with a BMI above 30)—is extraordinarily complicated. We’re learning new things every single day, but all of the research to date points to two core reasons why diets don’t work in the long term.
1. Your body thinks you’re starving.
Our bodies have evolved over thousands of years to prevent us from starving to death. Historically, our ancestors did not have access to enough food, and because our bodies are miraculous machines, they evolved to protect us from starvation. Now, decades later, we do have access to enough (arguably too much) food, but the mechanisms that our bodies developed haven’t changed.
Thanks to these mechanisms, when you’re overweight or obese, your body doesn’t see this as a problem. Instead, it recognizes this as a good sign that you’re not going to starve, and resets your “natural” weight at this higher range. Now, when you start dieting and decreasing the amount of food you’re eating, your body doesn’t recognize this as “getting healthier”, it mistakenly thinks you must not have access to enough food, and that evolutionary system kicks in to keep you from “starving”. Now, this doesn’t mean you’ll be unable to lose weight at all. In fact, all of my patients have lost weight many times in their lives… but they always gain it back. Arguably the most frustrating part is that the more you diet and lose weight, the harder your body works to bring you back up to your “new normal” by doing things like slowing your metabolism, and producing hormones that make you feel hungry.
2. You’re addicted to food.
If you’re addicted to food, a diet won’t work. Many of my patients are compulsive eaters who are addicted to food in the same way others are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or gambling. It’s impossible to address this addiction with a diet alone given everything we discussed above about the way our bodies work. We have to address the root problem: the fact that your body is not functioning properly. Luckily, this can be addressed with surgery.
What it comes down to is this: the likelihood of someone who is overweight or obese losing the majority of their excess weight with diet and exercise alone and keeping it off long term, is close to zero. If you’re looking to put an end to the weight loss cycle, reach out today to learn more about bariatric sleeve surgery.