Three factors Can Determine the Success of a Diet



Around the world, millions of people struggle with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, which inhibits their ability to perform daily activities. As obesity rates are reaching an unprecedented level, many individuals are turning to fitness buffs and professionals to assist them with helpful advice on how to become more active and lose weight by having a healthier lifestyle. However, many of their attempts fail as many diets fail as some estimate this metric to be around 95%. Although this metric is debated, it is more than a reason to conclude that much of America’s obese population around 42% of the population as the CDC claims are failing to change their behaviors. As a result, many fad diets including the keto diet, paleo diet, and intermittent fasting have been introduced to the fitness industry with, at best, seldom success. 


What differentiates the diets that fail from the diets that succeed?


  • Sustainability


Can the diet be adhered to for a sustained period of time, or will it be broken after three weeks? The lack of dietary adherence can mainly be attributed to the unrealistic expectations and feats coaches expect from their clients. Additionally, it is unfortunate that asking a client if they feel a diet is sustainable is not as effective as it should be. Clients typically overestimate the amount of adherence to a diet plan they have. In a lot of instances clients may think a diet is sustainable only because they can manage it for one week, even though to fully commit to a diet, it should be adhered to for at least a couple of months to be considered realistic.  In conclusion, coaches should still ask their clients for input on if they will be able to sustain a diet, however, this should only be part of assessing if a diet is sustainable for a particular client. Other metrics should be regarding the theoretical basis of the diet. It takes approximately a 3500 calorie deficit to lose one pound (excluding initial water weight as most weight loss at the beginning of a diet is water weight). So losing two pounds a week would require an average caloric deficit of 1000 calories. This may be unrealistic for most clients, as some clients would also want cheat meals which means their daily deficit would widen. So it is more realistic to set a goal of an average calorie deficit of 500 calories from maintenance, which can be made by eating 300 fewer calories, (about 1 slice of pizza) and by burning 200 additional calories (jogging at a slow pace for about 18 minutes for a 150-pound man), assuming all other factors are the same. This is much more approachable, and the sustainable diet can allow for cheat meals if the diet is strategically executed.


  • Practicalness


While a diet can be sustainable for an individual, it may require time or knowledge, that may not be practical. For instance, it would not be helpful to someone if they have a diet plan that requires them to cook food, measure the number of calories in all of their food, and log their macronutrients. It is too much to take on, especially with work and many other factors involved. Instead, although they may be a tiny bit inaccurate, food labels and calorie counts should be used. Individuals can use the labels of individual ingredients to add up the total calories in a food. Additionally, there is software that can help with logging food if a client is unsure about how many calories they just ate, or to measure their caloric and macronutrient intake for a particular day. If this is still not practical, a client can instead focus on eating a healthier diet and reducing their intake. For instance, mustard contains 27 calories per 3 tablespoons. In contrast, mayonnaise contains 292 calories per 3 tablespoons, switching from mayonnaise to mustard is an extremely small, but significant step toward reducing caloric intake. Furthermore, according to Fitbit, two ham and cheese sandwiches are 704 calories. However, if the sandwich is made with Pepperidge farm bread, low-fat cheddar cheese, and one slice of ham, two sandwiches will only be 416 calories. This is one of many examples of how a diet can be successful with different strategies that are practical depending on a client’s schedule and commitment. Clients need to measure not only what is sustainable about their diet, but what can be a practical change that a client can make


  • Intrinsic Motivation

The strongest force of behavioral change from autonomy. In this context, being autonomous refers to having behavior that is independent of anyone or anything else, and is fueled by intrinsic motivation. In other words, if a diet is followed by one person’s autonomy, they will be so motivated to the diet that they will adhere to it by themselves, not needing any extrinsic motivation from external sources. As displayed, to be autonomous, intrinsic motivation is needed. Intrinsic motivation is defined as “the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfaction rather than for some separable consequence.” This is going to get clients to sustain a diet and be willing to change their lives quicker and more effectively. While extrinsic motivation can be a good starter for a diet, it cannot last as long as intrinsic motivation because the willpower to do an activity without much motivation from one’s self can only last for a very short period of time. In many ways, tangible rewards can limit autocracy, because the behavior will be practiced less when there is no incentive to continue it. However, it is necessary to have other individuals for support on a diet, because it is difficult many times to find intrinsic motivation by yourself. For instance, coaches can motivate someone to work out because they can perform better at a sport. Friends can convince people why their change will benefit them in the future. Family can help with strategies with barriers that can inhibit motivation and behavioral change. Furthermore, half the job of a personal trainer, nutrition coach, or any other fitness professional, is to spark intrinsic motivation in their client. Numerous trainers may have amazing plans that are sustainable for many and super practical, but they fall short of success because they fail to motivate their clients. Although igniting intrinsic motivation may be challenging, it can be the most important step to adhering to a diet.