Causes: Why Even the Best Diets Don’t Work

There are two main reasons why diets fail:

#1: The body has extremely potent anti-starvation mechanisms, developed over millions of years of food scarcity.  The body and brain will do everything they can to slow metabolism, retain fat and get you to eat more.  Thing is, the last 200-300 years have brought worldwide industrialization and the new problem of food excess, which ironically now threatens our health as much as starvation has for the past 6 or 7 million years.

Here’s the rub- true biological adaptation to our environment is a sloooooow process.  300evolution years is nothing in terms of biological adaptation (what some might call ‘evolution’).  Our bodies and brains are still wired to protect against weight loss (starvation), which appears to be regardless of how much we weigh.  This point bears repeating- no matter how much we weigh, our bodies have extremely powerful anti-starvation mechanisms that will kick in immediately when we try to lose weight.

There is a caveat; these anti-starvation mechanisms kick in for obese people immediately (literally minutes) upon restricting caloric intake if and only if the individual has been obese for an extended period of time.  That means that people who gain a lot of weight rapidly (eg, pregnant women) and then lose it rapidly will be able to do so with relative ease.  After a while (likely 1y + but depends on individual), however, these anti-starvation mechanism get “reset” to the higher body weight and are triggered immediately when the individual begins to diet.  Once that happens, weight loss becomes the perpetual struggle that most obese people are familiar with.  It is not impossible but individuals in this situation must be prepared to work very hard and change habits for lifeChanging habits for a little while and losing a little weight in this scenario will not work because the body will do everything it can to assist in regaining that weight.

#2: This brings us to the 2nd reason why diets fail.  Almost all diets have something in common- one way or another, they tell people not to eat certain things and encourage eating more of other things.  The problem is, the certain things most diets tell us not to eat are the really delicious things that we love (pepperoni pizza, cheeseburgers, fries, hot fudge sundaes, etc) and the certain things most diets tell us to eat more of are typically not what we scientists would refer to as “hedonically pleasurable.”  Look at some diet recipes.  When was the last time you heard anyone say, “I am dying for some zucchini casserole right now!”?  And who wants to eat quinoa and chia seeds instead of pizza every day for the rest of their lives???

This is the concept behind Don’t Just Diet.  Through cutting edge research on how the Crack_Crackbrain controls food intake, we have learned that palatable (delicious) food can be as rewarding to the brain as drugs and sex.  Go find a crack addict and see if you can get him to substitute kale for crack from now on.  Not going to work!  In order for people to maintain particular dietary habits for the rest of their lives, the diet foods must be as pleasurable to eat as the foods they are replacing.

Our mantra is that if the belly is not happy, the diet won’t last.  Period.  What we actually mean is that if people adopt a diet that doesn’t activate the same pleasure centers in the brain as does eating the foods they love, the diet will not last.  No need to worry about neural activation in response to food- that’s our bag.  All you need to worry about is making the foods you love more healthy and we’re going to help!

Most diets, good or bad, catch on because of some anecdotal evidence (actually an oxymoron).  Like the coconut oil for Alzheimer’s or Jared from Subway or Jennifer Hudson for Weight Watchers, Don’t Just Diet has been followed successfully by it’s creator, Dr. Christopher Ochner.

Dr. Ochner:

Anyone who knows me has said on at least several occasions that they can’t believe I’m not obese with the amount of food that I eat.  Frankly, I’m amazed also.  I have the taste buds of a 5-year old boy.  I eat almost nothing but pizza, fries, burgers, ice cream sundaes, chili dogs, burritos… you get the point.  I developed this diet out of my out-and-out refusal to stop eating these foods that I love but desire to be and look healthy at the same time.  I came to find out years later that there is actually neurological evidence supporting the use of this diet! 

Does it work?  Not only am I not obese but I have maintained about 5% body fat* for the past five years after being heavier all through college and graduate school (10 years worth).  Are both my parents thin so maybe I have ‘thin genes?’  Nope.  Do I work out incessantly?  No, only about 30min per week and taking the stairs to my 3rd floor apt.  Am I one of those people who doesn’t really care about food?  No way, Jose; I loooove food and would consider myself a foodie despite my ‘unsophisticated palate.’  Am I one of those people who can just eat what they want and doesn’t gain weight?  Nope, trust me, my weight fluctuates easily.  Give me $10M for a leading movie role playing an obese person and I’ll be obese in a month, no problem (of course, I’d have to lose it right away otherwise my body would adapt to that weight and then I’d have to work twice as hard).  

So what’s the big secret?  Don’t Just Diet.  Literally, don’t just ‘go on a diet’ to lose weight because it’s not going to work.  In fact, don’t go on any diet where you don’t enjoy eating just as much as you did before because it’s not going to work.  Trick is to turn the foods you love into healthy foods without making them less fun to eat.  In essence, make sure you keep the belly happy while eating foods that help instead of hurt your body.  How?  That’s why we’re doing this.  Our goal over the next several months and years is to help everyone do just that.  Literally everyone and anyone can and should do it- it’s a healthy way to eat whether you’re too skinny, lean, overweight or obese!

*minimum essential amount of body fat for healthy functioning

As you can see throughout the blog, we mix essential information with simple and practical transformations of foods we all love to eat.   Our recipes emphasize taste, time and $- we know people are busy and don’t want to take out a 2nd mortgage to eat a healthy diet.  Most of all, we know people need to enjoy their food!  The Pepperoni and Sweet Pepper Pizza above may quite literally be the best pizza you will ever eat and has less than half the calories and 1/16 the saturated fat of normal pizza!  The Hot Fudge Sundae below tastes just as sinfully indulgent as a normal sundae but has less than half the calories, 0 vs. 26 grams of fat and 12X the protein!  We hope you enjoy, stay tuned and stay healthy!

21 thoughts on “Causes: Why Even the Best Diets Don’t Work

  1. Just because someone doesn’t have the patience and and discipline to stick with a diet that doesn’t mean the diet is the problem. I eat low carb high protein and cook foods that cater to that category. My meals taste great and I enjoy eating them. A diet encompasses the food you eat, it’s not something you ‘go on’.

  2. Really excited about these posts! Since I’m in the healthy weight range I don’t really think about my diet at all, but hopefully these posts will be regular reminders to eat healthy and yeah exercise that’s a thing I should be doing….

  3. even though im not overweight (im 130 lbs and 5’5″) i have started to realize how shitty my diet has become ever since i quit gymnastics a couple of years ago, and i want to fix that. ive started to eat more fruits and veggies and im feeling better over all

  4. I’ve been trying to lose weight and get healthy for years, but it’s really hard when almost everyone in my family is either overweight or obese and they just don’t care. I am totally looking forward to this.

  5. This could not have come at a better time!!! I am a senior in college and am living off campus for the first time. I’ve made a conscious decision to buy healthy foods at the grocery store and have started drinking lots of water as well. Just yesterday I went to the gym on campus for the first time and also went today and really enjoyed it. In the past year I have put on about 35 pounds and cannot wear most of my wardrobe anymore. I cant wait to learn more and stay motivated from these posts! :)

  6. I gained weight since graduating college and started working to get it off last month. Lost 10 pounds but am at a sort of plateau because I’m BORED of salads and healthy foods. :/ Still need to lose 20 more to hit my goal! Maybe I can pick up some tips from you. :)

  7. This is really great. Recently, I reached my peak weight, and I can’t gain anymore, or else, my health is going to decline very fast. I walk everyday, I eat at least a (or serving of) fruit/vegatables everyday, and I go to the gym at least 3-4 times a week. I look forward to reading your advices :) Best wishes!

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