How do you know that a diet really works? You probably say, obviously, when I'm able to lose weight on it!
But that's not the only way to measure the success of your diet.
The other day, I had a conversation with two women. One of them told me that she had found a diet that really worked for her – the low-carb, or pretty much, no-carb diet. She said she lost a lot of weight quickly when she was on it, and she looked awesome!
You would think that she was her happiest now, but there was one “minor” detail… The low-carb diet made her feel absolutely horrible. The way she put it, I felt like a piece of crap 24/7.
It got so bad that her co-workers got worried about her. They told her to start eating more because she literally couldn't do her job anymore. She forgot about her appointments, was always sleepy, couldn't focus, got headaches and had constantly no energy.
No wonder the co-workers got worried…
But, she was still confident: “This diet worked because I lost so much weight and lost it quickly!”
I disagree… I don't think this diet worked. Here's why:
It Wasn't Sustainable
She simply couldn't keep doing it. Her health suffered a lot. In addition, it wasn't very practical either, because it required limiting very many foods, pretty much anything that had carbs in it.
Listen to also this podcast where dr Aiva Romm talkes about why staying on a very low-carb diet for a long time is not a great idea for most women. Sure, if you want to, try it for few weeks (not if you have hypothalamic amenorrhea tough – here's how you know!), but don't stay on it for too long. In general, long-term low-carb diets just don't work very well for women. Even though our weight may drop and things may look great from the outside, what's happening on the inside isn't as great, as this woman's experience showed (or maybe you have experienced yourself).
No one can keep feeling crappy forever… It doesn't matter whether it's a low-carb or another diet, because if you can't keep doing it, it's not successful.
It Didn't Make You Healthier
I believe that you can tell that the diet really worked, only if your health improved through that, or at least, it didn't get worse.
There are many people who could probably really benefit from losing fat. They may be diabetic or pre-diabetic, and losing body fat can sometimes help improve with these conditions. Losing some weight can be great for the joints (again, we're talking about very overweight or obese people, not those who are always on the mission to lose “the last 5 pounds”).
But if the diet you were on made you unhealthier, then it wasn't successful.
Like this lady I told you about before – her health got only worse, nothing got better!
And, if you have hypothalamic amenorrhea, one or more of the following happened as a result of your weight loss: you lost your period, lost your sleep, your digestion slowed down, you became anxious and/or depressed, you lost your sex drive and you didn't recover from your workouts as well as you used to.
None of this is healthy, so the diet didn't work.
Losing fat doesn't always have to improve your health, but it shouldn't make it worse. For example, if your health is already good but you'd just like to lose some fat, that's fine. But if the diet starts taking over your life, if your health markers – sleep, digestion, recovery from workouts, libido – get worse as a result, then your diet is not healthy, or you've gone too far with it.
You Developed an Obsessive Relationship with Food
I believe that a successful diet has some flexibility in it, so that you won't end up being a complete slave of it.
Most diets aren't like that. They come with a set of strict rules that you must follow, and if you didn't do that, it means you “fell off the wagon”. Which, of course, made you feel ashamed for not having any willpower, and you start over again…
With this mindset – I can never make exceptions, this cookie is “off the plan”, a piece of potato has too many carbs, I ate 10 grams more fat today that I was supposed to – creates a really unhealthy relationship with food. You will stop using the feedback from your own body to figure out what works for you and what doesn't. Your life becomes a set of rules, and the way you eat has no longer anything to do with intuition and listening to your body.
Eating disorders, binge eating, orthorexia… these are usually results of diets that didn't work. They create very disordered habits that are really hard to break later.
You may lose a lot of weight by following a certain diet, but you can't say that this diet worked if it actually had some negative effects on your health. There's nothing successful in feeling bad! And if you lost your period… your diet definitely didn't improve your health.
Maintaining a healthy mind is as important as maintaining a healthy body. If your diet requires you to follow 15 different rules every day, it's natural that you won't stick with them all 100%. And if you then consider every small “slip-up” a failure, then you're developing a really dysfunctional relationship with food.
If you can't stick with the diet, you can't call it successful either. If you really want to lose some body fat, be realistic and think, what are the changes that you can actually stick with. It's not realistic that you will never eat a carb again!
If your motivation for losing body fat is to be happier, more accepted, more attractive, then chances are that dieting and losing weight alone won't solve your problems. You need to make peace with yourself, in your mind, find the inner badass in you and learn to appreciate yourself. My FREE Strengthen Your Mindset Muscle mini course will help you get started.