Why your diet isn't working
If you’re reading this in hopes of discovering the single detail that evokes an “AH-HA!” moment and instantly sends you into diet and nutrition perfection, you won’t find that here.
This article is more about bringing awareness to a few things that compliment, or counteract, your nutrition efforts – things that could be the catalyst for achieving the desired result or not.
Getting it out there...front and center: dieting success in NEVER all about food.
It’s imperative you have an awareness of your current health status, take into account your diet history, understand your current external and internal stressors (exercise & activity are included here), and grasp the importance of hormonal and physiological balance.
While manipulation of your caloric intake will definitely “work” for weight-loss, it only works until it doesn’t.
‘Calories in’ vs. ‘calories out’ is a basic concept. If weight-loss is the goal a caloric deficit must be achieved.
However, creating a caloric deficit in an environment where the body is primed for failure rather than success will leave you frustrated and/or physiologically destined for more failure.
Wait….this all sounds complicated and bleak?
It’s really not that complicated, and the results you desire are largely obtainable with a solid platform built for success. Stick with me here and let’s tackle the basics.
1) Understand your current health status – without an awareness of your current position, you’ll be guessing…and, guessing never equates to long-term success.
What are the factors within your past and present health profile that may need to be addressed FIRST as a means to achieve the desired result? Are you on medications that could impact your desired result? Is your body sending you signals that suggest you may not be operating well metabolically? How is your digestion and elimination? What are your sleep patterns past and present?
These things are all very personal.
Applying a general diet protocol without examining and adjusting to the above factors as an individual will delay and/or limit your success.
2) Take into account your diet history – the diets you have practiced and/or attempted in the past absolutely impact your ability to achieve dietary success now.
What do you mean?
Presently the diet & weight-loss industry is producing information and marketing to the masses at an all time high. Diets are marketed under the pretenses of maximum fat loss, boosts in cognitive ability, and reversal of disease, and tugging at people’s heart strings of emotion and instant gratification. Every time you participate in one of these “diets” you create an adaptation. With the adaptation comes a new part of your diet history and this is important to take into account.
Let me explain:
You’re told, “carbs are the devil.”
You believe this and eliminate this critical macronutrient from your diet.
This creates a caloric deficit and you lose weight.
But, you find this new practice tough to maintain because while you want to hate carbohydrate and all its evilness, your family doesn’t want to give up carbohydrate, socially you feel weird when eating out with friends and family because of your “special needs,” and there seems to be this growing desire or craving to consume carbohydrate again (this is natural by the way).
You begin to eat carbohydrate again. You gain weight. And, this time you gain back a few more pounds than you had weighed previously.
After some level of frustration, you return to what “worked” previously…the elimination of carbohydrate (you create a caloric deficit).
But, this time you jump on the Keto-train. Immediately you begin drop a few pounds in the first week.
You “feel” GREAT! The scale is validating your efforts and Keto is the new answer.
You’re on the way to dietary victory, right?!
What you don’t realize is that the weight you’ve lost is the water it takes to process the carbohydrate you’re NOT eating (it takes 2.7g of water to process 1.0g of carbohydrate). You’ve eliminated the need for the water so your body down regulates it from your systems.
The new number on the scale fuels your enthusiasm and your compliance to the new diet. Life is good!
Then you get bored…decide your hard work deserves a reward…and you slide some more calories back into the diet. And, perhaps some of that forbidden carbohydrate…because you “deserve it.”
You gain weight.
However, this time you gain back more weight than ever.
Because during the above process you have done two things: you increased both the number AND size of the fat cells you started with way back in the beginning!
The constant attempts to change your physical appearance without properly addressing proper physiological foundations have left you in a worse position than when you started. (see Metabolic Adaptation)
When you have a history like the above, or worse, can you see the tough position you’ve found yourself in?
Whatever diet programming you employ, recognize that your diet history will largely govern how you respond physiologically and physically.
3) You’re not respecting the stress you’re under - Only focusing on the variable of calorie manipulation…the diet… as a means to create a desired physical adaptation will ultimately leave you short of successful.
In previous articles we’ve explained the concept of stress as it relates to adaptation.
This is a basic concept -
Create a stress…like weight training…and the body adapts to that stress: increased strength, endurance, hypertrophy, etc. We control this particular kind of stress through variables like training frequency, intensity, volume, and exercise selection.
What’s less easy to control are variables not so visible, obvious, or apparent. Nonetheless, they can and will impact your ability to create adaptation and/or desired result.
Environmental, work, and life (financial, family, relationships, etc.) stressors can create physiological limitations for losing weight effectively and should be accounted. Managing these types of stressors should be as much of a focus in your dietary protocol/plan as the training variables mentioned above. Too much un-mitigated or improperly balanced stress creates an imbalance in the regulatory systems responsible for managing metabolic hormones, sex hormones, and thyroid function. This imbalance can create a down-regulation of hormone production and can be described as HPA Axis Dysfunction.
Programming your diet and exercise plan to stay balanced in light of the above is critical to long-term success.
Achieving and maintaining a healthy hormonal and physiological balance should be a major focus in your total plan. Plan to adjust your workout intensity following a poor night’s sleep. Practice meditation to help reduce the non-visible stressors you’re faced with weekly. Work to minimize the persistent stressors in your life while implementing modalities that help you stay balanced.
- Understand your uniqueness as it relates to appropriateness of your chosen diet plan.
- Be acutely aware of your personal platform for success.Your diet history may pre-dispose you to certain limiting factors that need to be addressed immediately from the start.
- Manage the invisible stressors as closely and diligently as you manage the training and diet variables.
Dieting doesn’t have to be so complicated! You’re not a failure because you struggled in the past and you’re struggling now to achieve dietary success. You don’t have to navigate the journey alone. Consider nutrition coaching and don’t be afraid to ask for help!