The Real Reason Diets Don’t Work

How many times have you been down this devastating path…
In a state of absolute panic you find a new diet—the latest fad in a magazine, a juice cleanse your co-worker swears by, your neighbor’s go-to diet, whatever—and you think to yourself…
OK, if I’m really determined, this time I’ll finally be able to do this! This time I’ll really buckle down, this time I’ll have a lot more willpower, and this time I’ll get it right. I just have to be stronger… and better… and more disciplined… this time.
And full of gusto and determination (and a whole lot of self-loathing) you begin the diet. You start out strong. You eat the bland and boring foods (I’m so sick of steamed veggies)… you deprive yourself of your favorites (all I can think about is brownies and pasta)… and you force yourself to do exercises you despise (I hate, hate, hate this treadmill).
Sure, you lose some weight. But you’re full of fear. And you’re miserable and you’re exhausted.
Inevitably, your willpower fades. You crash, your eating spins out of control, and the weight creeps back on. Defeated and depressed you pretend like it’s no big deal, but deep down you have a sinking feeling that something is horribly, horribly wrong with you.
Hear this: YOU are not broken.
The billion-dollar diet industry, on the other hand, most definitely is!
Here’s the real reason diets don’t work…
Diets don’t help you understand WHY you overeat in the first place, so they don’t get to the root of the issue. Diets also don’t show you HOW to eat, or teach you how to form a healthy relationship with food and your body.
And without those critical (and I mean CRITICAL) missing pieces of the weight-loss puzzle, you’re going to struggle. The allure of dieting is everywhere, but diets—most of which only focus on WHAT to eat—not only create an obsessive relationship with food and throw your metabolism out of whack, they also set you up for failure and frustration.
Emotional eating expert Geenen Roth says…
“For every diet, there is an equal and opposite binge.”
So true, right?
Please let go of the idea that there is a perfect diet or cleanse that will finally solve your weight problems. Realize that the answer lies within you. You have the power to transform your relationship with food, your hunger, and yourself.
Here’s how to lose weight without dieting in 4 (simple-ish) steps…

Step 1: Modify Your Mindset
Don’t start by changing what you eat; start by changing how you think. Do the mental work first.
First things first: Stop criticizing yourself…
Accept and love yourself exactly as you are, extra weight and all. You’re not giving up, you’re empowering yourself to feel good now, so that you can take positive actions towards your goals with confidence. Start now (yes, right now!) by forgiving yourself for the past. You did the best you could with the weight loss resources you had at that time, period. Release the past and begin again.



Next, start asking the hard questions…
What is the downside of losing the weight? For example, are you using weight as an excuse for failure? (“Because of my weight, I can’t be successful, I can’t get a boyfriend, I can’t be happy, etc. etc.”) Or does the weight make you feel safe or protected in some way? Are you terrified of being abused, abandoned or rejected once you’re thin? Once you understand your fears, you can gently work your way through them, and this will give you the psychological green light you need to lose the weight, for good.
Finally, shift your shadow beliefs…
We all have a set of memorized behaviors, emotional reactions, beliefs, and attitudes that run behind the scenes. This subconscious program determines how we live and make decisions on a moment-to-moment basis. And when you have limiting beliefs that don’t support your health goals, you end up constantly sabotaging yourself. Shift your beliefs and you’ll fast track your success.

Step 2: Eat Only Foods You Love
If you’re thinking…
“Hold up, Heather. I LOVE French fries, chocolate, burgers, and pasta. How can I possibly eat those foods and still lose weight!?”
Here’s the thing: You do not have to give up the foods you love to lose weight.
Try to stop seeing foods as “good” or “bad.” If you eat only when you’re physically hungry (see Step 4) and stop before you’re uncomfortably full (see Step 3), you can eat anything (yes, anything) you want… and still lose weight.
But you’ll reach your goal weight a lot faster, and you’ll feel a heck of a lot better, if you nourish yourself with whole and delicious REAL foods more often than not. Here’s what I do…
Most of the time (maybe about 80% or so) I eat nutrient dense and clean foods I love (I shop at farmers’ markets, I drink green smoothies, I cook scrumptious Skinnytaste recipes, and I search out healthy foods everywhere I go, like this yummy smoothie in Bali). And the rest of the time, well, I eat whatever I want.
I travel a ton, so this means I can eat croissants in Geneva,creamy pasta dishes and panini in Florence, and artisan cheese and oysters when I’m in San Francisco.
I also incorporate movement into my daily life, I eat mindfully and I stay in tune with my body…

Step 3: Tune Into Your Body
Remember when you were a kid and you instinctively knew when and how much to eat? It’s 100% possible for you to find that kind of freedom with food again.
Your (perfect and beautifully designed) body instinctively knows exactly what it needs to thrive and naturally reach its ideal weight—you just have listen to it.
Think of your hunger as a scale…


Once you reach a 1, 2, or 3 on the scale (the Danger Zone), you’ll trigger your primal drive to overeat. And then you can kiss moderation, mindfulness, and conscious eating (not to mention weight loss) goodbye. And H-ANGRY is never pretty!
As often as possible, eat in the Fuel Zone. Start eating at around a 4 or 5. Eat mindfully and stop when you get to a 6 or 7. Also, eat only foods you love (see step 2 above), and, as often as possible, eat REAL food, not food-like products that your body can’t process or identify.
Honoring your hunger and respecting your fullness will help you build trust with yourself and food. And it will help you reconnect with your body’s natural cues which, I’m guessing, have become pretty blurry from years of controlling and binging.
A balanced meal plan can help you get a feel for portions and nutrient combos while you start tuning in. But remember, your body knows better than any expert (including me!) how much to eat, when to eat, and when it’s time to stop eating.

Step 4: Deal With Your Emotions Directly
If you find yourself heading (OK, sometimes running) for the fridge when you’re at a 7 or above on the Hunger Scale, most likely you’re using food for emotional relief—to comfort, to reduce anxiety, or to reward. And it’s no wonder…
Eating is a seductive distraction that immediately soothes negative feelings. And certain foods (sugar and carbs, I’m looking at you!) trigger a release of feel-good chemicals in the brain.
But, as you know, the relief found in food is temporary. In fact, it lasts all of five seconds—then you go back to feeling sad or stressed… and now you also feel guilty, stuffed, and disgusted.
There’s a big difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger…


Feeding your feelings is just a habit, and you can absolutely and positively break it (truly!).
Try this: Use the 3 R’s (thank you Gabrielle Bernstein!) to face your feelings head-on and to gain a new (and much better) perspective. I use the 3 R’s all the time; it takes less than 5 minutes…
Recognize: Before you dive into that bag of chips or box of cookies, take a moment and make yourself acutely aware of your underlying feelings. Do you feel insecure, sadness, anxiety, boredom, or loneliness? Maybe it’s excitement or happiness? Recognizing your trigger emotions will help you prepare to handle them in healthier ways (that’s why I call 7-10 on the Hunger Scale the Discover Zone).
Record: Next dig into the feelings. Write out exactly what you are feeling (and why), or what you are trying NOT to feel (and why).
Release: Now take a deep breath and allow yourself to actually feel the feelings that come up. For ninety seconds (set a timer) just sit with the feelings. Honor and allow the feelings and let them pass through you. Then exhale and release the feelings—in your mind you can say, ”I choose love and release fear. I welcome a shift in perception.”
Then do something else… something indulgent (take a relaxing bubble bath, read a trash magazine, watch a favorite movie, etc.).
The more you repeat the 3 R’s, turn criticism into curiosity, and allow yourself to actually FEEL your emotions, the easier it will be to deal with them, without food.


So what do ya think? Are you ready to ditch dieting, forever? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. And please let me know if you have any questions, I’m here to help.
Much love,


28 Responses to “The Real Reason Diets Don’t Work”

  1. Debbie says:

    Heather you are an angel to do all this work for us. I love your recipes. Thank You

    • Heather K. Jones says:

      Thank you so much, Debbie! The weight loss advice (and everything on this site) is from me, but the yummy Skinnytaste recipes are from the talented and lovely Gina Homolka. I am the nutrition consultant on the upcoming Skinnytaste cookbook – soooo excited about it. It will be out later in 2014. XXX

  2. Giselle says:

    Hey Heather!
    Love the 3 R’s concept. Quite useful! I’ve been applying it lately without even realizing 🙂 & it has worked wonders
    I’ve been dealing with the mix of me emotions, thoughts & eating habits.
    Thanks for the Hunger Scale! Had read a lot about hunger scale, yet I truely identified with the 2. H-angry (hungry & anger), I even joked that it’s my natural state when it comes to food. Fortunately now understand why I’m feeling that way. I used to think that I had eating too much, but now that I re-think it, I realize that most times that I feel h-angry is because I’ve waited too much between meals.

    Thanks for this post, it’s been really useful to me (& my understanding of why I feel some way when eating).

  3. Heather K. Jones says:

    Great! Yes, the 3 Rs are helpful for SO many things. And I know exactly what you mean about being h-angry all the time. I was h-angry on a regular basis for many years, ha. And once you’re at a 2, it is way too easy to get to 10! It happens FAST.

    You’re so welcome. I am so happy it helps! 🙂

  4. Stacey says:

    Thanks Heather. It’s funny, I have your program and read it all(I’m a diet feeler) and promptly dropped it to read the latest on health, cancer prevention (vegan anyone?) and went out to buy all organic and a cleanse. If that doesn’t scream my diet type! I got this email promptly after cheating on said cleanse and breathed out loudly. This was so perfectly timed. Thank you.

    • Heather K. Jones says:

      I’m so happy to hear this, Stacey! Diets serve as an awesome distraction… they keep us from looking at what’s going on on the inside, right? But, really, the cleanse and etc. are exactly what you needed to find your way back to your truth. So it worked out perfectly.

      And yes, I’m a Diet Feeler too, and I totally get it! 🙂

      This is from the Diet Feeler book – something to keep in mind as you track your hunger, deal with emotions head-on and work on your mindset…

      “Remember that this process takes time; you cannot un-do firmly rooted habits overnight. Slip-ups are an inevitable part of the learning curve. Be sure to view any mistakes as opportunities for growth and understanding, rather than personal failures.”

      Please let me know if I can help with anything!

  5. AnneMary says:

    Wow..what a great article. It is so important to become aware of, sit with and feel our feelings! When we do that, they lose power and we make better choices!

    • Heather K. Jones says:

      Fantastic to hear from you, AnneMary! I LOVE this… “they lose power and we make better choices!” Well said! We really do take our power back by facing the fears/feelings, and that is SO liberating. Doing so is also an awesome act of self-care. I just read this great quote on Pinterest and had to share…

      “I NOW take my power back and I choose to respect, honor, and love myself.”


  6. Elizabeth says:

    Heather, I loved reading this article! There was so much good advice. I am sick of dieting since I have been doing it for so long and dieting the wrong way! I lost a 115 pounds recently. I counted every calorie I ate, measured all my food (ate processed low calorie foods with artificial sweeteners a lot ) and exercised like crazy! I hated getting to my goal weight! I loved the way I looked once I got there but I was hangry all along the way since I was so strict. I got rid of all my previous clothing and bought cute new clothes to wear. Maintaining my weight lasted awhile but I still counted every calorie I ate. Then I would eat something sweet and then would eat a lot more! I was thinking since I already “blew it” I might as well eat that way for the rest of the day and be back on track tomorrow….eat as much as I can now because I can’t eat it tomorrow. Well my weight is going up, I would be really strict dieting during the week and binging a lot on the weekend (dreading going back on a diet again and feeling so hungry). My weight is yo-yo’ing and I gained 40 pounds and am not feeling good. I am embarrassed and most of my clothes don’t fit. I can’t continue down this path….I don’t want to gain all my weight back. I want to be healthy, skinny and have the right attitude about food and eating! Thanks again for you informative article! I need to sit down and re-read it again so I can change the way I am treating my body with food!

  7. Heather K. Jones says:

    Thank you so much, Elizabeth! I’m really excited you found this article too – now is the PERFECT time for you to form a healthy relationship with food and your body! You CAN keep the weight off and you can do it without dieting or restriction.

    Start with the steps in this post, and below are some recommend NON-DIET books if you want to dig a bit further. And check out the meditation program I mention in this post – really awesome tool (MINDSET is so important).

    And please let me know if I can help in anyway. I am here for you! 🙂

    1) The Power is Within You (listen to the audiobook if you can)

    2) Intuitive Eating

    3) Eating Mindfully

    4) Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

  8. Margaret says:

    I very much enjoy your words of encouragement as well as your articles I have been “fighting” food addictions for a long time. Your information is new, direct and hopeful. I’m all in…. Do you offer any conferences or seminars?

  9. Andrea says:

    Thank you for this. I am going to try the “three R’s” because that is my biggest problem.

    I’ve had weight issues since having my third child, marriage issues, outside family stress, etc. I use food for comfort and when I’m bored, as a reward for getting through the day. I need to STOP!

    I cannot diet, I cannot count calories. I know I have it in me to lose weight by listening to my body!

    I love Skinnytaste! I also recently bought the book Savor and I need to actually read it:) Thank you for this post.

  10. Heather K. Jones says:

    Hi Andrea – you are so welcome! The only way to lose weight with happiness and ease is without dieting – so know that you are on the right track. Know that YOU do have the power to make a healthy change 🙂

    If you need anything, please be in touch.

    Oh, I love that book Savor too!

  11. Gayle Stoute says:

    Thank you for this information. I will try the 3R’s starting today. I need to lose tummy fat. I try to substitute sweets with fruits. I like the concept of the 3R’s.

  12. Charlene says:

    Thank you Heather, Much of this article applies to myself, especially the emotional eating. I have tried dieting for years and years and I am still fat. I go through periods of depression when I fail again and again. I had given up and decided that I will just have to live out my life in this heavy body then I began to have problems with my feet and knees and now working, exercise, and doing the things that I love like hiking with my family is all but unbearable with pain from arthritis. The extra 80 pounds that I am carrying is going to disable me and I am still in my early 50’s. I want to make all the changes that this article talks about. I want to change my approach and attitude and in turn have that solve my problems. Thanks again for new “tools”!

  13. Kate Teschner says:

    Thank you so much Heather, your advice is changing my life. I am 58 on Tuesday (every second, minute, hour, day, week, month and year count at my age). I have struggled with obesity, (OMG I wrote it on paper for all to see). for 30 years, I can write a book on low self esteem, emotional eating, feeling invalidated and any other negative destructing thought there is to hurt ourselves with.

    Well my struggle ends now! Thanks so much for all your advice and encouragement. I have even thought of doing a blog on what I have learned being a widow for 25 years and raising 5 children on my own.

    Your Biggest Fan,

    Kate Teschner

    I am thinking of starting a blog and I will certainly give you a shot out when it’s born.

    • Heather K. Jones says:

      Kate – thank you so much for your kind and brave message! You are so welcome – I love sharing all that has helped me.

      Yes, NOW your struggle ends! I’m SO happy you’re waking up and deciding to take a new path. AWESOME. A blog is an excellent idea. 5 kids on your own, WOW – sounds like you have a lot to share! Please be in touch if I can help with anything! Here for you XX

  14. Meloni Simpson says:

    Heather, I am so glad I found you. Wow, you really hit it right on. I have been overweight since middle school, I just had made 55th birthday over the weekend, and was ready to start another diet. I am overweight and have tried so many different diets, they would work for a while, but I just wouldn’t finish, and then to regain all that I lost and more. It is very frustrating for me. I know that it is my mindset. I have made excuses like it is my hormones, my diabetes, my age, which I know are contributors to a slow weight loss, but I know my mind is the major issue. I did have something that happened to me in my early childhood and I feel it contributed to my weight gain and my feelings. I am so glad that I have found you Heather, because I feel that your knowledge and expertise will help me. I am so thankful God directed me to your blog. Looking forward to changing, and not dieting anymore.

    • Heather K. Jones says:

      Hey Meloni – I’m so happy to hear from you – and I’m so happy to hear you are going to give up dieting! YES, working on the WHY is so important. Once you explore, understand and clear those blocks (including what happened in your childhood), you will find long-term healthy solutions that work for you…because you will truly want to. Being AWARE of your blocks is really a BIG deal – so way to go! I would start by reading The Power Is Within You by Louise Hay. Awesome book to help you change your mindset. Also, just so you know, I will be launching an online version of my Smaller Size Bigger Life program later this year – the first part of my program is overcoming the blocks that keep you stuck 🙂 Please stay in touch and let me know what I can do to help! XX

  15. […] The real reason diets don’t work via Heather K Jones {Thank you!} […]

  16. Tam says:


    This is such an interesting article. I love your site. I am a diet planner. Makes total sense.

    I spend huge amounts of time reading, researching and getting very confused about the myriad of diets, healthy eating plans and do/do nots. I lose weight then put it back on. I find it hard to commit to a diet because it’s too extreme for me (paleo? But I love rice!) vegan (but I need meat!) or because I panic about the artificial sweeteners or ‘diet’ products they are selling. I try clean eating, embrace a bit of almond nut butter and go nuts for avocado (for years banned from my kitchen) and then panic about fat content. Sugar is bad, fat is bad… no it’s good…no it’s bad.

    I just want to be ‘normal’. Just eat what I want, when I want without stressing or over eating. I have tried but maybe I didn’t commit enough? Maybe the ‘planner’ in me found those rules too loose, too relaxed. I want to to out for coffee and say ‘yes, I’ll have a slice of cake with that’ but then if I’m not hungry at lunchtime think well, I had cake so no problem. Instead I’m thinking ‘but it’s lunchtime, I should eat’.

    Anyway enough rambling! Thank you for giving me ‘food for thought’ I shall keep reading xxxx

  17. Molly says:

    Heather, I randomly discovered you recently and it couldn’t have been at a better time. My whole life, even in elementary school, I remember dieting. Now I am in college, and the stress of perfection is at its peak. Every hour of the day I’m thinking about dieting, yet somehow I’m still at the same weight, and still in the self-hatred mindset. This particular article has given me tremendous insight into what emotionally needs to be changed in order for me to have any sort of physical change. Can’t express how thankful I am for your encouraging words and articles, you’re truly making a difference!

  18. Debbie says:

    Heather, you totally get it! As I read through your site, and your Smaller Size, Bigger Life info, you put into words everything that I am feeling. After years of yo-yo dieting, and trying various eating plans, diets, and other approaches to weight loss, with varying level so of success, often sabotaging or short circuiting my efforts, I realize that I am AFRAID of food. I have a defeatist attitude when it comes to yet another weight loss effort, but at 65 my health depends on getting my weight under control. And the thought of losing the necessary 50+ pounds is more than I can grasp. . . I’m just so over it, so tired of the same old routines. Wow! I have actually found hope in your approach! Thank you!

  19. Laura C. says:

    I NEVER thought of myself as an emotional eater. I believe I am generally content with my life except for my lack of organization. However, every one of the descriptions on the emotional eating side of your chart is me. I thought it was just a severe lack of self control because I love food. Sure, I tend to let time get away from me and suddenly I realize I’m starving, then I go crazy. However, in the afternoons, I can’t seem to get a grip on myself and I eat everything I shouldn’t, trying to figure out what it is I’m actually craving.

  20. Ann Glenn says:

    I really like the concept of the 3R’s;recognize,record & release. When I over eat/binge I totally check out! I eat watching TV & then fall asleep. I never look at what is going on I just eat & sleep. So this will be a whole new persfective for me. Thanks Heather

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