Why Do Diets and Detoxes Fail You?

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I’ve been spending a lot of time studying movement lately. I know, it’s kind of my job, but it’s not my strongest suit. I thought I was pretty good at it, but I have been exposed to a whole host of people in various health professions who are jaw-dropping amazing at it. So I know I have to put in a lot more time to get better at it.

On the other hand, I have spent a long time studying food, eating, and diets. However, it’s a continuous process to improve my knowledge, skills, and methods so that I can help my clients achieve their goals. “Dieting” (I use the term to describe what most people consider eating to lose fat) is an area where knowledge is NOT power. More information does not necessarily mean BETTER information. It may even mean worse because you are just so confused!

In studying movement, I have learned that optimal performance is based on a quality foundation of mobility and stability. Skill and performance can be affected when there is not the requisite mobility and stability. This concept is explored in depth in the book Movement by Gray Cook, as well as a number of other great authors out there. Here’s a great visual based on the description in Cook’s book, courtesy of Modern Athlete PT:

Cook FMS Performance Pyramid
FMS Performance Pyramid, Cook


Let’s take a quick example from movement before I lose every reader who thought this was a blog about diets (it is, I promise!) Say you want to run a marathon (performance-based, sport-specific skill). You work on running. However, it is common for new (and experienced!) runners to become injured in the marathon training process. Often a skilled health practitioner can find dysfunction in movement patterns used for running that affect the runner’s mobility and stability-their foundational base of movement. When the bottom part of the pyramid “shrinks” due to dysfunction (not enough of the needed mobility or stability to perform higher-level tasks), the pyramid becomes very unstable. Sure, you might be able to run now, but without a quality foundation, you run a higher risk for injury and inability to complete your goal, which is to run the marathon.

So, if we take that same pyramid and apply it to eating for weight loss, we can use the same argument. If you do not build your eating for fat loss on a solid foundation of conscious habits and good information, you run the risk of “injury” (a host of potential issues) and not being able to complete your goal (losing fat). I KNOW it sounds glamorous to be Clean/Paleo/Vegan Detox-ers, but have you built those high-performance (and skill-specific) eating styles on top of a foundation of solid eating habits, or did you just one day see a post on Pinterest about a 10 day juice cleanse and off you went? (Pause and be honest. I’m raising my hand too.) This is not to say that you can’t find styles of eating or “dieting” where you learn a lot of good information. When I did the Whole30, it helped me see that I needed to be eating more fat and protein. Those two macronutrients are actually really important! (Head smack.) I just wasn’t able to sustain the actual Whole30 protocol past 30 days. And if you read the book, it’s not necessarily designed to be sustained!

Here’s the thing. I am certain you can do some kind of cleanse or detox or whatever if you set your mind to it. But does it actually help you achieve your goals long term? Will you become Paleo for life? Because that is what it will probably take to keep off the 8 pounds you lost on the latest Dr. Oz show idea. Remember, most of us who want to lose weight are not just losing weight for that special trip to Hawaii and then are willing to gain it all back. We want it gone for life, right?

For most people, solid, moderate eating habit changes that are sustainable over the long haul are a much better way to actually lose fat and keep it off. They are the FOUNDATION of your eating pyramid- without them, you may not have the needed “stability” to sustain a high-performance or high-skill diet.

Josh Hillis outlines these small, sustainable habit changes in his book Fat Loss Happens on Monday.  You can check out the book if you’re motivated to do so, or you can chat with me about sustainable changes that you can make to lose fat and keep it off. It’s much easier to read the book or have a coach streamline the process for you than trying to figure it out yourself by doing the diet hamster wheel.

Here’s my first draft of the Eating Performance Pyramid- I look forward to your thoughts and questions!

diet comparison
The initial draft of the Eating Performance Pyramid



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