If you are wondering why there are so many diets that work, or which one is more effective, you need to open your eyes and look at them from a critical perspective.
I'm sure each time you went to a book store you got confused because there are dozens of diet books heralding the same nonsense about how to lose weight while still eating as much as you want. And, of course, all of them include a bunch of testimonies of people who supposedly changed their lives by applying to the letter the given principles.
However, if you read a few books on the subject, you will notice a pattern. The first chapter always explains how being fat is not your fault, and the following chapters induce a state of anxiety and urgency by blaming some food, macronutrient such as carbohydrates, or hormone for your lack of fortune.
Finally, the last part talks about the solution, which always implies new habits based on some restrictive regimen (depending on the diet), and maybe buying certain supplements, which happen to be sold by the same writer-entrepreneur.
They say very little about consuming less calories, and usually people don't pay much attention to this part. Yet, the truth is that most diets that work (at least for a while) will make you consume less calories by hiding the physiological reality behind some nonsensical faddism.
And that's precisely how they screw you up in the long term because you will inevitably hit a plateau followed by weight regain. As a consequence, most dieters get discouraged, and conclude that they just can't lose weight.
The Ironic Process Theory
It's well known that when we try to suppress a thought, the paradoxical result is that we tend to think more about it. Truth be told, mainstream diets that work only temporarily fail for the same reason.
You are convinced to avoid some kind of catastrophic behavior related to your food choices, and you strangely crave the prohibited foods more than ever.
How long it takes until you give up? Well, it depends entirely on your motivation and personality. It may take longer for those with obsessive-compulsive personalities, but in a not-so-distant future, as statistics show, they will go astray as well.
So why would perceived deprivation be so hard? The ironic process theory suggests that we consciously avoid a certain behavior by trying not to think about it; in other words, stay distracted.
Filling the mind with other things, after all, achieves “not focusing on the marshmallow”, which is a good strategy but only for a limited period of time. (For those who don't know, marshmallow experiment refers to a classic study on delayed gratification.)
As these distractions enter consciousness, a small part of our mind continues to be aware of the marshmallow, and repeatedly tries to banish away this intrusive thought with more distractions.
According to the ironic theory, this duality between our conscious search for distractions and the unconscious search for the unwanted mental state is, in fact, necessary for achieving the desired suppression. Essentially, the conscious is doing the work, and the unconscious brain is checking for errors.
It's important to note that this process can be easily perturbed whenever we face a stressor or any other negative mental load because they can interfere with our self induced distraction.
When this happens, (and when you mindlessly force yourself to stay away from your favorite foods, it surely does) the refrained unconscious search will be on the loose. And that's, my friend, when you will hastily look for the Cheerios.
If you have doubts about the ironic theory and want to put it into practice, try the following experiment: Watch the girl next door getting undressed while thinking of her as the hottest female you've ever seen.
Now, break out the stopwatch and measure how long it takes to get a full boner. I'm sure you got it pretty fast if she's married and totally indifferent to your seductive power. Right?
When you go to bed with your girlfriend, just imagine “what if I can't get a boner”, although everything is perfect, and she even prepared a nice surprise for you. I bet that your romantic night will be a fiasco, and your poor girlfriend will get frustrated.
The Ironic Theory & The Diets That Work
Now you may ask yourself, what does an erection have to do with dieting? I was mentioning that virtually all mainstream diets that work only for a few months are based on a restriction of some kind, and for the most part this restriction concerns exactly the foods we like.
As a result, you will naively buy into the myth of what it takes to achieve your goal, and you will get screwed.
Like your naked neighbor (who you know you can't have), you will crave even more your favorite foods. However, unlike your perverted fantasies, which are stimulated by a visual cue that can be easily ignored, you can't avoid modern advertising and the vast assortment of delicious comfort foods (unless you pack your luggage, and move to Amazonia).
To make things worse, our modern society keeps your cognitive mind under a constant load and stress, which means that the aforementioned unconscious monitoring is most of the time on its own.
Furthermore, we are physiologically designed to crave these foods (which are packed with sugar, fat and salt), so your determined “NO” will soon transform in a “JUST THIS TIME”, and after a while in a guilty “YES”. Therefore, the diets that work permanently should provide realistic solutions for this inescapable reality.
You should finally understand that there is no such a thing as good or bad foods; only good or bad circumstances. And your diet plan should be precisely designed as a function of these circumstances and your body type. If you want a durable lifestyle, there is no other way. All the diets that work in the long term are built on this principle.