Image of whole carrots in bowl taken from above.

Why ‘Diets’ Don’t Work and Tips for Lasting Weight Loss from Blue Cross’ Registered Dietitian

If you look up the word “diet” in the dictionary, you’ll likely find two (or more) definitions.

The first will generally define a diet as the foods and drinks a person regularly consumes. The second definition will typically revolve around a regimented pattern of dining usually lasting a set amount of time that’s designed to help the eater lose weight.

Grace Derocha doesn’t like the latter.

“The word itself now has this connotation of having a beginning and an end,” she said. “There’s diets like Whole 30. You only do it for 30 days, and then what?”

Derocha, a registered dietitian and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, recently shared her thoughts on why short-term diets don’t tend to work very well with A Healthier Michigan Podcast host Chuck Gaidica. Listen to the entire podcast here.

In fact, about 95 percent of diets fail. Derocha said they work in the short-term because many advocate cutting out major food groups, which means you’re naturally going to consume fewer calories, which will lead to weight loss. But there’s a catch.

“The five percent of people that have some success when it comes to weight loss and diets, in five years they have regained weight back, all of it, and then some usually,” she explained. “(One)-third to two-thirds of the people gain more than where they were at when they started their so-called diet.”

So, what should those of us carrying extra pounds do instead?

  1. Flip your mindset from one of subtraction to addition. Eliminating entire food groups usually isn’t practical long-term, but adding more nutrient-dense foods throughout your day is completely approachable. Here’s an easy example: swap your morning bagel with it’s mostly empty carbohydrates for scrambled eggs topped with salsa and avocado on a whole-wheat wrap – the protein from the eggs will keep you full, the salsa contains antioxidants, the avocado has heart-healthy fat and the healthy carbs in the wrap will keep your body full and happy until lunchtime. Then, make similar swaps throughout your day. By filling up on the healthy stuff – fruits, veggies, lean proteins, whole-wheat carbohydrates, dairy, legumes, and more – your focus will shift to all the delicious healthy options you can have instead of feeling deprived and unsatisfied because of what you aren’t able to eat.
  2. Instead of joining the latest fad diet group that comes across your Facebook feed, enlist friends and family to join you on a true lifestyle change. Accountability and group support can be positive motivators to help you keep going when you hit a plateau. “I think having an accountability partner for exercising and talking about new recipes with your friends can definitely help inspire,” Derocha said. “We know there is research behind (the idea) that healthier people hang out with healthier people because we influence each other in that respect.”
  3. Start small and add on. Many people start a diet and when they have a less-than-perfect day, get derailed. Derocha recommended focusing on one healthy change at a time and working on it until it becomes a habit. It could be drinking more water, eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables or focusing on getting at least 30 minutes of walking in during the day. “I want to remind people that you don’t have to make every change in the world today,” she said. “Allow yourself to grow into the healthy habit and piggyback off of that.”

The final word on diets? Derocha said they can be valuable for some people who need that kick-start to get on the right track, but once the ‘diet’ is over, there should be a plan in place to continue some of the healthier habits developed along the way.

Like what you’ve read? Head on over to the A Healthier Michigan Podcast page to hear the full episode and hear other words of wisdom from Derocha and featured podcast guests.

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Photo credit: Marco Verch

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