There are many physiological reasons why diets don’t work. This entry explains some emotional reasons why diets are doomed to fail.
- Diets reinforce an “external locus of control” vs. an “internal locus of control”. One’s “locus” (Latin for “place” or “location”) can either be internal (meaning the person believes that they control their life) or external (meaning they believe that their environment, some higher power, or other people control their decisions and their life).
- Having an external locus of control sets in motion certain human behavioral patterns based on compliance and rebellion. People are always either in compliance with the diet or rebelling against it! That’s because no human being tolerates feeling controlled. Even though a diet is voluntary, and it is not a being that can actually control someone, the dieter ends up feeling like it is. Especially when the diet involves a group, a leader, or a weigh-in.
- In the case of group diets, when the dieter is “succeeding” on the diet she is receiving a lot of positive feedback and validation of her worth through the approval of others, or reflected sense of self. When she’s not losing weight, or isn’t losing fast enough, she’s not getting that reflected sense of self. And if she’s dependent on that positive reflection to pump up her self-esteem, she’ll start to feel helpless, hopeless and angry. This will cause her to reject the diet-or worse-to eat to spite the diet and the people representing the diet!
- The external locus of the diet discourages a focus on the inner self. Signals like hunger and fullness are ignored because of the emphasis on points or calories or food groups. Long term success at weight loss and weight management depends on a thoughtful connection with the physical rhythms of your body and an ability to recognize and manage the emotions that correspond to your overeating. The more you follow the advice of “experts” the more you’ll lose touch with yourself. Every new attempt at dieting will reinforce your external locus of control and diminish your internal resources. Don’t imagine that the big diet companies don’t know this.