Usually diets do not work long term. We hear people talking all the time about the new diet that will help you lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks – and it works, too! What we don’t get to hear is what happens 3 or 6 months after the weight is lost. Most of the diet studies do not follow up with their patients; if they did, they would surely find that more than half of the dieters have gained back their weight, some even more than they had lost.

It is very hard to stay on a diet for a long period of time because diets are usually very restrictive. In addition, they are not meant for the long term, which is why people think that they can just get on a diet, lose some pounds and revert to their old lifestyles and habits without ever gaining back the weight. At the start of a new diet, your body reacts to the different foods you are eating and the reduced number of calories, which helps you to stay on track because the changes are noticeable, but then the body reaches a point when it no longer responds to the diet and, no matter what you do or how restricted the calories, you just don’t lose any more weight. This is when discouragement rears its ugly head and you go right back to where you started.

The reason that you stop losing weight is because your body reacts to the caloric cut-back by becoming more efficient at trying to “survive” with the new amount of food you are eating, making it harder and harder for you to lose more weight.

So, what can you do? What has been shown to work best is developing long-lasting habits, making lifestyle changes and having a support system that will help you through this process.

It is always better to lose weight gradually, instead of going on a crash diet. If you want to lose some weight fast in order to motivate yourself, it is always an option to follow a diet for a short period of time and then, instead of going back to your previous life, make some changes in your diet that you are willing to maintain and plan to lose the rest of the weight over a period of time – and keep it off. There is no going back, and it is hard, so you have to be realistic regarding your goals in terms of time and pounds as well as the sacrifices you are willing to make to achieve them.

Another important thing to mention is that depending on a diet alone to lose weight may be too demanding. In my opinion, exercise is a must, and it takes a lot of pressure off the food itself because you aren’t relying on only one thing. Emotional support and stress management are also relevant to keep you on track.

The key to dieting is finding one that you can stick with for good! Don’t even call it a diet, for this will become your food lifestyle, your new healthy lifestyle, always in moderation, accompanied by lots of exercise and balanced mental and emotional health. Once you take control of your health and exercise like mad, you can even forget about the food every once in a while.

Carolina Martinez

Certified Health Coach, Institute for Integrative Nutrition

cmartinez@healthyvalleyonline.com