The Reason Diets Fail

This year millions of people will embark upon a  diet  and fail to lose weight.

The usual response to this failure by the people supplying the  diet  is to

blame the individual for this failure. I think it is time to move beyond this

level and look at the real reason  diets  fail. I will use an example to make my


When most people are presented with something like a chocolate (candy) bar it

is not long before they feel a desire to eat the thing. Most will simply blame

the chocolate for causing the desire. They will then try to battle the craving

with will-power. Usually they lose this battle and sooner or later give in and

eat the chocolate bar. This “giving-in” often marks the end of the  diet .

Now lets look at why this happened. We know that the cognitive process that

caused the craving to eat the chocolate bar went something like this; sensory

input was received through the appropriate receptors [mainly eyes in this

case] and the mind formed some type of neural or sensory representation of the

object that will be defined as a chocolate bar. We can regard this process as

inescapable. If the sensory receptors are in working order, the mind must form

a representation or neural image of the object.

When a neural image has been formed we have been taught to assign meanings,

from memory, to these images when they are formed in the mind. The assignment

of meaning is followed by an emotional response appropriate to the meaning

assigned. In the case of the chocolate bar the meaning assigned included

memories of past pleasant experiences assosciated with eating chocolate

bars, hence the craving to eat this chocolate bar. So really it was not the

presence of the object that will be defined as a chocolate bar that caused the

craving, but the cognitive process outlined.

Specifically it was the assignment of meaning that caused the craving, and

because this assignment of meaning has become totally automatic in most

people, the chocolate bar gets the blame for the craving when in fact it only

had the power to cause the mind to form a meaningless image. For most, the

meaning and image have become “fused”, with the meaning now seen as a part of

the neural image itself rather than something assigned from within the mind.

This of course gives the stimulus the power to be the cause of the response.

Just thinking about or reflecting upon a chocolate bar can have the same

effect. A neural image is formed from that reflection and when it has

been formed the cognitive process of automatically assigning meaning to it is

exactly the same as with images caused by external stimulii. We still feel

like a eating the chocolate bar.

This all means of course that every time we are presented with a chocolate bar

or some other desirable food, the mind automatically creates a desire to eat

the delicacy. These emotional responses eventually wear us down and we give in

to this craving and the  diet  goes out the window.

My point is then, the only way to reduce our food intake and still feel

comfortable is to modify this process of automatically assigning meaning to

the images that come into our heads. Then we can reduce the need to eat

unnecessarily and modify our eating behaviour so that we can lose weight and

keep it off.

Changing our behaviour is not as easy as making a decision to go on a  diet . We

need techniques that will help us to bring that change about.  Diets  fail to do this.