What I've Learned From Being On 116 Diets

mbg Contributor By Jennifer Hand
mbg Contributor
Jenn Hand is a food coach, blogger, speaker, and retreat leader at Jenn Hand, LLC, helping clients overcome their struggles around food. She has a bachelor's in communications, advertising, and public relations from Penn State University, and currently lives in the Greater Denver area.

I am not joking when I tell you that I've been on exactly 116 diets. That’s 10 to 11 diets every year from the ages of 16 to 27.

In the 11 years that I spent restricting and overeating, I tried every single diet known to man: the cabbage-and-lemon cleanse, the Hollywood Miracle diet, Paleo diet, The South Beach diet, the Juice Fast Diet. If it promised weight loss, I signed up.

Can anyone really sustain the “I’m only eating fruits and vegetables” diet forever?

I did Weight Watchers on and off for a while, took diet pills for years, spent months doing Atkins. I even attempted to eat just chicken, eggs, and vegetables for six months. I failed miserably. My last diet attempt was exactly four years and two months ago. It lasted a whopping two days.

And that’s when I knew I was done. I couldn’t spend another day being consumed with dieting. It’s so easy to get seduced into the promise of weight loss, but let me save you years of tears and frustration with these four lessons I learned from being a serial dieter:

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1. Diets fail 100 percent of the time.

This is 100 percent the truth. Diets fail because there is an “on” and an “off.” If you go “on” something, at some point in time, you have to go “off” of it. Can anyone really sustain the “I’m only eating fruits and vegetables” diet forever? Not a chance. If you’re cutting out foods, restricting, and rigidly trying to adhere to a diet, you’ll eventually reach a point where you just can’t take it anymore.

Yes, you may lose weight, shed pounds, and drop a size or two. But in six months, a year, or five years, the weight will come back on. The diets that brag about success rates aren’t measuring the long-term results. After 116 diets, I can safely say that failure is built into the very nature of dieting.

Dieting is strict, rigid, and inflexible. You’re punishing yourself day in and day out.

2. Every diet gets harder.

At first, dieting was easy. I’d sustain it for months at a time. Over the years, my diet cycles got shorter and shorter. Some lasted a month, then a few weeks, then only a few days. It seemed as though my body would scream in rebellion every time I’d try another diet.

Dieting is strict, rigid, and inflexible. You’re punishing yourself day in and day out with all the foods you can’t eat, shouldn’t eat, and refuse to eat. No wonder the body gets tired of living this way!

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3. Dieting makes you feel like a failure.

There’s no way to escape feeling like a miserable failure when your diet doesn’t last more than five days. The agony of not being able to stick to a diet creates this hopeless frustration that fills your thoughts for days after you fall off the wagon.

You wonder why you don’t have any willpower, why you can’t stick to anything, and why you can’t just get a handle on your food. Know that this is an illusion of diets. You’re destined to fail from the beginning. When you know it’s not your fault, it can be very freeing!

4. Diets take you further and further from listening to your body.

Diets are the antithesis of intuitive eating. They have rules, guidelines, and foods you can’t eat. When you're following such a rigid meal plan, it creates a sense of separation from your body. Instead of learning to listen to yourself, you eat only what you’re supposed to.

For long-term weight loss, you have to be in touch and at peace with your body. Dieting creates a war that you’re waging on your body, to punish it into a place of weight loss.

Dieting can be very tempting, especially when you want a quick fix. But, take it from a former serial dieter: Another diet isn't the answer.

For more weight-loss advice, check out these stories:

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