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The Real Reason 98% of All Diets Fail

Fun food fact: if you put lemons and limes in water, lemons will float and limes will sink. Lemons float even though they are heavier than limes. Lemons are larger, but they have a lower density than limes, and their rinds have dimples that trap air that helps them float. Limes are smaller, denser, and their rinds are smoother and less able to trap air.

This is one of those “try this at home” fun food tricks. In fact, if you add a little freshly squeezed lemon or lime fresh water, this is an easy way to develop less of a sweet tooth and drink more water because it’s got some taste. So good for you!


What Is a Diet?

What is a “diet,” anyway? Some people use the term for what they normally eat. It may be somewhat restrictive, such as being a vegetarian or vegan, or adhering to certain restrictions for medical reasons. Others are on the “see-food” diet, which is pretty self-explanatory!

But most of us think of a “diet” as a no-fun, temporary regimen to help us lose weight.
What’s your first emotional reaction to the word diet? (more on this in a sec)


Why Diets Don’t Work (for the Average Person)

So, have you been on the diet roller coaster and frustrated with repeated failures?

Most people have heard the statistic that 98% of all diets fail, but few people really understand why.

It’s not only about stress, long-term sustainability, and lack of willpower. It’s much more.

Yes, in many cases you lose weight fast, but…

… diets fail because:

  • You feel deprived, and this can lead to binge cycles not to mention feeling badly about yourself (and even more emotional eating)
  • Your body responds to overly restrictive diets by going into fat-storage mode because it thinks it’s starving
  • Very restrictive diets deprive your body of essential nutrients; and when your body craves a nutrient, it will send out the “hungry” signal that’s really hard to ignore
  • Diets are designed to be temporary
  • Diets don’t always teach you about healthy eating (although some do)
  • Diets take all the pleasure out of eating
  • They’re often expensive… and since 98% don’t work, a huge waste of money
  • And reason #1… excess weight is a symptom. If you don’t address the cause, you’ll soon revert to the habits that caused the weight gain in the first place (this applies to everyone, not just emotional eaters).

Those are the reasons diets fail the average person.

There’s more to it, for emotional eaters.


Why Diets Fail Emotional Eaters

Going on a diet is an artificial way to lose weight (as opposed to naturally through more exercise, eating less, and cutting out foods that promote weight gain like sugar or flour). It’s not a natural state. This artificial imposition of a diet, and the resulting faster weight loss, doesn’t work for emotional eaters because we can’t handle being in a suddenly thinner body.

Everyone’s body has a physiological set point where the metabolism has adapted to maintaining a certain weight (whether you consider that weight to be your ideal weight is another story). It’s just how your body has calibrated itself over time. You can reset this physiological set point fairly easily with slow and consistent weight loss that gives your body a chance to adapt.

But for emotional eaters, it’s the psychological and emotional component of being in a thinner body that causes problems.

Diets are seductive. We imagine how sexy we’ll feel when we drop the weight. We imagine how attractive (and popular, and liked) people will see us.

And so we say yes to diets. We go on a diet because we’re sick of the weight and we want it gone now. We’re sick of being fat, not fitting into our clothes, being unhealthy, and feeling unattractive and we want to look and feel great NOW.

We know that the weight is doing something bad TO us…

… but we (emotional eaters) don’t realize what the weight is doing FOR us.

That’s right. Weight is doing something FOR us.

Food, to an emotional eater, serves three primary functions:

  • Emotional painkiller
  • Escape and tranquilizer from fear (emotional eaters are more anxious than most people)
  • Punishment: emotional eaters are sensitive and feel guilt about a lot of things – sometimes warranted, sometimes not – and so we punish ourselves for our terrible thoughts, feelings and behaviors with food.

You may have heard it said that people create a barrier against the world by padding their bodies with fat. That’s true, but it’s also a barrier against emotions and thoughts.

When you diet and deprive yourself of the benefits that food is giving you, it’s hard to handle because suddenly your coping mechanism has been taken away! It’s much easier (and rewarding) to go back to eating, and kill the pain, escape the fear, and punish yourself than it is to be faced with finding other ways to cope.

Because diets are so seductive in their promise of fast results, we give in. Even if we know intellectually that diets don’t work, we think, “But this time, just this once, I’m going to do this fast, or this detox, and I’m going to get the weight off quuickly.”

The temptation to have a quick fix seems to override experience. If diets worked, it wouldn’t be a billion-dollar industry. If diets worked, we wouldn’t be here 🙂

It’s ironic when emotional eaters are thinking, “Get this weight off me!! It’s the only time we are truly present and our thoughts are not in the guilt-ridden past or the fear-filled future. That’s why diets are so compelling.

Let’s go back to reason #1 why diets fail the average person: excess weight is a symptom of overeating… and overeating is a symptom of what’s eating you. Without addressing that root cause, you might as well never start another diet. Ever. Dieting is bad for you physically, and it’s bad for you emotionally because it’s a repeated cycle of failure. Slapping a diet from the outside on a problem that started on the inside, is doomed to fail.

The New York Obesity Center at Columbia University conducted a weight-loss study that was a little more hard-core than most volunteer studies. Participants were asked to put aside their lives and live at the research hospital for 9 months, essentially isolated from their normal world. They were given only liquids to eat, and absolutely everything was monitored and charted to discover what happens when somebody loses weight. Predictably, all participants lost weight during those 9 months. One of the participants, a woman who had lost a tremendous amount of weight, reported that she was suddenly back out in the world, and even though the doctors encouraged her to come back anytime she needed, if only to talk, there was no formalized emotional or psychological support… but because the weight loss process was physiologically based, when this woman re-entered the real world and there was temptation everywhere, and no emotional support, she found it extremely difficult to maintain her new weight. She had no coping mechanisms for real-world weight maintenance.

The point is, artificial weight loss without the emotional, spiritual and mental support, is doomed to fail.



Instead of giving in to the temptation of diets, When you realize that food is serving you, you have an opportunity to go within, and create support and replacements for the functions that food is serving. Addressing the pain, fear, and guilt, may be intensely uncomfortable, but you have the unconditional loving support of the other emotional eaters to supper you. We’ve all been there, felt that… and we help each other succeed!

Doing this inner work is the only way to heal the inner hunger and makes it easier to lose weight naturally, without the diet roller coaster.

Well… there is ONE diet I want you to go on: a Stress Diet. Simplify your life as much as you can by meditating, talking to a good friend, burning some stress off with exercise, and learning how to naturally live in an emotionally healthy way, so that you don’t need to self-soothe with food.

Live diet-free, and lifestyle rich – and you’ll be able to handle being thin and able to handle what comes your way. Connect with other emotional eaters by joining The Secret Sauce to End Emotional Eating on Facebook, or book your complimentary Breakthrough Session with Tricia!