Diet and Weight Loss

Why most diets don’t work, and what you can do…

When we think about diets, for most people the first thing that comes to mind is reducing calories. And its simple right? If we consume fewer calories than we use on a day-to-day basis, we’ll lose weight?


So, if the science is that simple, why doesn’t it always work? The answer is just as simple, and that is consistency. Or lack of in this case. I’m going to give you an example to show just how easy it is to think you’re doing the right thing.

Let’s imagine that to maintain your weight you need 2000 calories a day (that is to not lose any weight or not gain anything either). So as part of your diet plan you decide you are going to eat 1700 calories a day – a very sensible plan that means you’re not starving yourself, but gradually losing weight slowly but surely.

On day 1 you do well and stick to the plan, the same on day 2, day 3 and so on all the way until Sunday. Six good healthy days, and on Sunday, quite naturally you think ‘where is the harm of lunch out today? I’ve done well and feeling great’? So, you head out for lunch and perhaps have a roast dinner, a couple of drinks and then cheese for pudding.

Monday comes round again and the same pattern repeats, but this time you head out for dinner on Saturday night and are then good on Sunday, so still feeling good about how healthy you’re being and how well you’re doing.

Monday comes round again and this time you have a film night with the family on a Friday night have some pizza, popcorn, and chocolate, but back on the wagon again on Saturday and Sunday – still doing well, right?

After three weeks, you weigh yourself to check how you’re doing (you’ve even been good at that, not weighing yourself every day because you’re not supposed to right?!) and to your utter dismay, you’ve not lost a thing, in fact, you’ve put on a couple of pounds! How on earth could that happen when you’ve done so well with being healthy? You probably think to yourself what’s the point of carrying on? So, let’s look what has really happened over those few weeks…

By cutting 300 calories a day, being good for 6 days means you save 1800 calories (300 x 6). 1lb of fat equals 3500 calories so at this rate you should lose at least 2lbs a month, which may not seem a lot, but in a year that would equate to 24lbs – almost 2 stone.

But instead, you put on weight, so what happened?

We all tend to underestimate the calories we consume, and this is even more evident when we eat out. The first meal out on the Sunday (roast dinner, cheese, and a couple of drinks) was probably at minimum 2000 calories. The same on the Saturday night meal in week two and the same for the film night during week three. With that in mind, here is a snapshot of what has happened:

Calories saved during the week                Calories gained from meal          Difference

1800                                                                  2000                                    +200

1800                                                                  2000                                    +200

1800                                                                  2000                                    +200

In the above table, you can see that the calorie savings you have made over the 6 days have been ruined by one ‘cheat’ meal, so actually over the week, you end up being 200 calories over your target, meaning

The worst thing about this is that the above figures are very conservative estimates, because as you can see from this menu below, tiger prawns to start, fish and chips, and cheese for pudding is a whopping 2772 calories. If you add a couple of drinks to that you’re well over 3000 calories.

The problem is, it is so easy to eat more than we realise, and even I was shocked by the number of calories in the 3-course meal above!

So, what can you do?

The 5 – 2 diet is a good place to start. Widely renowned for its health benefits and promoting good healthy weight loss, there is a good focus on weekly calories rather than daily. With the 5-2 diet you practise having 2 fast days a week (I won’t go into the specifics right now, it’s easy to google if you wish) where calories are limited to, for example 600 calories a day. If we go back to our base figure of 2000 calories at the beginning of this blog that saves you 1400 calories a day, or 2800 a week. The rest of the time you should just aim to eat normally. This plan done consistently takes away the margin of error that we can see it’s so easy to overlook, and over the weeks and months, you will find you begin to lose that weight that has been so stubborn for so long, without there being too much impact on your day-to-day living.

Worth a thought….