Seven Habits Of Highly Unsuccessful Dieters

We have all seen it and most of us have been there. Another diet FAIL. So what makes this time different?  What have you been doing wrong in the past that you are going to change this time? Analyzing what has been unsuccessful is a good place to start. During my 30+ years of counseling clients I have come to the conclusion that there are seven habits that guarantee ‘un-success’. Before you read any further, I would like to point out, that being strong-armed into going on a diet NEVER works.



You have got to decide for yourself  if, when, and how, you are going to begin. Dieting is a tremendous undertaking and you better have your guns loaded! When you make that decision to show up for the shoot out, beware of the following seven habits that, in my experience, will set you up with a barrel full of blanks.

1. No Grit

This whole blog post could stop right here. I believe that without GRIT you will not accomplish your dieting goal, much less any other goal you have in life.  Grit is the cornerstone of success.  When the going gets tough the tough get going…and the weak crumble.

TIP: ‘Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future day in and day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working  really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it is a marathon not a sprint.’-Angela Duckworth. So pull up your bootstraps and get your grit on! Take the grit test here.

2. Play The Hunger Game


Want to feel deprived, sorry for yourself, and set yourself up for eminent failure?  Then starve yourself. The ancient brain will always overpower you, and convince you to eat, if you are attempting to lose weight by starvation. Sure, once in a while you are supposed to be hungry.  We are genetically designed to go without food for periods of time, it is called autophagy, but the urge to eat will eventually win every time.  Have you heard of the fitness competitors who are hospitalized because they can’t stop eating after a strict diet? How about the 95% of dieters who gain it all back, plus more. Constant deprivation and hunger leads to BIG failure.

TIP: This is why counting calories doesn’t work long term. It implies hunger. Eat less (stay hungry), do more (get hungrier)…DOES NOT WORK FOR THE LONG TERM. Deprivation coupled with physical activity will only make you suffer more.

Eat foods that are proven to lower your blood glucose/insulin response and still fill you up. Foods that come from nature and haven’t been adulterated by humans. Foods we are genetically engineered to eat based on biology. You won’t be hungry, you won’t feel deprived, your willpower will be  rock solid when that cake is in front of you, because your tummy is happy. Fat, protein, vegies, a little fruit. In that order. If you’re still hungry and  still crave something sweet, then you either didn’t eat enough REAL food, or you need to review the rest of the unsuccessful habits.


3. Don’t Plan


I’ll start tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and you  wake up hoping willpower, and yesterday’s decision to lose weight, will carry you through. Not planning the how, what, why, when, and where of your eating is like trying to swim across the ocean with no swim experience.

TIP: Make a plan and write it down. Make it SMART. Specific. Measurable. Action Oriented. Realistic. Timed

  • Specific-Make it clear and concise 
  • Measurable-clear criteria for progress that sets milestones and allows for keeping tabs on progress
  • Action Oriented-Define the actions you are going to take to reach your goal
  • Realistic-Don’t try to swallow the whole elephant, take baby steps
  • Timed-The goal should be tied to a timetable. When? Start date? Length to accomplish your goal?


4. Go It Alone


Okay, so you are going to start tomorrow and not tell ANYONE. This is YOUR deal. Why should you tell anyone, they will only…they will only WHAT? Hold you accountable? Be your cheerleader? Watch everything you put in your mouth? Be judgmental? YES! So what are you afraid of? FAILURE. The ‘F’ word. So what if you screw up!  You just learned what NOT to do. Get back on track. Your other choice is to quit trying, where will that get you?

TIP: Don’t be skeered. Yell it from the rafters. Get a partner for support. Ask for help. If you don’t tell anyone is it even going to happen? If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one around to hear it, did it even make a noise?  Telling someone, or getting a partner, reinforces your commitment and makes you accountable. It sets you up for success…even if you fail once in a while.


5. Negative Self Talk

Saying ‘screw this diet crap’, and then gaining it all back and more, stems from negative self talk. “I hate this diet. I just can’t do this anymore. I wish I could resist that chocolate cake. I am a failure. I should of, could of, would of”.

TIP: You are setting yourself up for failure if you don’t change how you talk to yourself. This is one of the easiest changes to make. Simply replace one thought with another.  Talk to yourself as if you are already where you want to be.  “I am strong. I am healthy. I don’t need that cake“. Make a script. Write it down. Keep it in front of you so you will have those thoughts in the forefront, keeping the negative talk away. Check out this book that will explain how this works: What to Say When you Talk To Yourself. This helps immensely when you are put in a compromising position and a weakened state of willpower, when you are experiencing goal ‘amnesia’. Your thoughts affect your actions even if you don’t believe them.  Change your thoughts and you will succeed. The mind can change the brain can change the mind.



6. Trust Willpower


‘I am going to do it this time! Nothing is going to stop me! I really want to make a change’.  All this willpower works great…in the moment.  It just needs to be used in the RIGHT moment, when it is 6am and your promise to start exercising has melted away into the snooze button. The problem is, amnesia happens.

TIP: Willpower is a temperamental beast. Be prepared for amnesia. You know, those times when you totally forget the promises you made to yourself to lose weight and get healthy.  Know your weaknesses and strengths. What obstacles might arise? Know the obstacles, and be prepared by writing down how you will deal with them, write what specific sentence you will say to yourself when presented with the obstacle…then use that sentence over and over and over until it becomes a part of you.  Use your strengths to overcome those memory lapses when they occur. Don’t trust willpower. I can’t stress this enough: Prepare for amnesia!


7. Don’t Replace Bad Habits

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Hanging out with people that don’t support your goals. Sitting in front of the television every night with a bowl of comfort food. Keeping the pantry stocked with trigger foods.

TIP: When you want to stop a negative behavior you must replace it with something, or you will return to the old habit. If you have decided to stop eating sweets at night, then with what will you replace that habit? When you slip up on one meal do you give up on the whole day?


Plan for how you will handle those times when you veer off course. It may take a few attempts, but eventually you will find something that works for you. Did you know it doesn’t take 21 or 30 days to create a new habit?  It takes more like 60+. So keep plugging away until you remove that bad habit and replace it with something that truly resonates with you.

Remember, YOU have to decide what works for YOU.  YOU have to decide to make the changes. No one can talk you into it, or choose how YOU go about achieving your goals.  Use the tips above to plan your attack so YOU don’t end up in the scrap pile of highly unsuccessful dieters. What other habits have you used to ensure unsuccessful dieting? Maybe it is time for REAL change!