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  • Carmen Clark Nutritionist

Why Diets Fail: Goal Setting for Weight-loss Success


When we are trying to lose weight or 'get healthy' we are often driven by a goal such as an upcoming wedding, reunion, a holiday at the beach or for health reasons such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or infertility. Whatever the reason is... I get it! I have been there too and the struggle is real.


For any challenge in life, I find that it's great to have goals. They help drive us to keep going, keep pushing ourselves because we see the ultimate benefit to us. For example: you WILL fit into THAT dress or suit and look and feel fantastic, OR you WILL increase your chances of having that much longed for healthy bouncing baby OR you WILL manage your diabetes so that you can have energy again and feel motivated!


Many of us that succeed in losing weight, find that maintaining the weight is even more challenging. So here is the big question we need to answer:


Why do diets fail?


The answer is multifactorial, and I will explain why with 4 key factors:


Factor 1: Crash Dieting packs on Kgs

There are so many crash diets around, the egg diet, the smoothie diet, the last chance diet, and they all end in the same way providing short term weight loss, but also causing an increase in weight gain long term.


The term DIET infers that a radical way of eating - or not eating, for weight-loss is OK to achieved a measured goal for a short time. However, when the diet ends we go back to our 'normal' way of eating. The body goes into survival mode triggering an increase in weight storage when food is consumed, as the body is protecting against starvation - the period of dieting. And the cycle continues with the end of each crash diet. The best way to lose weight is to make a change to your eating patterns in a balanced healthy way so it can be maintained long term.


Factor 2: When Feel the Burn becomes Crash n Burn

Exercising beyond our capabilities is painful because muscles need to tear to develop, but when we are new to exercise it can put you off your health goals before you have even started! The enthusiasm is there but the body is not yet up to the challenge, and overdoing it too soon can ultimately increase risk of injury further setting you back on your goals.

Adrenal Fatigue is also a reason for us crashing and burning and this can be induced by excessive exercise paired with a diet that is not providing enough nourishment for the body to perform its functions.


Examples of this are diets where the balance between carbs, fats and proteins are not meeting the body’s requirements are meals being replaced with:

  • Protein shakes

  • Skipped meals

  • Eating unbalanced vegetarian or vegan meals leading to fatigue and adrenal strain

  • Drinks like V, or Mother that put extra strain on the adrenal glands and various other systems that lead to fatigue

  • Over-exercising while fasting. Diets low in fresh fruit and vegetables put more strain on the adrenal glands because they provide essential vitamins such as vitamin C which supports adrenal function

  • Not getting enough sleep and then exercising.


Factor 3: The Fasting Trap

Returning to a normal eating routine after a period of fasting can trigger a shift to weight storage after a period the body will interpret as a starvation period, and stores weight as a protection mechanism in case food is scarce again.

There are some problems with not eating for ongoing lengths of time. The metabolism can slow down. It does this to conserve energy for the bodies vital systems to function, the heart, the lungs and the brain. As blood and nutrients gets rerouted to our vital organs, the digestive system shuts down and our appetite fades.


It can take a while to get the metabolism fired up again. A slow metabolism leads to weight gain because the energy requirements in the body are lower and therefore food consumed get stored as fat instead of being utilised by the body.


When our appetite remains low, we feel lethargic and cold, and often by now nutrient deficiencies such as iron can start to affect our thyroid function. This may perpetuate a low metabolism and appetite while we continue to gain weight. The best way to recover from this scenario is to increase physical activity slowly, as you start to incorporate a healthy balanced eating pattern.


Now, it is important to note that fasting -when done correctly, can be a very effective way of losing weight and maintaining it long term. The best type of fasting is intermittent fasting. Some examples of successful fasting weight loss strategies are the 5:2 diet or the 16:8 diet and it is best monitored by a nutritionist.


Factor 4: Emotional event = Netflix and binge

When we are on a restrictive diet and we are presented with an emotional hardship, it is not uncommon to binge. We binge on many different things including our favourite foods, social media sites or streaming platforms like Netflix to provide us with comfort or reward.


These things can go hand-in-hand, creating a downward spiral when it comes to weight-loss goals. And if you are like me, once you taste a deliciously naughty treat, one is not enough! The pleasure felt by eating a high calorie binge food is often associated with a trifecta of weight loss killers: caffeine, trans fats and sugar. And it is often accompanied with a great binge worthy series or well-loved movie.


We all need a break sometimes and I do love a good series, but we can tweak our ways of eating and choose healthier treat foods instead of completely eliminating them FOREVER.

When I am watching my favourite show I like to do homemade popped corn with dried mixed herbs and sea salt, celery sticks with peanut butter or trail mix of dried fruit, nuts and seeds.


Also, it is good to shift our mind-set from a treat being food based and instead treating ourselves to a massage, a bubble bath, a walk in nature with a close friend or your pet, to help us process an emotional event.


10 Tips to Successful Weight-loss and Maintaining it Long Term


1. Start with one change a week and build on it


- Drink 2 glass of water on rising every day building up to 2 litres across the day. Water is essential for so many functions though the body, helps digestion and reduces fatigue.

- Get 8 hours of sleep, rest helps your body recover and reduces stress.

- Eat breakfast every day to kick start your metabolism for the day.

- Make your own lunch to reduce hidden sugars in sauces and processing chemicals

- Cut out bread – once you do, you will realise how much is missing from your diet

- Eat 5 cups of vegetables daily. I know that seems like a lot but if you spread that out into either preparing a soup, stir-fry or veggie sauce for pasta and stews so it can be achieved.

- Make pesto to increase your greens, have it on crackers, celery, eggs, toast

- Eat more omega 3 rich foods, chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds, sardines, mackerel

- Buy organic grass raised meats naturally high in omega 3, have no harmful antibiotics and are packed with anti-inflammatory nutrients from healthy animals


2. Set achievable exercise schedules and build on them slowly, if you miss a day because of commitments, make sure you do it the following day. Go for a 10-20 min walk every day after lunch.


3. Incidental exercise counts as exercise - Park your car further from the shops to give you a few extra steps.


4. Be accountable for maintaining your health goals have a group/ friend or your family to join you in your lifestyle change.


5. Swap your food treats for healthier options and limit it to one instead of the whole packet. A sweet craving can be quenched by having a tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar in a little water – very effective!


6. Set aside a 10-minute daily Mind-set Treat just for you, do something you love that does not include eating, watching something, social media or technology. You might like to read a book, do a puzzle, knit, colour in, do yoga, breathing exercises, walk in nature or at the beach, meditation. These activities reduce stress and therefore aid in weight-loss.


7. Eat for health not for weight-loss. You will find that once you change your way of eating goal to being healthy, the weight will start to shift naturally.


8. Eliminate processed foods and foods high in fat, sugar &/or caffeine – the trifecta killer of weight-loss.


9. Make a lifestyle change that will help you in the long term, it’s not a short-term diet that will end.


10. Don’t snack late at night or have a carb heavy meal before bed, save the pasta or rice dish for lunch time and go for veggies and a protein like tofu, fish or meat for dinner.


If you feel like this article resonated with you or if you are curious about how you can do more to achieve your health subscribe to www.theholistichealthconnection.com to follow my recipes (coming soon) and blog posts.


I am also available for nutrition consults if you would like a more tailored meal plan.


Yours in Health & Wellbeing,


Carmen Clark

Holistic Health Connection

Located at Better Moves Physiotherapy, Knoxfield Vic




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