Why Diets Don't Work


Why Diets Don’t Work

Amanda Marciano, Dietetic Intern

The diet industry is a 78-billion-dollar industry. It will keep growing and keep evolving to try to keep your interest, money, and time. Hence, why we see more diets being created and the re-branding of others. The diet industry is so sneaky that is has snuck into our healthcare system, which is extremely worrisome.

Dieting dates back to World War 1 when calorie counting became a way to monitor food shortages and control food intake of soldiers at war. This calorie counting was the first “scientific diet” for Americans and is still used today. Following WW1, thin bodies became "the look" and low-calorie diets took off.

The Beginning of Diets in America

In the 1930s, the grapefruit diet was born. In the 1950s, the grapefruit diet went out of style and the cabbage-soup diet was in. It wasn’t until the 1960s that dieting became mass marketed starting when housewife Jean Nidetch hosted her first gathering of women, discussing their weight loss struggles. A year in, those meetings turned into the multi-billion-dollar company Weight Watchers. By the 1970s, the low-fat diet was born and was all the craze. Today, the narrative has switched, and people are eating more fat and less carbohydrates.

Ask yourself this: If diets worked like they claim they do, then why are there so many to choose from? Why are they constantly rebranding and changing the narrative? And, most importantly, why is it reported that 95% of dieters regain the weight they lost or even more than they lost?

The Minnesota Starvation Diet

Diets are wrapped in a pretty, big red bow. Diets promise happiness, worthiness, acceptance, and beauty. The reality, however, is that dieting, especially chronic dieting, has both negative physiological and psychological effects due to the restricting, controlling relationship with food. These restrictive, controlling behaviors often lead to binge-cycling and takes the pleasure out of eating.

One study that performed that prove the physiological and psychological effects of restriction is the Minnesota Starvation Study. Thirty-six men in good physical and mental health who volunteered to lose 25% of their normal body weight. First, they consumed 3,200 calories per day for three months. They then changed their intake to 1,570 calories per day for six months. These men were required to work, exercise, and partake in educational activities, much like most of us do today. These men were immediately experiencing physiological and psychological changes at 1,570 calories. Can you imagine how the human body responds to an even lower calorie deficit? It is not uncommon for MyFitnessPal and healthcare professionals to suggest a caloric intake of 1,200 calories per day.

Physiological risks of dieting happen due to the internal changes in your body. Caloric restriction results in:

- Loss of internal cues (hunger/fullness)

- Loss of stamina and strength

- Drastic change in body temperature and heart rate

- Lack of sex drive

- Less energy

- Sleep deprivation

- Lower metabolic rate

Psychological effects of dieting can result in:

- Obsession with food

- Fatigue, irritability, depression, anxiety, apathy

- Lack of concentration

- Impaired mental performance

- Decreased body image

- Binge eating resulting in feeling guilt/shame

At Renovate Your Plate, we practice the non-diet approach to health and wellness because we know the harmful dieting can be mentally physically, and emotionally. We see the value in treating behaviors and symptoms rather than body size. Through 1:1 counseling we can help you re-build your relationship with food and learn to trust your body, ditch the diets for good through Intuitive Eating and nutrition therapy. True well being is not tied to a number it is reached by trusting and listening to what your body needs. Our goal at Renovate Your Plate is guide you towards a way of living designed by you, just for you!


Baker, D., Dr., & Keramidas, N. (2013, October). The Psychology of Hunger. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/10/hunger

Sifferlin, A. (2017, May 25). The Weight Loss Trap: Why Your Diet Isn't Working. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://time.com/magazine/us/4793878/june-5th-2017-vol-189-no-21-u-s/



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