Why Can’t I Stick to a Diet?

It’s not just you

Most failed dieting happens because people can’t stick to the rules imposed by the diet. The average woman has tried 61 diets by the age of 45, which evens out at about two a year throughout adult life. A triumph of hope over experience if ever there was one.

It bewilders people who are successful in other areas of life that try as they might, the early optimism of a new diet is soon dashed when they find themselves falling back into old habits of overeating.

Diets keep the focus on food

One of the main reasons for this is that with most diets the rules for how to lose weight are all based on food – what you’re allowed to eat or how many calories you’re allowed to consume.

This keeps the focus on the food.

The way we are wired up biologically, after millions of years of evolution, means that when we think of food, we salivate and our digestive process starts, even before we’ve taken the first bite. When this process that governs our appetite and seeking out of food is activated, our attention narrows into obtaining food.

This puts dieters in a real bind.

In order to lose weight they think about food more than usual. When you think about food more than usual, your appetite system is activated more than normal and because the appetite system is in part of the brain that doesn’t speak English, that system doesn’t know you’re on a diet. So it keeps on doing the job it does so well of preparing you to eat.

Learn to tune inwards

There is another eating-related system in the brain, the Hunger/ Fullness system which is closely connected to the appetite system but instead of looking outwards to food, it looks inwards to what is happening in the gut.

When we are eating, the gut signals to the brain that energy (food) is being taken in. We consciously experience this as increasing fullness. Following a meal, over the next few hours other signals are sent by bodily organs to the brain to let it know when the energy from the last meal/ snack has been used up. We experience this as increasing hunger.

Dieting encourages us to override or ignore our natural Hunger/ Fullness system and instead to concentrate on what we “should” be eating.

You can however learn to use the Hunger Fullness system to tell you when and how much to eat and when you do that, you can forget about calorie counting and food restrictions for good.

Instead of ignoring or overriding this system, start learning to tune in to it. Then you can start to use your gut to tell you when you’re ready to eat and when to stop. This is what people who maintain a healthy weight do.

Although you may think that slim people are another (superior) species, they have the same appetite system and Hunger/ Fullness system that you do. They just listen to it more and use it to guide their eating more. We are all the same species.

Don’t count calories; Stick to what your gut tells you

Instead of activating the appetite system by focusing on food, stick with what your gut tells you. If you aren’t definitely hungry, don’t get involved with further thinking about food yet. Instead get on with your day. Your Hunger/ Fullness will keep on sending out updates to your brain to let you know when to eat. Don’t worry about paying much attention to this system because it will send louder and louder messages as you get increasingly hungry. Once you are definitely hungry, it is time to eat. When you start eating, keep noticing the sensations of increasing fullness. Once you are just full, it is time to stop eating.

Remember, your underlying Hunger/ Fullness system is working away doing its job of liaising between your gut and your brain whether you listen to it or not. If you listen to it and use the hunger and fullness signals it produces, a whole glorious new world of losing weight without counting calories or restricting yourself to certain foods opens up.

Download the Appetite Pendulum

To return to using this natural inbuilt system you were born with, visit https://theappetitedoctor.co.uk to download the Appetite Pendulum. This simple 11 point scale will help you gauge your Hunger/ Fullness level at any point. Whenever you think of eating, instead of consulting a diet and working out what you should or should not eat, consult your gut instead.

Sign up for my email updates on the psychology of eating and weight loss

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *