How Well Your Diet Really Works After One Year

If your weight loss has recently plateaued despite following a diet that seemed to work well for a time, you're not alone. A review published in BMJ in 2020 found that most diets cease to help with weight loss after a year of following them. The diet itself didn't matter — whether dieters were keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, or low-carb, the weight loss dropped off after 12 months. 

Researchers reviewed the results of nearly 22,000 people on 14 different diets in past studies, to find that weight loss began to drop off after a year (via BMJ). This may be because as the body adapts to a new diet, the metabolism shifts as well, slowing down over time to accommodate the lower caloric intake. 

"As you lose weight, your metabolism fights back against you and makes it harder to continue with that downward trend," dietitian Sharon Zarabi told Healthline. You may lose weight on a new diet when you start, but eventually, your body will adjust and the weight loss will slow. 

You also may be stricter about a new diet early on, but by 12 months in, perhaps you've started to add a few cheat meals, or even found foods that fit within the diet's parameters but are less-than-healthy. (There are plenty of keto-friendly dessert recipes out there!)

How can you restart losing weight?

The other reason these diets may begin to fail is because each person has individual preferences, as well as unique genetics. "There is no one diet that works for all," Zarabi told Healthline. The keto diet may work well for one person, but not the next. Adapting a plant-based diet may be ideal for someone, but difficult to adhere to for someone else. Finding a diet that feels sustainable and doesn't leave you craving your old comfort foods is the most sustainable way to keep losing weight. 

So don't take this news as license to go back to former unhealthy eating patterns. Some diets, like the Mediterranean or MIND diets, are designed to also boost longevity, heart health, blood sugar stability, and optimal body function. Even if the scale seems stuck, there are plenty of other positives to sticking to a diet — like feeling better, even if your pants aren't loosening up in the process. 

Researchers have found that when it comes to long-term weight loss, healthy eating is just part of the equation. Moving more — exercising and walking — is critical, as is sleeping more and spending less time staring at screens. If the dial on your scale has stopped moving, consider changing other lifestyle factors (via Time).