evaluated the most popular diets and published a list of the top 25. The researchers at the respected magazine broke the diets down into categories such as “heart-healthy” and “weight-loss.” And, interestingly, in addition to consulting 22 specialists in diet and nutrition for their expertise, researchers conducted a non-scientific reader survey of each diet plan’s effectiveness.
Not surprisingly, when it came to weight-loss diets, the overwhelming response from readers was “no!” — they don’t work. And that seemed to be true for even the top ranked ones. The only exception was Weight Watchers® diet program, which really isn’t a specific type of diet.
For instance, as of January 5, 2012, the popular Atkins Diet had 21,958 responses of which 84% (18,539) were negative, claiming that it had not worked. The Raw Food Diet had 1,369 responses of which 335 were positive and 1,034 were negative.
So what’s going on? Why are all of these weight-loss diets failing people? Well, there are at least three big reasons why they don’t work. Let’s take a look at each one.
Reason #1: Diets are Too RestrictiveMost of the weight-loss diets seem to work early on. That’s why many experts say the issue isn’t losing weight, but it’s keeping it off. Why do we have such a hard time keeping weight off?
Well, there are several reasons why, and one of them is that weight-loss diets tend to be too restrictive. Atkins, for instance, removes carbohydrate calories and replaces them with a lot of protein. If you’re going to eat a lot of protein and don’t want to feel hungry all the time, you’re likely going to end up gorging on animal products, especially red meat.
This may sound appealing at first; however, after several weeks, it gets old for most people. Carb cravings intensify and the temptation to cheat with fresh baked breads and pasta becomes increasingly hard to resist.
Here’s a list of the top ranked weight-loss diets that are too restrictive for most people. We’re not saying that these diets can’t work but only that they’re difficult to stick with for most people.
- Atkins Diet — Results in intense carb cravings for some people.
- Eco-Atkins Diet — Requires protein to come from plants, and people become hungry quickly.
- Raw Diet — Requires a major lifestyle change for most people.
- Volumetric Diet — Requires less dense foods and doesn’t satisfy hunger.
Of note, the Vegan Diet garnered a lot of positive responses: Out of 17,217 responses, 90% said yes the diet had worked for them. But it’s interesting that for most people, this particular weight-loss diet would require a major dietary change that might be too restrictive. But if you could make the change, then success could very well be yours.
Reason #2: Doesn't Correct Low Hormonal Levels or ImbalancesIf you follow a weight-loss diet, cut calories, and exercise but still can’t lose weight, it might be because of hormonal imbalances. There are unique and common imbalances to men and women that weight-loss diets don’t address, and these may be the culprit behind failure.
- Estrogen dominance in women counteracts dieting efforts. When there is a relative increase in estrogen because of a greater loss in progesterone, women gain weight. Estrogen stimulates fat production around the mid-section and hips. In this type of environment, cutting calories via any weight-loss plan won’t work or at best will be minimally effective.
- Aging men undergo andropause. This is characterized by a decrease in testosterone and an increase in estrogen. A lower T-to-E ratio creates changes in metabolism that often result in accumulation of belly fat.
- Low thyroid function is another hormonal reason weight-loss diets fail. And it’s far more common than conventional medicine acknowledges. Thyroid hormone is your metabolic throttle. It drives metabolism which is fueled by the burning of calories. If your thyroid levels are low, metabolism drops and calories are stored mostly as fat.
Reason #3: Doesn't Correct Low Neurotransmitter Levels
Funny, weight-loss physiologists actually believe that this is one reason that exercise is so beneficial. Exercising increases the rate and frequency at which serotonin is “fired” within the brain, resulting in an increase in both serotonin production and release.2 Although the exact mechanism is not completely understood, one thing is clear: Exercise improves serotonin levels in the brain.
Other Reasons Why Weight-Loss Diets FailSo we just covered the three big reasons weight-loss diets fail, but there are several others worth mentioning. We don’t have time to cover them all in this post, but here’s a few:
- Poor insulin sensitivity
- Quick and excessive dietary carbohydrate absorption
- Quick and excessive dietary fat absorption
- Lack of exercise
- Low resting metabolism
- Abnormal fat cell size and metabolism
Make Your Weight-Loss Diet Work!If you want to succeed, no matter which diet plan you choose, counteract the above reasons first. Here are the steps you should follow:
- Start off slow. Ease into the diet plan. Allow yourself time to adjust. Try and remember this isn’t a race. It took time to gain the weight, and it will take time to lose it — especially if you want to keep it off.
- Test your hormones and correct any problems. Life Extension® offers blood tests that measure male and female hormone levels, plus a comprehensive thyroid panel.
- Consider optimizing brain serotonin levels. We suggest tryptophan, 5-HTP or saffron extract. And don’t forget that exercise not only improves lean muscle mass, but also helps serotonin production and activity.
- Eating Disorders: A Reference Sourcebook. Lemberg R. Ed., Oryx Press; 1998:51.
- Behav Pharmacol. 1996 Jan;7(1):101-104.
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