The Real Reason It's So Hard To Stick To A Diet

Have you ever started a new diet with enthusiasm for a few days or weeks, only to eventually give up and go back to your old ways? You're not alone. Many people struggle to stick to a strict meal plan, no matter how optimistic they are about the potential results. It turns out, there are multiple reasons that Keto, Whole30 or other diets aren't working for you.

Most people go on diets to lose weight. Biology plays a huge role in weight loss, and it all starts in our brains. According to Stephan Guyenet, Ph.D., your brain has an idea of what it believes to be the ideal weight for you (via NBC News). It also decides your ideal body fat percentage and helps regulate both these factors by sending specific amounts of leptin into your bloodstream to control your hunger levels.

Many people successfully lose weight at the beginning of a new diet, which causes the leptin levels in your body to drop. This essentially sends a distress signal to your brain, and it responds by sending more leptin into your body. Also referred to as a starvation response, the process of dieting tells your brain that you aren't getting enough food and that you need to eat some as soon as possible. Your cravings for sugary and fatty foods will increase to higher levels than normal, which can make ignoring the drive-through line harder than it has ever been before.

Psychology plays a role in dieting as well

Eating fewer calories isn't just about the physical response. There are many psychological elements at play when you restrict food, which your brain and body need to survive. Have you ever noticed that as soon as you cut a certain food out of your diet, you find yourself craving it intensely throughout the day? According to Psychology Today, banning foods has been shown to actually increase the consumption of those same foods in dieters. We always want something we can't have.

Another psychological reason dieting is tricky is that food is more than just a means to survive for most people. Eating can be social, romantic, fun, and enjoyable. When you eat something delicious, your brain releases dopamine, which allows you to feel pleasure. Your brain remembers those dopamine releases and reminds you of those positive experiences when it's relevant (via Insider). This is why you start salivating instantly at the thought of a piece of chocolate cake —  even though you aren't actually eating the cake, your brain knows it would taste amazing.

So what's the key to a diet that actually works? For most people, it's working with a dietician, not restricting any major food groups, and enjoying everything in moderation.