If you keep falling off the wagon, maybe the wagon is broken

If you keep falling off the wagon, maybe the wagon is broken

We often blame our lack of willpower when we ‘fail’ to stick to a diet. Or we blame recent social occasions and promise ourselves we will start again on Monday. We jump back on the dieting wagon, only to hit more trouble up ahead. Some people can ride this wagon their whole lives, falling off and jumping back on, feeling more and more frustrated and annoyed at themselves. Weight simply fluctuates up and down, not achieving the goal you hoped for and your relationship with food suffers.

Maybe we need to change our focus, who is really to blame here? Why do so many people struggle to lose weight despite persistent attempts at dieting?

Well, society has taught us that dieting results in weight loss, but actually, the very opposite is true.

Less than 20% of people who complete a weight loss intervention maintain weight loss at 1 year.

Dieting or restrained eating have been shown to be a predictor of weight gain over time, this is potentially due to both physical changes in the body and behaviour changes:

  • Reduced metabolism by around 40%
  • Increased tendency to store energy in the body e.g. as fat
  • Increased tendency to binge or eat beyond comfortable fullness
  • Compensatory behaviours e.g., eating very little to make up for a meal eaten the night before, resulting in increased likelihood to binge eat as not regularly and adequately fuelling the body
  • Increased level of hunger hormones resulting in increased appetite
  • Increased stress hormones

If this article is ringing some bells, it could be worth investigating an intuitive eating approach, to help free you from the dieting cycle. As a dietitian, I often see many individuals in this same boat. I have never been keen on prescribing restrictive diets, but this evidence creates an even stronger case, that we should ditch the diets altogether and focus on our relationship with food. I am helping people to do this more and more, particularly for those with diabetes, pre-diabetes or long-term conditions.

For more help, please get in touch 


Jeffery, R. W., Drewnowski, A., Epstein, L. H., Stunkard, A. J., Wilson, G. T., Wing, R. R., & Hill, D. R. (2000). Long-term maintenance of weight loss: current status. Health Psychology : Official Journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 19(1S), 5–16
Kalm, L. M., & Semba, R. D. (2005). They starved so that others be better fed: remembering Ancel Keys and the Minnesota experiment. The Journal of Nutrition, 135(6), 1347–1352