Why Can’t I Diet? – 1/7

by | Mar 19, 2020


If you are reading this then at some point in your life you have dieted, and the diet has not worked because if it had, you would not be reading this! When I say not worked I mean you lost the weight, then kept it off!

There are many reasons why someone struggles to follow a diet and over the years I have observed first hand the main problems people face. Everyone is of course unique and needs helping in different ways but there are a few underlying elements here that can help everyone.

The biggest obstacle for most dieters is expectation. They expect too much from both the diet and their body. They chase the 5lb a week loss on the scales and when that figure starts to reduce and slow down they lose faith and give up. Everyone wants it quickly (like yesterday) and I am the same when I have dieted previously but you need to understand how the body works to realise this isn’t possible.

In your first week of dieting nearly everyone will get a great loss on the scales. Predominantly this is a water loss as the body rebalances it’s glycogen levels (fuel stored in the muscles and liver). Every molecule of glycogen that is stored in your body has attached to it a number of water molecules too. As your stored levels of glycogen reduce so does the attached water and this results in quite  a substantial loss on the scales overall.

Water loss is neither here or there, it just is. It’s not a good thing and it’s not a bad thing. When dieting you should only be interested in fat loss, not scale weight.

However after the first week, and the associated euphoria of losing so much weight and OMG this diet is amazing etc etc things start to drop back to realistic figures. In order to nail this we will look at the mathematics:

(the following is very generalised and not 100% scientifically accurate but sufficient for our purposes)

  • 1lb of fat stores approximately 3500 calories.
  • So to lose 1lb of fat, you need to create a shortfall in your diet (from either the food you eat or the energy you burn) of 3500 calories.

So to lose the typical 2lb per week you need to burn off ( or eat less ) 7000 calories per week. This equates as 1000 calories a day less than you are currently eating. That is a LOT. If we assume on a typical day you are currently eating 2000 calories now and doing no exercise then all of a sudden in order to consistently lose 2lb a week you need to either drop your food intake IN HALF to 1000 calories per day or drop by a quarter, to 1500 calories per day, and do an hours exercise, burning 500 calories, every single day, for the entire lifespan of the diet.

It’s not going to happen.

Problem 1 is that if you drop to 1000 calories per day that in itself will stall your weight loss very quickly ( This is covered in Part 2 of this series ).

Problem 2 is that an hours exercise every single day is not realistic for the majority of people

So now the actual physics of achieving a regular 2lb a week loss is not realistically achievable, and that is the problem. You are hoping for and expecting say 2lb a week, but the work involved in actually achieving it is too much.

You are trying to lose the weight far quicker than it took for it to go on in the first place and that isn’t always realistic.


Firstly, understand that weight loss will NEVER be quick, except in extreme circumstances and even then it does NOT stay off. Ever. The body is smart and does not like change. It likes balance (homeostasis). Inevitably it will lose weight if you force it to do so ( people would not die of starvation otherwise ) but as soon as you return to normal eating it will attempt to regain most if not all of the weight you lost because in a nutshell it happened too quickly. You didn’t give it time to adjust to it’s new state.

  1. Set more realistic targets. Expect a fantastic first month, 10lb is quite realistic but then afterwards you should expect that figure to drop to between 5lb and 7lb per month. No matter how you do the mathematics or plan it out that is actually what will happen. It just will, and I have seen it more times and in more people than almost everyone reading this post.
  2. When you accept that those levels are going to be your actual loss then you can stop being so extreme on your efforts. An hours exercise per day is too much for most people, and a 1000 calories per day is too little to eat. Neither of these levels are sustainable and will quickly end in failure. Meaning of course the diet has failed.

Get your head around the fact that dieting WILL take longer than you think. It ALWAYS does, so set your expectations over the longer term so as to avoid being disappointed.

It is better to lose 1lb a week over 3 months than it is to lose 8lb over 2 weeks and then cave in because it was unsustainable. A lot of people reading this will have been dieting most of their adult lives and if they had only stuck to the first diet they ever did but had more realistic expectations the odds are they would have succeeded and been finished with dieting years ago.

I’ve had clients steadily lose 1lb a week and been ridiculed by their friends and colleagues that the diet I had given them was not very good because they were getting 5lb and 6lb per week from their diets! However a few months down the line when my clients are still regularly delivering weight losses and those same friends and colleagues have long fallen off their ‘unrealistic’ plans because it was too extreme’ who is the actual winner?

LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS, that way the diet will always deliver, which means you will stick to it, which means you will eventually lose your weight, which means no more dieting, and that is where real living actually begins….