Why Diets Fail

Mark Sisson wrote a great post today called “Why Diets Fail.”  Here is a brief quote:

When we diet, we deliberately choose scarcity. Why? In the end, deprivation is a self-defeating behavior. It will always be self-defeating behavior. Sure, there may be that temporary grit-your-teeth triumph many of us have experienced in the pre-Primal pasts. The fact is, you can scramble, deprive and exhaust your way to a target weight, but chances are you’ll just roll right down the other side of that mountain once you’re there. The better choice is always investment as opposed to deprivation. A better, healthier lifestyle calls you to invest in yourself. It’s not a mental game of mathematical twister or complicated rule book. It’s a lifestyle you create over time.

From: Why Diets Fail by Mark Sisson

Here is my own response.  For the most part I agree with him, but I think Mark dismisses the possible value of “dieting” as a form of experimentation.

I think I would agree with the idea that diets don’t work long-term.  It does cause stress and it requires willpower, reducing our performance or our ability to handle stress in other areas of life.

But, I totally embrace the idea of experimentation, and pushing our own limits in order to learn about ourselves.  Dieting and calorie-counting don’t work well in the long term, but if you have the motivation and can handle the stress in the short term, go ahead and “experiment on yourself”.

People want to be told “The Answer” so they can hurry up and fix their lives, but I’ve found that for most people, life doesn’t work that way.  If you change your diet for a while and then go back to what you were doing before, what have you learned? What value did you get out of the experiment?

So the choice shouldn’t be “diet or don’t diet” — the choice should be more like, “What should I try next, and for how long?”  Some of our experiments will be hard, as hard as running a marathon.  Some of our experiments will fail to give the results we were after, but as long as we’re learning from them, it’s worth doing.

These experiments also do something else: they teach us various skills.  Some diets teach us how to count, and how to survive and cope with deprivation.  Other diets teach us how to adjust our eating for a specific nutrient balance.  Some others will teach us to recognize the effects of different foods on our bodies, or will teach us different ways to feed ourselves while avoiding certain food types.  But ultimately the diet itself is a learning tool, not a path to an outcome.  Once we are equipped with the right skills, we should stop “dieting” and just… LIVE!

So I say, if something is wrong, or if we’re just not happy with how things are, we should go on voyages of discovery.  Whether it’s dieting, measuring, trying things, talking to people, going sweat-lodge and communing with our spirit animal, whatever.  We should do what it takes to learn about ourselves and pick up skills and habits.  And along the way we should try to discover how to LIVE and ENJOY life.

Leave a Reply