Why All Diets Work (Until They Don’t)

Why All Diets Work (Until They Don’t)

Video | Water Weight | Close to Your Goal | Efficiency | Temptations | Takeaway

You finally got your diet figured out. The scale is dropping each and every day, and life feels good – until it doesn’t. You step on the scale, and your weight hasn’t moved. You accept it and move on. However, the following days and weeks come and go with nothing happening or worse – weight gain. What is going on? We will talk about it in this blog post.

Why Diets Work Until They Don’t – At-A-Glance


  • Healthy diets create water weight loss. Your body will rebound if too much water is lost, making it appear that your diet has stopped working. 
  • If you are close to your goal, you weigh less, so your body requires less energy (calories) to move you around. 
  • Over time, your body adapts to your diet, becoming more efficient. This efficiency requires less energy (calories).
  • Temptations are all around us. If you are not set up to combat them automatically, you’ll find yourself doing seemingly harmless behaviors that stop weight loss. 

Why All Diets Work (Until They Don’t) [Video]

In this video, you’ll learn…

  • The correlation between dieting and water weight loss.
  • Why diets stop working over time.
  • Ways to remedy these dieting challenges!

The Challenge with Dieting

There are physical and mental hurdles to overcome when it comes to weight loss. Your body doesn’t view fat the same way you do. For your body, fat is a valuable stockpile of energy. Therefore, to decrease body fat, you need to coax your body to do something it would rather not do.

Water Weight Leaves with Refined Carbs and Sugar

The first thing to go in any healthy diet is refined carbs and sugar. These foods keep your blood sugar and insulin levels elevated, which is a state that locks in water. Water is heavy. When you go on a diet, you stop consuming refined cookies, cakes, candies, and sugary sodas. As a result, your insulin levels drop, allowing your kidneys to flush out water. 

Losing water is part of the reason why any healthy diet works at the start. However, weight loss will slow down because your body needs water. In fact, your metabolism runs in a watery environment, so safeguards are in place to slow water loss.

If you are within the first week of your diet and the scale no longer shows weight loss (or shows an increase in weight), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your diet has stopped working. It could be that your body has turned on mechanisms to prevent you from reaching an unhealthy level of dehydration. 

Solution: Keep Going  

The solution is simply to keep going. One to two weeks on a diet is too soon to judge a diet’s effectiveness. Give your body time to find balance, and you may find that weight loss resumes at a comfortable pace.

Water Weight Leaves with Refined Carbs and Sugar

Reasons a Diet Stops Working Over Time

What if you’ve been losing weight consistently for months, and now that progress has stopped? There are several factors to consider. 

Reasons a Diet Stops Working Over Time

You’re Close to Your Goal Weight

One consideration is how close you are to your goal weight. When you started your diet, you were heavier. Therefore, your muscles had more work to do to move you around. 

Think about carrying around 20, 50, or 100 extra pounds. If you did so, your body would burn more calories than it would without the extra weight because your muscles would have to work harder.

When you drop this weight, your body’s workload drops, requiring fewer calories to keep you going. In other words, your calorie intake when you are heavier may need to be reduced to reach your goal fully. 

Solution: Lower Your Calorie Intake 

You don’t need to make drastic reductions; cutting out little splurges like dark chocolate or reducing your portion size may be enough to nudge your body in the right direction. And, of course, you could keep your calorie intake steady and increase the calories you burn through additional exercise.

Your Body is More Efficient

Another thing that changes inside of you that may make your diet less effective is your body’s efficiency. Your body likes when you fall into a routine because it can become more efficient and expend less energy. So, your body will adapt to your diet. This efficiency requires less energy, slowing the rate at which you use dietary or stored energy. 

To you, this can look like your diet has stopped working. Efficiency is not a bad thing; you are still getting health value from your diet. However, if you still want to lose weight, you’ll want to throw your body a curveball to make it work harder. 

Solution: Throw Your Body a Curveball

In other words, shake up your routine a bit. There are many ways you can do this. 

For example, you could take a day or two to shorten your eating window from eight hours to less than four hours. 

You could change up your exercise routine by adding bursts of high intensity. 

You can also tweak your macros in different ways. For instance, a few days of a carnivore-style diet, dropping your carb intake to near zero, can be the curveball that spurs additional weight loss. 

Another option, if you are a long-term keto dieter, is to adjust your fat intake. If you’d like to learn more, I have a blog post on when it may be right to lower your fat intake for more fat loss.

Temptation Sneaks In

We’ve gone over physiological things that cause diets to stall. However, there are also non-physical (a.k.a. mental) challenges that come into play, and they are the truly sneaky barriers that account for many weight loss plateaus. These factors are sneaky because they happen right under your nose, and you don’t even think you are acting differently. 

We do not live in a world that caters to weight loss, so there are temptations all around us. If you are not set up to combat them automatically, you’ll find yourself doing seemingly harmless things that stop weight loss. 

Solution: Set up Temptation-Free Zones

The solution is to set up your life with temptation-free zones that automatically keep you from adding mindless calories. 

Temptation Sneaks In

Here are three things you can do today to keep your living spaces free of temptation:

1. Out of sight, out of mind. Plainly stated, you can’t eat what isn’t there, so don’t bring snack foods into your house. If family members are unwilling to live without junk food, move any tempting items from your kitchen counters to a less visible shelf in your pantry or refrigerator. Keeping tempting foods out of sight will not only allow you to move away from overindulging but also save you from relying on willpower, which is a fragile thing. 

2. Be “no, thank you” ready. Food is a part of social gatherings, and friends and family members will offer to feed you. A straightforward “no, thanks” and a change of subject may do the trick. For those who want to love you with food, artfully say no by making a non-food request. “No, thank you. I feel perfectly satisfied right now. But I would love a glass of water.” The loved one still gets to love you through their actions, and you get to avoid temptation without the fuss.

3. Remove all “secret stashes.” Go through your home, office, or car and remove any junk food or sugary treats from the bedroom nightstand, living room end table, desk drawers, glove compartment, purse, or any other secret spot. Here again, willpower is not reliable. It is easily lost through everyday things like low blood sugar and stress, so clean out these hidden stashes before you have to call on willpower to save you.

Takeaway

There are factors that may be unique to you that cause your diet to stop working, such as a change in medication or a health condition. However, before looking for those reasons, rule out the most common. 

Weight loss will slow down once your body slows water loss; just be prepared for that reality. 

If you are near your goal, you weigh less than you did at the start, so your body needs less energy to move you around and therefore needs to consume less energy. 

If you’ve been dieting for a long time, your body has become efficient, making it a good time to throw it a curveball. 

And check your behaviors. It is easy to allow temptations to sneak in, so set up your temptation-free zones to set yourself up for success. 

Why All Diets Work (Until They Don't)

Thank you for reading and have a great week!

About the Author

Becky Gillaspy, DC, is the author of The Intermittent Fasting Guide and Cookbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991. 

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