Diet trends: Epic fail

Atkins. Detox. South Bend. The Zone. Fat Flush.

There are as many diets on the market as pounds on your bathroom scale, yet the odds are high that they’ll fail you. Randall Moore, MD, Psychiatry, explains why.

“There have been randomized trials of a number of these different popular diets. Even in trials where you expect better adherence than in real life, 43 percent of people dropped out before the study was complete. Many people can’t stick with a diet,” Dr. Moore says. In real life, about 98 percent of dieters quit diets.

Here are some of the reasons why.


Most diets depend on limiting the types of food we eat. Many of us just don’t tolerate being bored with food, Dr. Moore notes. We naturally want more variety.

Decreased Resting Metabolic Rate.

“In diets of 1300 calories or less, your resting metabolic rate (RMR) starts to decline. Your brain says, ‘I’m starving and I need to conserve,’ so it slows down your metabolic rate, which makes it even harder to lose weight. You’re working against yourself,” Dr. Moore says.

Dr. Moore explains: “Over the long term, if you could stick with such a low-calorie diet, you’d start losing muscle mass, which would slow down your metabolic rate even more.”

For example, if you continued a low-calorie diet for one to two years (and you didn’t exercise), your body would compensate for the prolonged decreased calories by adjusting to the deficit, causing a decrease in your resting metabolic rate. As a result, you’d start losing lean body tissue.

“Very low calorie diets cause muscle wasting and your resting metabolic rate to decline even further. Your body will hold on to some fat stores and instead you’ll lose muscle and bone. You may even lose cardiac muscle,” Dr. Moore warns. After a while, you’ll even start gaining weight.

Negative View of Food.

Another reason diets fail is that they foster a negative view of food. With a diet, you’re required to deny yourself that which you love. Conversely, a healthier philosophy is to ask:

  • What does my food do for me?
  • How does my food help me reach my goals?

Dr. Moore suggests changing your approach toward eating. He recommends a healthful diet that includes:

  • 10 percent of calories from fat
  • Adequate protein for muscle building
    • 2-3 servings per day
    • 2-3 oz of lean meat, poultry or fish per day
  • Complex carbohydrates for energy to exercise
    • Starchy vegetables
    • Whole-grain breads
  • Limited simple carbohydrates
    • Avoid candy, soda and sugar

Viewing the food you eat as a means toward an end—good health—may help you reach your ideal weight with more success than the latest diet trend. And that’s a win.

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Diet trends: Epic fail