Does dieting work?

Too many food choices at this event but I was able to eat healthy

I’m not a dieter, or someone who can do cleanses where you don’t have anything but liquids. I don’t think I could survive a liquid cleanse. I know you can train your body to do pretty much anything, which I have, since I’ve trained it to eat frequent small meals. But for some reason, a liquid cleanse shuts my mind down immediately.

My extent of dieting extends to a couple of vacations where I’ve tried to get my abs to looks a specific way before I left. To do it, I would cut about 250 calories out of my diet a day for a couple of weeks before a trip. I found that hard, so I have nothing but praise for the discipline it takes to cut out way more than that for longer periods of time. When I’m working out heavily (5-6 days a week of weight training and cardio), I try to get 2,800-3,000 calories a day. When I’m doing my regular workout schedule (3-4 days a week of moderate workouts), I aim for 2,500. These are the calories that work specifically for me to maintain my weight.

Sorry, this was a long way to say that I’ve always been fascinated with diets. My friends and family can attest to it. I ask a million questions about the ones they are trying out. Sometimes it makes them laugh, other times I can tell I’m bugging them, but I’m actively interested. When I did my nutrition certification, we focused on the cons primarily, with some pros depending on the type of diet or cleanse.

Many people may sing the praises of the diet they’re on (low or no carb, high protein, etc.) and how it works for them; but statistics show that this isn’t the case for everyone.

The average North American diets three to four times a year, yet research shows only 5% will have maintained their weight at the end of one year. But people still spend billions of dollars on different diet fads.

Some diet statistics

Hard choice
It’s not usually this black and white. It can be really hard to reduce calories.

People who regularly diet can lower their metabolism enough to decrease their caloric needs. From what I’ve learned, it happens in two ways.

The first way is eating a diet of fewer than 1000-1200 calories daily.
It can cause your body to go into a starvation-like state and force it to store calories. Your metabolism will slow down as your body cuts back the number of calories it needs to survive. Therefore, you won’t lose more in the longer-term on a 900 calorie diet than you would on one eating 1400 calories. Being in this starvation state can lower your metabolism for as long as one year!

The second way is crash dieting, which can change your body’s make-up.
Let’s say you lose 10 pounds in two weeks. Most of the weight lost will be water, e.g. five pounds, some fat, e.g. three pounds and the other two pounds’ muscle. If you regain the weight, and research has shown that for 95% of people it does, it comes back as fat and water.

Every diet you go on afterward can lead to more muscle loss. Someone who is a chronic dieter may increase their percentage of body fat over time from 25% to 35-40%. Surprisingly, your scale may not show a lot of weight change.

Muscle burns up more calories than fat and muscle keeps you leaner. Chronic dieting makes you lose a large percentage of muscle. It’s this yo-yo effect of losing and regaining weight that can harm the body. It’s better never to have dieted at all than to keep losing and regaining the same 10-20 pounds.

Lifestyle change for longer-term results

Joeys Eaton Centre
Dinner out with friends. Sometimes it’s a tougher time to make healthy choices.

Instead of looking at dieting as a way of losing and maintain weight, adopting healthy eating habits and food choices, and a more active lifestyle is a better bet for longer-term results.

  • Take a look at how you eat and exercise every day.
  • Remove the notion that a diet is something you can do for a month and afterward you can go back to your old habits.
  • Make short- and long-term goals to change your lifestyle to incorporate healthier food choices and to be more active.

What I’ve learned through my nutrition studies is that you’ll also be closer to achieving a permanent weight change by focusing on the quality of your diet and exercise habits.

Talk to a registered dietitian or nutritionist for healthy eating choices specific to your needs.

What are your thoughts about dieting? If you have had success dieting, what have you found works for you?



  1. I agree, I think a healthy lifestyle is very important to maintain a sustainable diet. I have also wrote an article on the correct way to approach a diet. Please read it if you are interested.

  2. Well I have been on many, many diets over the last few decades. My issue has never been weight loss. My issue is maintaining the loss(es). I have been obese much of my life. Much of my relationship with food is dysfunctional. I am currently juice fasting(again). Day 1 of my fast was yesterday and I’m working on a plan for maintaining the weight I lose.

  3. I absolutely agree. Lifestyle changes, and not diets, are what people need. A lot of the “healthy” look that most people want starts in the kitchen. I know from experience – one year I lost over 30 lbs, and it was through changing my diet and exercise routine. I kept most of that weight off until pregnancy. Genetics are always going to play a role, which makes a lifestyle change key.

    1. I completely agree that it starts in the kitchen. Any weight I have permanently lost has been due to food choices. I used to exercise 7 days per week. I have found that I can trade that time by being more careful with food and having a plan.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more Sam. Really comes down to maintaining a steady balance throughout the years and I must admit genetics play a big role as wells. I’ve always maintained a similar weight throughout the years just like my father has for over 40years

  5. Thanks for the great post Samantha. It does make sense that people who are on a chronic diet end up gaining more FAT percentage than before dieting. Well..unless they pair their diet habit with consistent work out to retain the muscle tissues..speaking of which, I’m a medical blogger, do check out my blog and follow me if you like the content

  6. Great post! Thanks for sharing these details. I agree. For me, diets don’t work, I always put weight back on. I’ve been more successful changing my lifestyle

  7. Great post! Last year I tried the Ketosis diet. It worked while I was on it although I did feel a little ill for the first little while. This year though I noticed the weight coming back so I’m almost where I was before. I think maybe I had to stay on it longer

    1. Thanks very much. And I really appreciate you sharing your story. I don’t know much about that one yet. I’ve just started researching it more recently. Thanks again for sharing. Have a great day

  8. Traditional “dieting” is so difficult to maintain. 2 years ago when I was studying for my nutrition certification I switched to a more clean eating, whole/real foods plan. I also changed my workouts to include more strength training which has helped increase tone & muscle and loose more of the flabby bits! I managed to lose almost 20lbs and have kept it off more or less. I also believe in moderation in exercise & food because otherwise life is too miserable! I know I’ll go up and down a little weight wise but I now know how to manage it. This was a great post!

    1. Wow that’s really great Shadee! Thanks so much for sharing your story. I agree that life is too miserable when I take things to extremes. Thanks for your comment. It was really helpful! Have a wonderful day!

  9. Great post! I like that you explained how dieting works here. I never paid attention t o it, I know that I restrict my caloric intake to about a maximum of 1,200 calories a day to maintain my weight. But I try to keep this up all the time.

    1. Thanks so much! I appreciate it. Wow, I would find that amount tough for me, but you’ve found a formula that works for you and keep it consistent! That’s great. Thanks so much for sharing

  10. I am a dieter. I have tried various ones, some successful and some not. I most recently tried the Ketosis or Ketogenic diet but it wasn’t for me. A friend had it work for her so I went for it but it was too restrictive on the carbs for me. I need lower carb but that was too low. So I tend to try to keep my carb intake on the lower end of what’s considered good for you.

    1. I’ve heard about the diet but only done some research on it so far, I’ve heard good and bad, but I guess that’s with every diet. There’s no one-size fits all solution. Thanks for sharing your story!

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