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Fall Thoughts: "98% of All Diets Fail"

There are lots of numbers associated with the idea of trying to change your body size or composition.  The obvious numbers like the number of the scale, your waist measurement, the size of your pants or your body fat percentage. There are the numbers associated with a best guess for how much of what food you should eat, i.e. 800 grams of fruits and vegetables or 13 ounces of protein (at least for a woman of my size.) And there are numbers connected to how you move your body: how many hours you should strive for per day, how many steps you should take, how many reps you should "leave in the tank" during a weight lifting session.  

There are also other numbers, including "the facts."  For example: 80% of Americans aren't eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.  70% of Americans are overweight or obese.  

And, my new favorite fact: "98% of all keto diets fail," which was what Dr. Robert Cywes, the Carb Addiction Doctor, who advocates for a low carb way of eating, stated in his latest YouTube video.   

Is this true? He says it's what he sees in his clinical practice. 

I think it's a commonly accepted truth that "all diets fail."  But, what does that mean, exactly?  
  • Does a diet automatically fail if someone stops following it?  If I said I was going to eat zero candy at Halloween but I ate a bag of M&Ms, does that mean I am now in the diet failure camp?
  • Does a diet fail if you immediately switch from one diet to another? "All diets change" could be a more accurate statement? 
  • Others might think that a diet "fails" when it doesn't create the anticipated result.  But, that's a lot of pressure to put on the "diet." Some people might not implement the diet consistently enough or long enough for the diet to have a chance to succeed.  (The diet is set up to fail from the very start?)
  • Others might think the diet has failed but it actually succeeded.  For example, you've lost zero pounds but your sleep has improved and you have more energy.  
  • For some, perhaps the diet does achieve the original goal but is not sustainable over time.  For example, it lowers your A1C for a few months, but a year later, your numbers are back to pre-diabetic. Is there no credit for partial success? 
  • Maybe "fail" is the wrong term here.  Maybe diets don't fail.  Maybe they pause.  Maybe they end. Maybe they restart.  Maybe they change or spin-off into something a little different. 
  • I feel like making broad statements like "all diets fail" or "only 2% of people keep off the weight they lose long term" is disheartening.  Why start something that you know is going to fail?  
  • It is also interesting to me that we accept that many other items we purchase for daily use in our life will eventually fail.  For example, when I buy a light bulb, I know it has a limited use time.  At some point, it will fail.  But I don't bemoan the fact that "all lightbulbs fail" when I'm contemplating the purchase of a new one.  I might say the light bulb burned out or stopped working but I don't use it as a reason not to buy one (there's a 100% chance this light bulb will fail!) 
If you accept the premise that "all diets fail" but that we have to eat to live, then I guess it's time to reconsider what we mean when we choose how we want to eat and what we want our way of eating to do for us.  If all diets fall, then what's the flip side? What succeeds? What words and concepts need to be redefined before people decide to take the leap and change how they are eating?  An interesting discussion for a future blog, I think! 

What Dr. Cywes Meant* 

In all fairness to Dr. Cywes, I believe the point was trying to make was this: No matter how good a diet is, it is unsustainable unless the "dieter" has also found a way to implement a way to manage their emotions.   

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