How many times have you been on a diet, lost weight – then put it all back on again? Time to break the cycle

Studies show there are few things more doomed to fail than a ‘diet’. The problem is that when we restrict foods and set unrealistic goals our motivation quickly falls by the wayside.

‘Diets that begin with a capital D are generally a bad thing,’ says Healthy Food Guide expert and chair of the National Obesity Forum Professor David Haslam. ‘If a diet is time-limited and has a finish date, it will fail. If it’s just an interlude from eating badly, the behaviours that made you fat in the first place will make you fat again. In other words, you’re making changes for a short period before reverting to your old eating habits.’

For this reason, David is convinced the only diets that work are those that are sustainable in the long run. ‘If you can make changes to your eating habits now and still be implementing them in 10 years, that’s a success,’ he says.

The diet cycle

Diets are by definition extreme, therefore hard to stick with for longer than a few weeks (think juice, paleo, raw food and detox diets). We drop the pounds, but severe restrictions on our food intake aren’t sustainable, so it’s not long before we revert to eating normally and the weight piles back on. Then we go back on a diet. With each cycle, we gain more weight.

Go for long-term success

‘Anyone can stop breathing – but if you can stop breathing for 10 minutes, I’ll give you £1million!’ says David. It’s the same with not eating: eventually you’ve got to start again. The only diet that works long term is one that promotes sustainable change, linked to physical activity.’

Healthy Food Guide expert and GP Dawn Harper agrees. ‘It’s easy to live on cabbage soup for a week or cut out carbs for a while, but you fall by the wayside when you try to fit it into a normal working week and social life. ”Going on a diet” means that, by definition, you will at some point come off it. I see far too many people in my surgery whose weight yo-yos as a result.’

*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.