Why do new ‘diets’ fail?

Bottom End of the Scale

So, if somebody is eating really (really!) unhealthily – what types of food and drinks do you think they’ll be having?

At a rough guess I would take a stab at deep fried chicken, served in a bucket with fries, coleslaw, a full log of ice cream and washed down with full fat cola. Then there’s probably lots of fried food such as chips, onion rings, hash browns, sausages, bacon and possibly even deep fried battered chocolate bars! Big plate meals where you’re challenged to finish them, and if you do you don’t have to pay – you may even get a free t-shirt to celebrate your achievement.

There will be the inevitable Chinese and Indian takeaways, lots of dairy foods such as cheese, and cream to pile on those lush desserts. Plus of course lots of sugary soft drinks and possibly some alcohol.

Who lives in this world? People like Rachel and I did, quite a few of my friends, my family as they didn’t really have much choice in the matter and 60% of the UK who are classed as obese.

Far End of the Scale

This is surely the ‘good food’, or is it the extreme food, the body beautiful food, the abs food? Over there we will find chicken, fish, avocado, leaves and maybe an odd segment of grapefruit!

The people who live in this world are the social media selfie princes and princesses, boxers desperately trying to make weight for a title fight, body builders in the days leading up to a competition and those desperate for those perfectly lean abs they’ve been training for in the gym for years and months.

Do you really think that those people spend that much time at the far end of the food scale? Do you think that they sustain eating like that for more than a few days or a week? No they don’t, they just dip in there every now and again on a very temporary basis.


How many calories do you think are at the far end of the scale? Usually only around 700-800 calories per day, so low that you would normally only eat this way under medical supervision. Have you ever been under a medically supervised nutrition plan? I haven’t, but my Mum has! It was 600 calories per day and contained no carbohydrates (carbs), it was all powdered sachets which resembled baby food.

When you don’t eat  many carbs, after 3 days or so, your body will go into ketosis. Put simply, your body’s natural fuel (glycogen) is depleted from within your muscles, and fat is used to fuel any activity and is burned as a result. Most people who go into ketosis experience rapid weight loss in the first week. This is because the glycogen stores which have been depleted, weigh around 6lbs. You didn’t lose 6lbs of body fat, you lost 6lbs of the finest fuel that your body needs to keep active.


When you start to try and move more, the body is relying on body fat for fuel. The thing is body fat doesn’t burn as well as glycogen, unless you’re an elite athlete and then you may stand a chance. Trying to ignite it can be a real struggle, and if you actually manage to do it, it runs terribly, coughing and spluttering. You can’t get very far on it and eventually you will run out of energy to move.

Don’t Repeat Your Past Mistakes

So, we’ve established that the leanest of the lean and the fittest of the fit, only  head across there temporarily, for the absolute max of a week. Why, when they can only sustain that for a week, do you, with anything from 3st to 12st to lose choose this as your preferred method to lose weight over the next 6 to 18 months?

The food tastes absolutely awful, its bland, your hunger will never be satisfied. You will be despondent, lose motivation, your commitment will wain, you will never ever be able to dedicate yourself to it for long enough for you to be successful. You will quit this time, for all the same reasons as you did every single other time.

Choose Smarter

Most of you will know I’ve helped a lot of people to learn to run from scratch, to 5km and beyond. So, right at the bottom of that scale was all the people who couldn’t run to the next lamppost, who hadn’t exercised in years, were eating badly and overweight as a result.

Could you imagine if they rocked up on day one and I say to them, no, you don’t need to start at the bottom of the scale, we can take you straight to the far end of the scale – we’re off for a 5k run? Would I expect them to be able to do it, to feel like they achieved anything, made progress, learned new things or felt better about themselves? No, because they would all fail.

However, if I started them at the bottom of the scale, and in week one I got them all jogging, really slowly, for 60 seconds, then walking for 90 seconds, then jogging slowly for 60 seconds, then walking for 90 seconds – repeating this 8 times per session, 3 times in that first week. Then on the next week I got them all jogging, really slowly, for 90 seconds, then walking for 120 seconds, then jogging slowly for 90 seconds, then walking for 120 seconds – repeating this 6 times per session, 3 times in that second week.

Then over another 7 weeks we very gradually move them along the scale by increasing their jogs, and reducing their walks, would they feel like they made progress, a sense of achievement, start believing in themselves and stand a good chance of being successful? Of course they would – I know because 7,000+ people did just that! Would they stand a good chance of progressing further once they completed it? Yes, and the majority did.

Back to the food..

So, if you start at the bottom of the scale, and in week one you start to cut down on the takeaways, drink alcohol on less days and start to drink enough water, have we made progress?

Then the next week we start to understand calories, how many our body needs each meal to lose 1-2lbs per week (its all in your Reset Restart plan), whilst still eating less takeaway food and cutting down on alcohol.

Then the next week, we progress further, understanding balanced meals, containing food you love eating with no cottage cheese and cardboard in sight, you start to move more by walking, taking stairs at work or maybe joining a class, or couch to 5k. Your energy levels are through the roof. This is because you have fuelled your body correctly. The glycogen in your muscles is stored in the correct quantities, waiting to be ignited. When it fires up – boom!!!

At this point you then start to think, “you know what, this isn’t that bad at all. I can do the exercise, I feel better, I’m meeting loads of new people all trying to do the same thing, making new friends and Rick and Rachel are pretty cool and chilled too. I might actually stick with this!” Over the next 6 to 8 weeks we continue to make progress, learning new things, introducing small changes until they become normal and progressing slightly further each week across the scale.

Then, once you’re feeling comfortable, we progress a little bit further, right on the half way point of the scale. You’ve got everything right, you know your calories, eating food you love in correct portion sizes and losing weight at a steady and consistent rate.

Motivation and Self Belief

Its not just your exercise that’s fuelled, your motivation will be on fire too! Your eyes will be shining brighter, your skin is clearer, feeling less bloated, full of energy. You need to go clothes shopping, people start to ask “What diet are you on?” They’re expecting you to say that you just rubbed a magic potion on your belly and it started to shrink or you don’t have to change anything, just drink one miracle shake per day and hey presto! The only thing that shortcuts, quick fixes and miracle cures will make lighter is your pockets!

It’s at this stage that you don’t actually have to make any more progress, you’re half way across the scale and that’s as far as you need to go. In behaviour change terms its called maintenance.  It doesn’t mean that you hit your target weight and you’re maintaining it. It simply means that your maintaining your new behaviours until you hit your next goals.

The Halfway Point

So, who lives at the halfway point of the scale? Rick, Rachel, the remaining 40% of the UK that aren’t obese, and the fantastic Be Strong community.  If you haven’t moved in already, you can live here too. You just need to be smart, to soak up information like a sponge and be open to trying something different. Let’s face it, if you don’t do something different, then how can things possibly change for you?

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