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Beyond the diet: How not to get trapped in the yo-yo cycle


Diet cycle

Diet cycle

Diet cycle

At any given moment in time, 40pc of all women are dieting to lose weight. In contrast, 40pc of all Irish adults are overweight and one in four is obese.

If diets were as effective as they claim to be, then why is this figure for obesity so high? Simply because the dieting industry is one big fat lie.

People go on a diet. Lose weight. Stop dieting. Put weight back on - plus more. Then, they go back on the diet. Lose the weight again. Stop dieting. Put back on even more weight this time. The vicious cycle thus ensues. This is what is known as yo-yo dieting, and aptly so.

Unfortunately, this perpetuating cycle happens for 95pc of those who embark on diets. Only a mere 5pc have long-term success with diets and manage to keep the lost weight off after 12 months.

Sure, dieting may work in the short-term, but it fails miserably in the long-term. Pretty much any diet will work in the short-term - as long as it meets one requirement: it puts you in a calorie deficit.

A calorie deficit is the common denominator between all weight-loss diets. What distinguishes one diet from another is HOW it achieves that calorie deficit. For example: by counting points, counting calories, eating low carb, cutting out grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar from your diet, or replacing some meals with very low-calorie shakes or skipping meals altogether.

No one particular diet is inherently better than the other either, as long as you follow it, it will work.


For a diet to "work", you must comply with it to stay in a calorie deficit. What separates one diet from another is how easy it is to follow.

How easy do you find it to stick to? How manageable is counting points and calories? Are you cranky without carbs? Does avoiding grains, legumes, dairy and sugar stress you out?

What happens when special occasions and parties arise? Do you ditch the diet and break all the diet rules?

How do you feel after you have fallen off the dieting bandwagon? Miserable because you failed again? Guilty because you overate? Or anxious because you have to start your diet all over again? Perhaps next Monday?


Albert Einstein is credited with saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. So why do we do this with dieting?

The dieting industry preys on the vulnerable, and the allure of the quick-fix it promises is just too tempting.

When we embark on a new diet, we usually resort to extreme methods to drastically overhaul our eating plan and go full throttle. But what goes up must come down and this extreme behaviour can't last. At the first slip, we blame ourselves for not being motivated enough or for having no willpower.

But this is not the case. The reason is that we just don't know HOW to go about it.

We all have enough motivation. It is simply the reason or set of reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way. In other words, the WHY.

Ask yourselves: "Why do I want to lose weight?"

Find your WHY and you'll discover your HOW.

Why you want to achieve something is one of the most important driving forces for achieving it. Having a positive fulfilling purpose is a catalyst for action.

For example: "I want to lose weight so I can be healthy and live a long and fulfilling life."

Hello motivation!


Many people believe that they could succeed with their diets if only they had more willpower. With more self-control, we would eat right, exercise regularly, and lose the weight we so desperately want to.

However, relying on willpower alone for dietary success is just a set up for failure.

The reason why is in the definition. Willpower is the ability to control one's emotions and actions, or a strong determination that allows you to do something difficult. To do something difficult. And this is exactly what "dieting" is to most.

Even the sound of the dreaded 'D' word fills people with fear and anxiety.

What if there was another way? What if you set small, daily, achievable, manageable, behavioural goals instead?

What if the accumulation of these small behaviours, over time, led to big changes in your diet that you hardly even noticed?

THE SECRET to results

A habit is something you do often, and therefore, easily. I repeat, easily. Now that's more like it.

A habits-based approach to nutrition works on developing daily behaviours around food that become your normal way of eating.

In other words, forming habits that will last a lifetime.

The best diet is always the one which you can sustain forever, one which you can maintain the results of, and one that you actually enjoy.

As the great Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and scientist, once said: "We are what we repeatedly do," not what just what we do during a 12-week body transformation program.

So, ditch the diet.

The secret to long-term dietary success is in your daily routine.

Karen is a nutrition coach and personal trainer and runs monthly online group nutrition coaching programmes and hosts nutrition seminars around the country. See www.thenutcoach.com