774: Why Diets Don’t Work

by | Jun 22, 2020 | Blog

Hi, friends! It’s Elizabeth here, and I am so excited to share Episode 774 of Primal Potential with you today! Primal Potential is a podcast all about you — your ability to change is not defined by yesterday and doesn’t need to wait until tomorrow. Your transformation is now, no matter what stage you find yourself in life!

Today, I want to talk about diets. I know I haven’t talked about weight loss and healthy eating so specifically in a while (if you want to listen to some of the older episodes where I dig in on that stuff, you can find them here!), but on this episode, I’m taking a little bit of a different approach. I know that during the summer season especially a lot of people are thinking about losing weight. Some just want to lose five vanity pounds; others are undergoing major weight loss transformations as I did. Regardless, a lot of us are thinking about dieting.

But here’s the thing, guys: diets don’t work.

You heard me right; diets just don’t work. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be careful about what you eat and that eating healthy food isn’t necessary — that’s not true at all. I’m saying that strict diet plans are not going to give you the results you want.

I know, because I have tried. I’ve tried low-calorie stuff. I’ve tried low-fat stuff. I’ve tried vegan and keto diets, counting calories, counting macros, fasting, crash diets, more moderate plans, you name it, but none of it worked. For a long time, I was stuck, but then I figured out the secret: diets don’t work because they don’t take you into account. Diets don’t work because they don’t give you the tools you need to stick to your healthy plans on the days when you’re stressed, tempted to indulge, or just plain bored and ready to eat. That’s why you get stuck and fall off the wagon — to borrow a phrase I hear a lot from my clients — and you don’t see the results you desire.

But I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to stay stuck. Elizabeth is here to help! So let’s jump in, unpack exactly why diets don’t work, and talk about some strategies that will actually help you achieve your health and weight loss goals!


Diets Tell You What To Do, But They Don’t Give You The Right Tools


Here’s the thing: most of us are not in need of a meal plan. We’re in need of the tools for those moments when we want to let ourselves off the hook.

And that’s why diets don’t work. Diets are quick to tell you what to do, but they don’t give you the tools for what’s in the way, right? Diets can tell you what to eat and when to eat it, and they’re easy to find! I mean, you can do a quick Google search and find a million diet plans in about a second. But none of those plans will help you respond the next time you find yourself dialing the number for your favorite pizza place.

So how do you find a plan for healthy eating that will work and get results? Get to know yourself.

Someone recently DM-ed me on Instagram (which I love, and you should absolutely do if you have questions, by the way —  you can find me here!) and asked, “How many carbs is too many carbs in the morning?” But here’s the thing, and here’s what I told her: it really comes down to whatever’s an improvement for you.

If you’re accustomed to having a stack of pancakes for breakfast, and you decide to start having a couple of servings of fruit instead, that would be an improvement! And improvement is all it takes to start seeing results.

And remember: your improvement doesn’t have to be drastic. If you’re used to having Taco Bell every night for dinner, don’t try to switch to having salmon and broccoli every day. That’s a perfect example of trying to follow a diet that will make you feel deprived and unhappy. Too many people try to make dramatic changes like that all at once, and they end up falling off the wagon. Instead, focus on small, incremental changes you can make, and then continue to make them.

Get to know yourself. Evaluate your habits and find small ways to improve. Any improvement is excellent; you just want to make progress toward your goals in a sustainable way. That’s how you get results!


Diets Treat Every Day The Same


Here’s another problem with diets: they pretty much treat every day the same.

Now for men, this can be okay. Men are on a 24-hour cycle. Testosterone and cortisol are highest in the morning, so it’s often good for men to get up early, work out, and hit the ground running at the beginning of the workday. Then in the evening, testosterone and cortisol are lower, and men are in more of a cocktail and relaxation mode. So for most men, treating every day pretty much the same can be sustainable.

But for women, it’s completely different. Women are not on a 24-hour cycle; we’re on a 28 to 32-day cycle, right? Our hormonal cycles take place over a month, not over a day! Our bodies produce more or less estrogen and progesterone at different times throughout the month; that’s why our appetites and cravings change from week to week and from day to day.

And hormones aren’t the only thing that can affect our appetites and cravings. Stress is a huge factor in our eating patterns, and that’s true for both men and women! It’s true for me, for sure. I know that I tend to eat a higher volume of food on higher stress days. That’s just a fact for me. But no diet can account for those higher stress days. 

Diets just don’t take our natural fluctuations into account, but you can do that for yourself. It goes back to getting to know yourself and creating an eating plan that is an improvement for you, and that works for your body. Maybe you learn that your stress level is higher during the week, so you need to eat a higher volume of food on weekdays and less on the weekends. That’s what I do! And that’s fine! But you have to figure that out for yourself by getting to know yourself and discovering what works for your body.


Diets Don’t Take Into Account the Relationship You Want To Have With Food


Here’s the final reason diets don’t work that I want to talk to you about today: diets don’t take into account the way you want to live and the relationship you want to have with food for the rest of your life.

Have you ever looked at a diet and asked, “Is this really the way I want to eat for the rest of my life? Will I enjoy eating this way in the long run?” If not, you should! But spoiler: no generic diet plan is going to reflect you and what’s best for your body perfectly.

The critical thing here is consistency; it is so important to find a way to eat that is sustainable and still helps you make progress toward your goals. It is possible, guys, I promise!

“How is it possible?” you may be asking. You have to build the skill of moderation. It’s not about trying to force yourself to follow a plan and act like you never have cravings and you’re never going to indulge again—that’s not realistic, and it’s not sustainable. It’s about having that yummy slice of pizza and then resisting the temptation to eat a pizza and a box of crackers and down a large soda right after.

Instead of choosing a diet plan and trying to force yourself to stick to it only to fall off the wagon on the days when you’re stressed or just tempted to eat more, find ways to indulge with moderation. And remember, even small improvements are significant and will help you reach your goals. I like to plan on having an indulgent treat like a slice of pizza or an ice cream cone two or three times a month. You might want to plan to indulge two or three times a week. That’s perfectly fine! Eating Taco Bell two or three times a week is better than eating it every night, and having an ice cream cone every once in a while is better than having one every day.


You Are Not Defeated, You Are Distracted


To all of you who — like me — have tried a million diets and found the all unhelpful, I want to tell you that you’re not defeated, you’re distracted. I know it’s so easy to get discouraged on a weight loss journey. But if you remember that no diet plan is going to perfectly account for your body or give you the tools you need to stick to your health goals when it gets hard, you really can start to see results.

So spend some time getting to know yourself. What works for you? What doesn’t? What hormonal or other physiological cycles might be influencing your appetite or cravings? How do you want to eat for the rest of your life? What relationship do you want to have with food? Ask yourself these questions, and craft your healthy eating strategy from your answers.

Go ahead and ask me these questions, too! Please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram, @elizabethbenton. I’ll always do my best to answer your questions!

And if you’re interested in some longer-term support, a little more coaching, and accountability, I want you to get on the waitlist for our next 12 Weeks of Transformation! In this program, I work with people in a much more personal and structured way to create change. We tackle our excuses head-on and find the core values that will motivate you to take action. If you’re not sure what to do next, I encourage you to check out 12 Weeks to Transformation and get on that waitlist! 

Join Now

I’d also love to connect with you via text! I send out text messages with my daily mindset upgrades and daily encouragement that we could all use during these uncertain times of COVID-19. 

Thanks, everyone. See you next time!


Elizabeth Benton

The Primal Potential Podcast

Download a free chapter from Chasing Cupcakes.

Enter your first name and email below and I'll send over chapter nine from my best-selling book. 

Thanks! Check your inbox.