You thought it would work this time, didn’t you?  You set your goal.  You made your plan.  You tried really hard but ultimately fell short of what you might call remarkable results. 

As you lean against the bathroom wall across from the scale that just betrayed you, you start thinking back to all the other failed attempts you’ve endured, all in the name of fitting into your skinny jeans.  Are you just not meant to lose weight?  Are you destined for a life of jiggly thighs, flabby arms, and a tummy that you have to suck in?  Other people have done it.  You see it on television everyday.  You see before and after pictures in all of those ads and commercials.  Are those even real?  Some of them look pretty convincing.  Maybe it’s just your metabolism.  Maybe you’ll never lose the weight.

You’re starting to feel pretty depressed.  Are those cookies still in the kitchen?  No!  That’s what got you into this mess in the first place.  Do you just lack will power?  No it can’t be that.  Look at all the times you’ve shown almost super-human resolve as you deprive yourself for weeks at a time.  Then a sort of calmness comes over you.  Maybe it’s not you.  Maybe you haven’t failed.  Maybe those so-called “weight loss solutions” have failed you.  Maybe your ladder of success has been leaning up against the wrong wall.

As you read this, a similar scene is being played out in bathrooms all across the country.  Thousands of men and women are being let down by lack-luster results from ineffective diets and incomplete workout routines.  At least in the scene described above, you figured out that it’s not really your fault.  You figured out that you haven’t failed.  Instead you’ve succeeded in finding many different ways not to lose weight.  So now all you have to do is find a way that will work.

Allow me to identify the four major reasons why a weight loss program might fail:

It is based on deprivation.

Most diets are based on restricting calories to lose weight.  The problem is when you restrict calories you also restrict nutrition.  It is hard enough to get the nutrition we need eating lots of calories.  Restricting the calories will make it even harder.  Undernourishment will lead to diminishing energy, irritability, and -- get this -- cravings!  I won’t go as far as to say that cutting calories is totally wrong, but in and of itself, it will usually lead you down a path to failure.  There needs to be a concern for nourishment and energy requirements.

It neglects certain nutrients.

As I mentioned before, cutting calories many times will lead to malnourishment.  Well, let’s take that to an extreme and cut out a whole food group!  This is what a lot of people do.  There are many diets that are based on cutting out a nutrient group, carbohydrates in particular.  Again, I won’t say this is altogether wrong.  In fact, done in moderation and as part of a larger strategy, I’ve seen some great results from it.  The problem is that this country likes to take anything shown to be moderately effective, strip it down, and sell it off in parts.  The important thing to understand about cutting carbs is that your body ultimately needs them.  Don’t cut carbs unless you have a plan that will negate any ill effects.  Better yet, don’t do it unless under the supervision of a reputable professional.

It disregards exercise.

Many people in this country are cutting calories in the name of creating what we call a caloric deficit.  This means you’re taking in fewer calories than you’re burning.  When we lose weight this way, we’re lucky if even half of that weight comes from fat.  If we look at energy balance as an old-fashioned scale, with “calories in” on one side and “calories out” on the other, we see that by simply cutting calories, we completely leave out half of the scale.  If we are to lose weight permanently, we must take into account both sides of the energy balancing scale.

It works against muscle (and therefore slows metabolism).

Earlier I mentioned that fat loss can sometimes account for half or less of the weight loss people experience.  Where does the rest come from?  Much of it is temporary water loss, which is bad enough.  What’s worse is that a lot of weight loss comes from the loss of lean muscle tissue.  “What’s wrong with that?” you may ask.  Two things.  First, when you lose muscle proportionately with fat, you keep the same proportions in your body.  In other words, you’ll just be a smaller fat person.  Your arms will still wiggle, your legs will still jiggle, and you’ll still need to suck in your gut.  The other problem is that muscle is synonymous with metabolism.  Lose your muscle and your metabolism slows, making your task of losing fat even harder.

Losing weight is never easy, but it can either be hard or really, really hard.  If you do it right, it will still be hard, but at least you can get there. 

Weight loss should always be about improving the body, rather than diminishing it.