The real reason diets fail

Clare Lanaux

In 2014, the weight loss industry raked in a giant $64 billion. While the growth of the industry is finally starting to stagnate with weak sales and retention rates, Americans are still influenced by a culture of “dieting.” By some estimates, 80% of people who have lost weight regain all of the weight — or more — within a year. It’s clear that whatever weight loss companies are selling is not the answer to our country’s health problems.

According to most weight loss programs, you should “eat less and burn more” — a simple solution that’s based on creating a calorie deficit. When “calories out” surpass “calories in” you should inevitably begin to lose weight. And indeed, you will begin to lose weight. But as soon as you return to normal eating, the weight will jump back on. Why are dieters doomed to gain the weight back? There are many factors that come into play when someone begins to lose weight.

When people diet, sometimes as soon as they lose their first pounds, biological mechanisms kick in to encourage people to eat more and gain back their lost weight. (If you’ve ever gone on a diet only to find yourself ravenous, you can attest to this firsthand.) One way this happens is the body’s metabolism drops in order to conserve the energy reserve (fat) that it perceives it’s losing.

At the same time, hormones are released that increase appetite and make high-calorie foods particularly appetizing (You are not imagining that cookies become more appealing every time you try to lose weight.) These mechanisms originally evolved to help humans survive when food was scarce, but in our modern world of unlimited and ubiquitous cheap eats, these developments hurt more than they help.

Even with a sensible diet, the body wants to gain the weight back, and unfortunately, many of the current popular diets are not sensible. In the age of technology, where almost anything is only a click away, we don’t want to wait for weight loss. We want to drop 20 pounds and we want to do it now. To suit this need, the weight loss market has become saturated with fad diets — diets that cut out entire food groups in order to achieve weight loss quickly. Cutting out a substantial amount of food will lead to quick weight loss — but also to quick weight regain. (When large quantities of food are removed from someone’s diet, and weight is lost quickly, the body’s perception of starvation heightens and oftentimes, can lead to more weight gained than lost.)

The worst part? As long as your weight is below your “normal” — a set weight with a range of 10-15 lbs. that the body prefers — your body will try to gain the weight back, even as long as seven years after the fact. In real terms, this means if you lose 40 lbs., you will have to continue eating at a reduced caloric rate to maintain their weight. According to NPR, someone who wants to lose weight needs “a diet [they] can stay on forever.” In other words, a complete lifestyle change. With biology working against us, it can seem impossible to successfully lose and maintain weight. But there are certain ways to overcome these hurdles.

First, no food should be “off limits.” As soon as something is forbidden, human nature leads us to want it that much more. The Noom system breaks food down into easy-to-understand color categories — green, yellow, and red — allowing users to eat whatever they like so long as they stay within their calorie budget. This system allows users to learn for themselves what foods they’re eating that might not be worth the allotted calories.

A strong support system is vital to a successful weight loss regimen. In the world of weight loss, it’s been proven that group support aids in maintaining weight loss. Numerous studies have shown that social support correlates directly with weight loss maintenance including reports from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the International Association for the Study of Obesity, and the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. In order to supply you with the best support system possible, Noom Pro will connect you with a virtual group of like users who are available to share recipes, workout tips, cheer you up when you are thinking of quitting, and pat you on the back during your successes.

Finally, weight loss is not a quick fix. It’s a journey that will have many ups and downs. Relapsing is normal and to be expected. What’s most important is that you gain the knowledge to create a new, healthy lifestyle that is sustainable. At Noom, we have turned years of research and study into a lifestyle plan that attacks weight loss from all angles, teaching you to eat mindfully and to continue after taking a misstep. We will arm you with the knowledge and confidence needed to create healthy, sustainable habits that will last — even once the fad diets have faded.