Ten Reasons You Can’t Stick With Your Diet

While this list is not comprehensive or exhaustive, here are ten reasons you may have trouble consistently adhering to your diet:

1.Your Deficit Is Too Aggressive. Let’s assume that your body needs 2000 calories a day to maintain current weight. Theoretically, anything you consume that totals less than 2000 calories, done consistently, will result in fat loss (I’m not taking into consideration calories expended which will be another topic). You may be very motivated to drop fat quickly so you aim for an aggressive deficit (let’s say 30%) to achieve results faster. That takes you from 2000 calories of intake to 1400. While the scale does reward your efforts, you also may find that you are more irritable, your workouts aren’t as effective as normal, your recovery from workouts is not what it used to be, your sleep quality is suffering, and you can only manage to hit 1400 calories a day during the work week. By time the weekend rolls around, you’re consuming close to 3000 calories on Friday and Saturday because you feel like you need a break from the diet train. These are some indicators that perhaps 1400 calories is too low and you need to push the number higher. In doing so, it may slow down your rate of fat loss but it’s easier to adhere to in scope of your current lifestyle demands.

2. Your Deficit Is Too Conservative. On the flip side, a similar individual also needs 2000 calories a day to maintain current weight. This person has tried aggressive dieting and was unhappy with how the plan went (see above). They elect to go for a smaller deficit (let’s say 10%) and that has them shooting for 1800 calories a day. While they don’t have any of the negative effects of the aggressive diet approach, the scale is moving at a snail’s pace and they need a bit more instant gratification to make the journey seem “worth it”. A small reduction below the 1800 calories may be enough to do the trick.

3. You’re Not Getting In Enough Protein. It is arguably the most satiating macronutrient plus it has the added benefit of helping you build, recover and maintain muscle after working out. If you’d like some very loose ranges, smaller indviduals may benefit from a range of 100-120g per day and those in larger bodies may benefit from a range of 130-150g per day. If you can’t quite reach the lower end, just aim for “close enough”. As you’re dieting, hunger tends to be the factor that can make or break dietary adherence. Consuming adequate protein may help. Bear in mind that sources do matter. In other words, you may find consuming 30g of protein from a grilled chicken breast more satisfying than 30g of a premixed protein drink. Both give you quality protein but one may help reduce hunger pangs better than another.

4. You’re Not Getting In Enough Fiber. Similar to protein intake, improving your fiber consumption can also help with reducing feelings of hunger and improving feelings of satiety. Also, like protein, sources do matter. The goal with fiber is to not only to get enough of it (think 10-15g for every 1000 calories you consume on a daily basis), but to keep the sources diverse. That can mean fibrous vegetables (leafy greens and cruciferous veggies) and fruits (berries are a good choice) as well as legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. If your current fiber intake is low, go slowly with increasing it to minimize GI distress. Drinking enough water to move waste through the system can help.

5. Your Sleep Quality Is Suffering. There is a strong correlation to a poor night’s sleep and increased food cravings the next day. If you’re struggling to stick to your diet plan, improving your sleep quality, sleep habits and overall sleep hygiene can be a big help. This may include reducing caffeine intake and reducing alcohol intake to help the process. Women in the menopause transition may struggle with sleep quality due to night sweats so if you’re one of these women, talk to your endocrinologist or trusted OB/GYN to see if they can make recommendations to help.

6. You’re Training With Too Much Intensity. While not everyone has the same reaction to exercise, for many, an increase in expenditure may also be met with an increase in hunger. As you turn up the intensity of your training, you may also find yourself ravenous after workouts. This may play into the fact that your deficit is too aggressive (see point 1) and can be a recipe for dietary disaster. Try reducing the intensity of your training and see if that makes a difference in hitting your intake for the day.

7. You’re Not Being Patient Enough. No one has a perfect diet and if you play the numbers as closely as you can, you stand to lose one pound of fat per week “IF” you create a deficit of 500 calories per day. Not everyone can do that. As a result, fat loss may occur at a slower rate than you’d like and that can be discouraging for many people. Remember to listen to your body, to the best of your ability, and manage your intake based on the demands of your life. If you have a higher stress lifestyle, a more conservative approach to diet and exercise (see points 2 and 6) may be a more strategic route.

8. You’re Comparing Your Results To Someone Elses. Your neighbor Karen stops over and tells you she’s lost 20 pounds in 3 months by following such and such diet. You like Karen, and you’re somewhat envious of her results so you try the same diet to find that you only lost 6 pounds in 3 months because the diet was either a) too restrictive b) contained too many options that you don’t like to eat c) didn’t make you feel great during the process. As a result, you abandoned the diet because you couldn’t replicate Karen’s results. The fact is, we are all very different and different approaches to eating food affect each person in very different ways. My wife can’t eat dairy or gluten but I can. If we were both trying to lose fat, our diets would likely be very different in appearance (not to mention serving size). Focus on what works for YOU and not how diets affect others.

9. Your Expectations Are Not Aligned With Your Efforts. Every person I know who wants to lose some degree of fat wants the weight off yesterday. They know what to do, they know how to do it, they just don’t do it. This can be for a host of reasons, many of which are listed above, but the fact remains that for a lot of individuals they are either not consistently eating in a way that complements their goals or they are not training consistently in a way that complements their goals. Just showing up at the gym doesn’t mean you’re doing the right things and just switching from pizza to salads doesn’t mean you’re consuming fewer calories.

10.You Have Too Many Competing Interests. Consider that you may have a full-time job, you may be a parent, you may have challenges in your marriage/long term relationship, and/or you may be a caregiver for an ailing family member. Fat loss may be more of a stressor than you can handle right at this moment. On the flipside, some people use those stressful situations as motivation to focus on what they can: diet and exercise being a couple of those scenarios. As always, know thyself. You know what you can manage and what you can’t. You have to determine when/if it’s appropriate to put your foot on the gas or to pump the brakes.

(Photo courtesy of Michaela Baum)