The Blog

Why Can’t I Stick To a Diet?

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why can’t I stick to a diet?” you’re not alone. While anecdotally, I’ve had hundreds of clients share their dieting disappointment with me over the years; research also shows most people can’t maintain a diet long-term. 

Yes, diets may work in the short term, but their rigid, strict and unrealistic rules (hello, no food before 1 pm 😏) make them extremely hard to stick to. In most cases, people start to feel deprived, out of control and rebel by breaking the “rules”. Once we break the said rules, we feel like we’ve failed and feel bad; and what do we do when we feel bad – we eat! 

So why, despite knowing all this information, do we still beat ourselves up for not being able to stick to a diet? 

Let’s explore the science behind diets so you can understand why diets are *actually* so hard to follow long term. Hint – it has nothing to do with willpower or not trying hard enough.

You are not the problem! 

Want to know why diets are unsustainable? One word – biology. Although we think we can hack or out-smart our bodies, we simply can’t.   

Initial weight loss might be as simple as calories in vs calories out, but over time our body catches up and adjusts. The hormones, peptides, and nutrients involved in keeping our body weight regulated change, explaining the high rate of weight regain after diet-induced weight loss. 

Our metabolism slows down

meaning even if we’re eating less (starvation mode), our bodies aren’t burning energy as quickly, reserving what we’re getting for a “rainy day”, you might say. Post-weight loss, muscles burn 20-25 % less energy daily, which is sustained for up to 2 years.

Our appetite increases

ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases when we restrict food long-term, leading to an increase in appetite. This can make it harder to sustain a calorie deficit and be partially responsible for weight regain once you return to normal eating. 

Our preoccupation with food increases 

The “Ancel Keys Semi Starvation study” demonstrated the effects of starvation on the mind and the body. Extreme hunger made the participants obsessed with food; they would dream and fantasise about food, read and talk about food, and take hours to eat the two meals they were given daily. Can you relate to this? 

Ignores emotional eating

Diets also fail to address common reasons for non-hungry eating, such as boredom, stress and loneliness, which are essential to consider in regulating our food intake. 

Why can some people stick to a diet? 

We all know people who claim they can stick to a diet long-term. But ask yourself, “What are they really doing to stick to it?” 

  • Do they skip social catch-ups to avoid calorie-laden foods? 
  • Are they weighing their food to stick to a strict calorie balance? 
  • Are they secretly binging on food in secret when nobodies looking? 
  • Are they preoccupied with food, thinking about it almost every minute of the day, distracting them from other important activities? 

The truth is, while someone might boast about their dieting success, you actually have no idea what it’s costing them emotionally, physically and socially. All of the above behaviours are directly related to disordered eating. 

It’s normal to eat. Our bodies need food to survive and are incredibly clever at knowing what we need to eat and how much (see intuitive eating) if we give it a chance. 

If diets don’t work, why do health professionals keep recommending them? 

This is a great question, and to be honest, I used to be one of them, unfortunately. At university, we learn weight is a leading cause of many health conditions, and weight loss is the antidote. Despite the research showing the negative impacts of recommending diets (see weight stigma), people often stick to what they know. I think people don’t like to change their thinking or to learn that perhaps the way they’ve done something for decades is causing more harm than good – this includes health professionals. 

And even though there’s research linking health benefits with weight loss, these studies rarely test for harm (for some reason, weight loss research seems to have special immunity from accepted standards in clinical practice and publishing ethics). They’re also often funded and endorsed by pharmaceutical companies, o*sity organisations or the diet industry. All of whom, along with many health professionals, have a vested financial interest in shrinking people’s bodies. For reference, the Global Weight Loss and Weight Management Market is estimated to be worth USD 405.4 Billion by 2030

We live in a world that subconsciously values thinness and demonises fatness, and people have literally billions of dollars to gain from people wanting to shrink their bodies.

Instead of asking, “Why can’t I stick to a diet?” ask, “Why am I dieting?” 

If you’re still reading (thanks) and resonating with the sentiment in this article, perhaps it’s time to stop asking yourself why you can’t stick to a diet and instead shift the focus to why you’re dieting. 

The most common reason for dieting is to lose weight – but why do you want to lose weight? 

Is it to get healthier? Because weight and health are not the same. You can dramatically improve your health without changing the number on the scales. 

So what else is driving your desire to be thinner? Is it to fit into society? To feel safer? Is it to feel in control around food? Is it to have more confidence? To fit into the clothes you used to wear? To do the thing you’ve been putting off for decades (until you reach your goal weight)? Is it to feel better in your body?

I invite you to dig a little deeper into your intention to lose weight. Start to get curious about your reasons for pursuing thinness. Because weight loss does not guarantee any of the above desires, and you can reach these desires without changing your weight. 

So, what’s the alternative to dieting? 

Switching off our dieting mentality can take time and work, but I promise you, on the other side, is an abundance of freedom. Imagine what you could do if your food choices and body distress didn’t consume your daily thoughts. Go on that holiday. Start that business. Start dating. Get that dream job. Spend more time with friends. Give less f*cks. 

But I get it; living in a world that idolises thinness is challenging, regardless of your body shape, weight and size. And for many of us, dieting is a mechanism to feel safe and in control. 

However, if you recognise dieting is no longer serving you, know there’s help available. At Balance and Bite, we help clients ditch diets and repair their relationship with food and their bodies. And this doesn’t mean “letting ourselves go” or forgetting about health. It’s about finding a place where food isn’t such as big deal, health is fun, and we view our bodies through a neutral lens – neither good nor bad. 

Curious about what working together looks like? Get in touch to find out more. 


Tomiyama, Ahlstrom, and Mann (2013). Long term effects of dieting: Is weight loss related to health? Social and Personal Psychology Compass 7/12: 861-877.

Sumithran, Prendergast, Delbridge, Purncell, Shulkes, Kriketos and Proietto (2011) Long Tem Persistance of Hormonal Adaptions to weight Loss. The New England Journal of Medecine. 365:1597-604

Bacon and Aphramor (2011). Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradign Shift. Nutrition Journal.10:9.


Diets feeling like a toxic ex? You know they’re a bad idea, but you keep going back for one last try. 

Ready to try something different?
Get our simple 5-step method to ditch diets forEVA! 

A Freebie *so* good you'll wish you hit download sooner!

Ditch Diets. Embrace your body. Fall in love with food.