Eating disorder. Girl is holding a fork with lettuce and looking at it

We’ve all been in the cycle of limbo dieting. Who hasn’t? It seems like each year, more and more people are revealing themselves to have had struggled with weight management. Conventional wisdom of the 1980’s and 90’s regarding dieting and weight loss have quickly proven outdated and just outright wrong.

Here are 3 reasons your new diet will not help you reach your weight loss goals (plus 2 suggestions as to how you can fix it—for good!).

Of course, you should always consult with a qualified medical professional before changing your diet.

You Are Taking a Cookie-Cutter Approach

Why are you trying to lose weight? If it is for aesthetic reasons, then your goals and your lifestyle changes will differ from those made by someone who is losing weight to remediate the symptoms of something like a chronic disease.

“Since wellness is about quality of life, you should develop a customized approach for each individual,” say the weight loss pros at Real Weight Loss, an Atlanta weight loss center. “So, whatever your personal goals–from managing a chronic condition, to attaining and maintaining a healthy weight, to balancing your hormones–our motto is that a strategy plus support equals success.”

For example, a low sodium diet has been associated with lower blood pressure. Often, traditional advice points to reducing intake of sodium in conjunction with losing weight to maximize results.

While the health benefits of a low-sodium diet could be numerous even if you aren’t looking to lower your blood pressure, you should not necessarily make lowering your sodium intake a main focus of your new lifestyle.

You Are Only Exercising

Exercise alone will not yield the results traditional wisdom has led us to believe. The truth is calories in, calories out is the only weight loss mantra most of us will be able to rely on.

Sometimes things like illness or genetics get in the way, but ultimately weight management comes down to what you fuel your body with—not what you are using that fuel for.

Changing how you move and how often is an important step in the right direction. However, it is not enough just to start moving. You have to start eating right, too.

Your Diet has an Expiration Date

If you diet for 5 months and expect those results to last a lifetime, you are fooling yourself! Be realistic. The effort you put into weight loss will be rewarded, but it can be a long slog until you begin seeing results that make the hard times worth it.

If you want results that last, you need to find something sustainable for the long haul. You need to change your lifestyle entirely to accommodate healthier habits.

Change Your Lifestyle

It all comes down to this: if you want weight loss that lasts a lifetime, you need to commit to a lifetime maintaining that weight loss. But it’s not all doom and gloom. You do not have to commit to a life of starvation or deprivation to reach your goals.

There are plenty of sustainable, healthy lifestyles that make for delicious diets. Take the Mediterranean diet for example.

The Mediterranean diet refers to a whole food fat sources, whole grains, and fishes. The emphasis is less on red meat and cheese and relies heavily on vegetables and plant based nutrient sources, with fish supplementing vital omega-3’s.

Think about that: a diet relying heavily on fish, nuts, whole veggies and fruits…that doesn’t sound half bad to me!

Change Your Relationship to Food Permanently

In addition to changing your eating habits, you should change your outlook on food. What does it mean to you to cook a family meal? What does eating healthy have to do with your self-esteem?

These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself when you are changing the way you eat for good. How do you perceive food? Is it just something you get over with, or do you truly appreciate the act of preparing food as a means of fueling your body?

For many people who have struggled with weight, they can’t maintain a healthy relationship with food. Tracking calories can be triggering for these vulnerable groups, but living healthy should not be about counting calories anyway.

Instead, anyone looking to change their habits permanently should look to the root of the problem and tap into what science is telling us loud and clear: we should be eating more whole foods. Our health improves when we prioritize consuming whole, unprocessed foods.