Food 2: Why all diets work/don’t work

August 12th, 2013

Why do diets work?




I will just get to the point: All diets work because they are quasi fasts. By that I mean that while they will try and have the user focus upon the new and exciting foods that make a particular diet stand out from the competing pack the real trick is that not many of the foods that we are probably eating now will feature in it.


In other words, like a magician’s left hand, we are not encouraged to notice what is really going on. What is going on in all diets is the fact that for however long we are on them we will be fasting from many of the foods that we have been eating.


Now this is not necessarily a bad thing as many of those foods have been making us sick, tired and overweight. That is good right? Well, yes and no. Yes because, as long as we stick to the diet we may notice some positive change in our energy and bodyweight, body mass index and so on. So what could possibly be the problem?


Why all diets do not work


Because they are diets! By its very structure a ‘diet’ is temporary. In addition, as we have just seen, it is just a temporary fast from ingrained, poor food habits. Why might we have those habits? Let us list a few:


What we grew up with. Being fed by someone, particularly from a parent to a child, is an act of love. As in many other areas, the form which we first learn as love may be highly dysfunctional or distorted. Our association with food can be then a misplaced idea of self-love. Instead it becomes everything from dysfunctional comfort eating to food addictions or the self-loathing of anorexia and bulimia/binge eating.


coffee and sweet


Food addictions. Modern food processing has brought with it an enormous rise is the content of poisons and addictive substances in our food. High sugar and salt content, caffeine, trans fats, corn syrup-based fructose and many flavor and color additives can turn innocent looking foods into a toxic and addictive soup for our bloodstream and vital organs. They may also contain aggressive bacteria that damage our intestinal flora reducing our ability to absorb nutrition not to mention compromising our immune system. This leaves us ‘starving in the midst of plenty’ and susceptible to the quick hit of impulse foods.


In addition many of the difficulties people experience while dieting are actually withdrawal symptoms as the poisons they have become used to leave their body. This aspect should not be underestimated as it is a major reason  so many discontinue health programs with the mistaken beleif that they are not working.


Friends and family pressure: One sure way to stir up a hornet’s nest of opposition is to announce we have changed what we eat. Particularly if it differs from what our friends and familiy eat. We will very quickly come to learn first hand the meaning of psychological terms like ’emotional blackmail’ and ‘peer group pressure’. Ironically (but not surprisingly) this will come from people who’s own food habits are making them chronically sick and tired.


When the diet ends


Because a diet is by its very structure a temporary fix, when it ends the usual result is we go back to our addictive habits and reap the harvest that it has always brought us: Low energy, weight gain, depression and frustration, a return of nagging symptoms like skin problems, allergies, constipation, halitosis and so on.


Solutions and pitfalls


What we really need to do is stop fixating on diet and instead educate ourselves about a healthy lifestyle – the whole package, not just diet but exercise, work, relationships, where we live and so on. In other words, how do we want ourselves and our life to look? Most importantly, how can we support ourselves in this change? What habits, things, places, toxic, unsupportive relationships and so on currently in our life and holding us back do we need to separate from or transform?


“Freedom of choice is what you got. Freedom from choice is what you want.” [1]




We are the architects of our own life and have the blessing/curse of our own choices. Our addictive nature of course can fall prey to those who can make a lot of money telling us what we want to hear and therefore avoid making choices that will lead to lasting change.


The internet is full of health and self-help ‘gurus’ who will on one hand tell us what we already know about ‘bad’ foods. In the same breath they will also sell you on their ‘pure’ versions of these very same foods(!) – at exorbitant prices of course. ‘Secret’ fat blasters, health boosters, pure cacao choclate cake and cookies (I’m not joking!) and magical extracts all turn out to be just forms of the same foods that got us where we are in the first place only now we will have added a high level of stimulants to the mix and reduced our finances considerably.


To think in terms of good and bad is a pitfall in itself. The siren call of temptation to be ‘bad’ and eat foods that damage our health is inevitable. Again we need to focus more on how our whole life can look. Otherwise we will feel constantly punished for missing out on foods we have not yet decided are simply not part of who we are any more. It is not a matter of discipline. It is a matter of choice – plus a little skill…


A little skill


Probably this biggest reason people crash on diets is because they are calorie restricting. In other words, they are feeling hungry and blame themselves when their will gives in and they eat something not on their diet.


The skill is to never let ourselves get too hungry. Advanced ideas like fasting should only really be used during sickness (nature’s cure) and once we have established our new eating habits for at least a year. Even then we need to establish why we are fasting. It will not be to ‘flush out toxins’ if we have a healthy lifestyle established.[2]


So, do not calorie restrict yourself. When we eat fresh, natural foods, closest to their original form, we cannot overeat. We will become tired of eating before that happens. We will also have all the energy we need.


But don’t carbohydrates make you fat?


This is a long subject in itself but here is the short version:


  • The form in which we eat carbohydrates is the most important. Five bananas is not the same as 5 candy bars.
  • Many people mix up carbohydrates and fats. That chocolate bar is high in carbs but it is also high in fat. The fat you eat is the fat you wear – inside and out. In the long term, a fat diet increases the likelyhood of heart disease. In the short term high fat diets dull our mind and lead to stimulant cravings.
  • Notice how the people who are scared of carbohydrates and advocate a high fat/protein, low carbohydrate diet like the Paleo diet also advocate stimulants like coffee (a ‘Paleo’ breakfast like bacon and eggs also comes with the recommendation to drink lots of coffee: up to 1000mg a day!)


If you need stimulants to feel energetic, something is profoundly wrong with your energy sources.


coffee rackcoffee rackcoffee rack


  • We need carbohydrates for energy. Our central nervous system fuels itself on blood sugar. Blood sugar levels control not only our energy but our moods.
  • We also need to stay hydrated so drink plenty of water so that your urination is clear. If not, drink more.


Monday too far away


OK, that is more than enough to be going on with till next time. Next Monday will find me wandering the isles of Scotland preparing with colleague Graeme Docherty for next year’s shiatsu summer course so the next Conscious Health blog will return a week after that.


In the meantime, as a color therapist colleague of mine reminds us: eat your greens…and your reds, yellows, oranges, purples…



[1] Devo. Freedom of choice. All rights reserved.

[2] Fasting is a whole subject in itself and, if there is enough interest in that subject it can be covered in a future blog.


© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own (with this weeks exception of the ‘dishonest’ guru and Devo helmut pics. Original sources unknown). You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:


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