Making Diets Work

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Very important – please start by reading the articles “Why diets don’t work” in Issue 14 (download here) and “Why diets don’t work | Part II” in Issue 15 (download here) of ZASA Magazine to understand the context of this post, it is supplementary material. The magazines are free.

Making Diets Work (by Steven Nonde, BSc, Biomedicine)

Dieters need to understand the true nature of dieting and how they can make it work to their advantage. For any weight loss program to be considered effective, it must allow the body to lose weight in a way that is beneficial and not harmful to your overall health. Even though losing a significant amount of weight may be gratifying, sudden loss in weight can be extremely harmful to your body and health. Like the old adage goes, ‘good things indeed come to those who wait.’ Gradual (yes, gradual) loss of unwanted weight is a much safer alternative. If you are on a diet or contemplating one, here are a few things you may need to consider:

  • Metabolism, metabolism, metabolism. Aim to increase your metabolism. This allows your body to burn more calories than it stores. Being physically active is fundamental.
  • Avoid weight loss drugs. Any drugs that disrupt your physiological mechanisms can be extremely harmful.
  • Don’t try any diet because it is popular but instead, try painstakingly to understand how and why it can help you.
  • Eat when you are slightly hungry. Waiting until you’re excessively hungry is more likely to cause you to over-eat.
  • Avoid eating when you’re not hungry. Most of weight gain boils down to eating when we are not hungry. The body was not wasteful. It stores extra calories for future use – which in most cases is stored as fat in adipose tissue.
  • Exercise and rebuild your muscles. This will help you maintain and restore optimal metabolism. Exercise can be hard work, so find ways to make exercise enjoyable. Moderate exercise should be part and parcel of your daily routine. Remember, physical activity can help you control high blood pressure and reduce the risk for diabetes type 2, obesity and heart disease.
  • Strive to have a clear mind. Keep your mind at peace and do not expect sudden weight loss. Avoid obsessing about your weight. If need be, talk to a professional about how you feel.
  • Eat often enough. Do not subject your body to a strict scheduled diet. The body has internal mechanisms that control hunger. In other words, it knows when it needs food.
  • Avoid skipping meals. Skipping meals can provoke the body to store fat as a response to counteract what it may perceive as periods of starvation.
  • Finally, focus on improving your general health and then weight loss rather than the other way round. Even though weight loss can have tremendous health benefits, studies suggest that adopting even one healthy habit (such as quitting smoking, drinking in moderation or exercising) can improve your health, prevent disability and prolong your life.

When we focus on treating the symptoms (which in this case is being overweight or obese), we risk putting our body under immense stress. The key to dieting as mentioned earlier is to maximize health. Until health is restored, it profits us little to focus on weight loss. Food is an integral part of life. Limiting or restricting it can only cause problems. Our body was built to survive and has internal mechanisms that allow it to preserve itself. Failing to respect this is the reason why most diets don’t work. The honest truth is that there is no known medical intervention that successfully results in permanent and significant weight loss in the majority of people. Regardless of the controversy that surrounds dieting, we need to learn to measure our worth with the right scale and pursue health in its entirety.

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Thank you for your overwhelming support this year. Happy holidays.

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