Why do we do things with such a high failure rate?

Stop Dieting

Let me start with an easy quiz…

  1. If your doctor prescribed you a medication that had a 95% failure rate, would you take it?
  2. If your smoke detector had a 95% failure rate, would you feel safe sleeping at night?
  3. If your car tires had a 95% failure rate, would you risk driving on them?

Hopefully it was an easy no to all 3 questions. Each one of them has very little benefit and very high risk of harm.

Diets have a 95 to 98% failure rate. They cause harm emotionally and physically.
And yet we willingly jump in feet first.

First, what is a diet?

A diet is any plan, method, book, coaching program, or self-restriction that

  • Counts anything – carbs, fat grams, macros, starches, exchanges, calories, points, etc.
  • Avoids/eliminates/demonizes specific foods, food groups and macronutrients.
  • Restricts calories and amounts, even in sneaky restrictions like red light and green light foods.
  • Uses weight loss before and after photos as a primary marketing tool.

This includes plans that say they are not a diet – they’re a wellness or healthy lifestyle plan. This piece is really important because it is so common to hear “yes, I know diets don’t work, but this new plan is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.”

These are grouped into what’s referred to as a Wellness Diet.

If it meets any of the above descriptions, it’s still a diet, no matter how they are cleverly marketing it.

Is the 95-98% number legit?


Down below, I have links from research studies and meta-analysis reviews from 1959 to 2019.

So only 2 to 5 people out of every 100 who diet will be successful beyond 3 years. Diets are sold by convincing you that you will be one of those 5 people.

Most weight loss happens in the first 6 months of a diet, and by around the 1-year mark the weight starts coming back on until it is fully regained by the 3 to 5 year mark, if not sooner.

What’s the harm of dieting?

It’s not just the failure rate…

Physical harm:

Two-thirds of dieters will end up not just regaining the weight, but gaining more than they lost.

This is call weight cycling or yo-yo dieting.

Weight cycling causes more physical and emotional damage to the body than just remaining steady in a heavier body.

[Side note: seeing the words “remaining in a heavier body” will be an emotionally difficult statement for a lot of people, so we’ll talk about this more in a future post. For now, just know this does not mean giving up on your health.]

Down below I have a link that covers some of the harms of weight cycling.

Emotional harm:

Not everyone goes through all these, but here are some very common emotional issues in dieting…

  • sense of deprivation
  • feeling like a failure
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • guilt/shame
  • negative self-talk/self-abuse
  • preoccupation with food
  • promoting and/or receiving the brunt of weight stigma
  • irritability
  • fatigue

The most important message I want to convey to you

(If you are one of the 5% of success stories and what you are doing is working for you long-term both physically and emotionally, then you have no need to stop or change what you are doing.)

This message is for those who are feeling down about their weight, their lack of success in dieting, or their body image.

Please hear me loud and clear…

YOU did not fail at your diet.
The DIET failed you.

You might need some time for this to really sink in, but it’s really true. You did not fail and you most certainly are not a failure.

You were marketed to in a very convincing way and it’s not your fault you got hooked into it.

Diet History Exercise

Before going on another diet, try this exercise first.

Write down all the diets and weight loss attempts you have done in the past.

  • What was it and why did you want to do it?
  • How long did you do it?
  • How much did you lose?
  • How long did you keep it off?
  • Did you regain afterwards; if so, how much?

In the end, knowledge and statistics only help so much. It is your own personal experience that can give you the most awareness.

You deserve peace with food, peace with your thoughts, and peace with your body.


Abstract from a 1959 review of 30 years of obesity studies and a specific research study that showed a 40% attrition rate (meaning 40% dropped out) and of those who stayed, 98% failed by the 2 year mark.

Abstract from a 2014 weight loss study showing high attrition rates.

Meta-analysis from 2019 of 29 different weight loss studies showing that weight regain is typical by the 2- and 5-year mark:

A brief summary in 2011 of a 55-year study in Britain reporting the unlikelihood of returning to original size after weight gain:

Abstract of a 1999 review of 40 years of studies showing of the few long-term studies that exist, there is almost complete relapse after 3 to 5 years.

A 2015 cohort study showing the low probabilities of weight loss:

Related Blog Posts


Do 95% of Dieters Really Fail?



Related Podcasts


Current popular diets: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6yPxxlmKsBL8QgnU43m4n3



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