How to Make Sense of the Thousands of Weight Loss Diets

We're trying to play the weight loss game, but none of us know the "real" rules. | 5 Secret Rules to Weight Loss that You NEED to Know |
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Why isn't this diet working for me?

Why are there are so many diets?  That’s because there's a lot of marketing hype around the latest diet, so publishers can make more money.

Why does one diet seems to work for your friend but not you?   Weight loss happens because of a calorie deficit. There are six categories of weight loss habits that can cause a net calorie deficit. 

Weight Loss Habit Categories







Most diets focus on just one habit category--ignoring all the others. You need to make weight loss habits across all six categories that are personalized for your body, your lifestyle, and your preferences if you want to lose weight and keep it off long term.




Mass Weight Loss Confusion

Have you ever wondered why there are so many diets?  Or why one diet seems to work for your friend but not you?  

Of course you have!

Most of us have been around the dieting block once or twice.

And with all those diets out there, mass confusion reigns.

What’s a woman to do who wants to shed a few pounds?

Even as a dietitian, I used to get confused by all the hype around new research and diet books.  

As someone who was always fighting to stay thin, I wondered, “Am I missing something?” Is the secret to size 4 jeans found in the latest diet bestseller?' 


I finally found the answer to why there are so many diets and realized that I wasn’t missing the “key” to weight loss for myself and my clients.  

We’ve all been led astray by the relentless confusion, so I’ll set the record straight. 

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The Root of All Diet Evils  

It all starts with money.

New diets mean new diet books. New diet books mean new diet bestsellers. New diet bestsellers mean lots of money.

Yes, it comes down to money.  

Every book publishing house wants to make more money.

Following the success of books, such as Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution and the South Beach Diet, publishing companies are eager to make millions off the latest dieting craze.

Back in 2005, the journalist, Alex Williams talked about the publishing industry’s formula for a Diet Book Bestseller. In this NYT article, Williams says the recipe for Diet Book success is as easy as following this recipe:

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Best Seller Recipe

1. RIGHT AUTHOR--The first ingredient is the right author. Williams says that having an author who is a doctor is best.

A picture on the cover of the book of a doctor in a lab coat gives instant authority.

It also helps if the doctor can tell a story about being obese, lethargic, sick, and in total darkness--until they discovered the “secret.”


2. SECRET--The “secret” is the second ingredient to the recipe of a Diet Bestseller. The Secret is the right dieting hook--the secret formula that the doctor found/ discovered / unearthed to help him lose weight and become fit and happy once again.

You may know the hook as dieting strategies such as low carb, meal timing, ketogenic diet, or Paleo foods. Now the doctor author will always claim that dieting is hard-- too hard.  

But, if you use his secret formula, it's easy. If you just tried his strategy, all your dieting woes would be over.

Mindy Hermann, a nutritionist quoted in the NYT article explains, “There's always a promise, always a hook or a gimmick. There's got to be some way to lure some person in…"


3. TIMING--The third ingredient to the recipe of a successful diet blockbuster is timing. The last diet craze needs to be winding down. There needs to be a hole in the market for something new to come sweeping in.

The new Diet Book must promise to rescue all those disenchanted dieter's who didn't lose weight on the last diet craze.


4. BUZZ--The final ingredient is that there has to be a buzz around it. People need to be posting on social media or telling their friends that they lost weight on the so-and-so diet.


"Why did she lose 40 pounds on this diet, and i lost 5?  Why did my diet stop working?

Many Paths to Weight Loss

Weight loss according to the book’s “secret formula” isn’t magic. As long as you're creating some kind of calorie deficit, people will lose weight. Hermann, the nutritionist, says,

"In the end it's all about calorie control for all diets; it's just the path that the person can take to get to calorie control that varies."

And there’s the key. Thanks, Mindy Hermann, for spelling it out for us.  “...the path that the person can take to calorie control...varies.”  That’s the key.

There are many paths to calorie deficits--not JUST one magic formula.

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Six Weight Loss Habit Paths

In fact, the "real secret" is that there are six different categories of habits that can lead to calorie deficits.

The six weight loss habit categories are eat less, eat better, move more, optimize recovery (sleep and stress management), change your mindset, and normalize hormone/ body systems.

The problem is that each diet bestseller usually picks one of these habit categories and claims that it's secret sauce (hook) is the answer to your weight loss. Let's look a bit closer.

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Eat less diets are what we usually think of when we think of dieting. Eating smaller portions of food will lead to calorie deficits. Diets that use this as a primary strategy include Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, calorie counting apps like Myfitnesspal, or the 21 Day Fix. 



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Eat better diets focus on changing the foods that we eat to be more healthy and less processed. Eating better causes calorie deficits by changing appetite and reward centers in the brain and decreasing hunger by helping us to be satisfied sooner with less foods. Eat better diets Include paleo, vegan, or books like French Women Don't Get Fat.

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Usually when people think of losing weight, they think of eating less and moving more. Moving more can lead to calorie deficits through more steps per day or intentional exercise such  as a walking program. But, we are also sold move more exercise plans such as CrossFit or P90X (or any Beachboy videos for that matter).  




Optimize recovery means getting enough sleep and managing your stress. Optimizing recovery works to help you lose weight by decreasing hunger, decreasing emotional eating, decreasing your drive for sweets, and decreasing the stress hormone (cortisol) which causes belly fat. Dieting strategies for optimizing recovery would include meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or just getting more sleep. I haven't seen a Sleep Diet, but considering how important sleep is to weight loss, there's bound to be one on the horizon.

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Working on your brain is something that a lot of diets miss. In fact, I've nicknamed this strategy "The One Weight Loss Idea to Rule Them All." Changing your mindset causes calorie deficits by decreasing emotional eating, decreasing self sabotage, helping you to stay motivated, and paying attention to hunger and fullness signals. These strategies include things like mindful eating, dealing with emotional eating, or just changing how you think (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Diet books using this strategy are books like Intuitive Eating or End Emotional Eating.



Normalizing hormone strategies cause you to eat in a way that helps your hormones promote weight loss.  These approaches might focus on optimizing insulin, cortisol, thyroid hormone, or adrenal glands. By normalizing body systems, your metabolism speeds up and your body allows you to shed the pounds. Many experts argue about whether these approaches work, but take it from someone who had her thyroid removed, hormones can definitely thwart weight loss. Diets that address hormones would be the Ketogenic diet, Adrenal Reset Diet, and the Atkins Low Carb diet.


Why Your Diet Stops Working

Now here's the problem.  Popular diets are not "The Answer.”

They’re just one strategy for eating better, eating less, moving more, optimizing recovery, changing your mindset, or normalizing hormones.  

That Diet might be the one that you need to lose weight, but then again, it might not be. And maybe it works for a while, but it doesn't address what's next for you.


By limiting yourself to just one weight loss habit strategy, you aren't taking into account which habits make sense for your body, your lifestyle, and your preferences.

So, let's say you're doing Weight Watchers. You lose weight eating less and counting points, but you haven't addressed your emotional eating. So, you gain it all back when the stress piles on.

Or let's say you're doing CrossFit, but you're still eating too much. You get frustrated at how much effort you’re putting into workouts for not that much weight loss.

Or let's say you're eating low carb, but you're only getting 5 hours of sleep a night. The weight seems stuck to your waist.

Or let’s say you try eating mindfully and listening to your body’s hunger signals, but your sugar cravings are out of control.

Or let's say your thyroid hormones are out of whack, so none of those approaches work.

You get the picture... 


One Diet Strategy Isn't Enough

One diet strategy isn’t likely to be the answer to all your weight loss obstacles. (And there may be other considerations for why your diet failed you. )

One weight loss habit category isn't going to cut it. 

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Now don’t get me wrong.

I'm not saying that there isn’t merit to some of the diets or latest weight loss books out there. 

For instance, many of my clients prefer eating low carb and find it helps with weight loss. I eat lower carb myself. 

But, you can’t count on the latest diet to address all the aspects of weight loss that are essential for you.

Instead, you need a personalized plan with ALL the  habits and strategies that you need to lose weight.

If the weight loss strategies and habits you make, don't take into account your body, your lifestyle, or your preferences, you’re bound to fail.

And your habit plan must also be sustainable and enjoyable--because a short-term diet is not a long-term weight loss answer.

Weight loss isn't easy. I can't promise that it’ll be a walk in the park.

But if losing weight and keeping it off is important to you, you need to understand what’s really holding you back.


Learn More with this Guide

If you want to finally win the weight loss game, then download the guide to the exact 15 Mindshifts and habits that I teach my clients to lose weight and keep it off without dieting. 



Want More Real Healthy Habits?

Head on over to the Real Healthy Habits Facebook page to share your comments, to ask questions, or get support.

 Until next time,

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I'm a dietitian, personal trainer, and health coach who started asking all the tough health and weight loss questions-- like how do we get more willpower, why can’t we stay motivated, and why is getting healthy and losing weight so tough?  

I discovered that the answer to all these questions is simply--Your Brain. 

I help frustrated people end their health and weight loss struggles by understanding their brain and then working with it—instead of against it. Then, I teach them how to put their personalized health habits on autopilot for results that last.

You deserve the health and energy you need to live your best life.

You don’t have to do this alone. I can help.

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