Expert warns diets are contributing to Britain’s obesity epidemic

Are diets making you FATTER? Expert warns regimes are a ‘waste of time’ and are contributing to Britain’s obesity epidemic

  • Dr Aria Campbell-Danesh is a behavioural psychologist based in Newcastle 
  • Majority of dieters report spending most of the year trying to shift the pounds
  • Two thirds of people regain more weight than they lost on a diet, figures show 

Many of us are already underway with strict diets. 

But a psychologist has now warned trying to stick to a regime – regardless of what time of the year it is – is a ‘waste of time’.

Dr Aria Campbell-Danesh argues that diets may actually be contributing to Britain’s obesity epidemic. 

In a piece for MailOnline, he says that two thirds of dieters regain more weight than they lose when they were cutting out certain foods. 

Women are more likely to go on diets than men – investing years and sometimes decades of theirs lives trying to drop their dress size

Why are diets a waste of time?

The majority of dieters report spending most of the year trying to shift the pounds.

Women are more likely to go on diets than men – investing years and sometimes decades of theirs lives trying to drop their dress size.

An increase in weight loss attempts over the past two decades mirrors the rising rates of obesity in the UK.

There is consistent scientific evidence confirming what we all fear deep down: no matter which diet you go on, you will lose weight initially, but it will creep back on in the long run.

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Society’s solution to weight gain appears to be ineffective at best and is counterproductive at worst.

Diets are not the solution to the obesity epidemic – they’re part of the problem. One to two thirds of dieters regain more weight than they lose on a diet.

The sooner we wake up to the reality that diets do not work in the long run, the better.

Why are diets harmful?

Research shows that the more diet attempts you make, the more likely you are to gain weight in the future.


Repeatedly losing weight, only to regain it, can negatively impact an individual’s self-esteem and self-confidence, said Dr Campbell-Danesh.

Yo-yo dieters are significantly more likely to experience loss of control around food and feel helpless about changing their situation, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Going on the latest hip diet contains the key ingredients to feel like a failure and put on weight.

Dieting can cause more harm than good, leading to your weight cycling up and down.

This ‘yo-yo effect’ has been implicated in increasing the risk of fat around the abdomen, cardiovascular problems and early death. 

Why don’t diets work?

1. Diets are unsustainable

When you start to lose weight, your body responds physiologically by resisting this weight loss. Your metabolism becomes more efficient, essentially running on fewer calories.

In order to maintain weight loss, you therefore have to maintain any changes you’ve made to your eating and exercise.

However, most diets are rigid and unsustainable. On average, weight loss attempts last four weeks for women and six weeks for men.

You may be able to follow a strict diet plan for a month but then you go back to your old eating habits and the weight piles back on.

Since diets are generally based on deprivation and feel like punishment, there’s often a sense of relief that it’s over and people report overeating when the diet comes to an end.

Diets usually demonise a particular food group, such as carbohydrates or fats

2. Diets restrict certain foods

Diets usually demonise a particular food group, such as carbohydrates or fats.

Research shows that banning foods actually backfires, leading to people liking, wanting and eating more of the ‘forbidden’ items.

A study published in the scientific journal Appetite found participants with a tendency to overeat consumed approximately 133 per cent more chocolate when prohibited from eating it for 24 hours.

Depriving yourself of a food is the perfect way to induce a cycle of bingeing, restriction and weight gain.

3. Diets only focus on what you eat

Most diets claim to have the magic ratio of carbs, fats and proteins for weight loss.

However, the latest scientific research suggests that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all solution’: what works for you may not work for your best friend.

What you eat is only part of the picture.

Unless you address the way that you eat, you’ll continually revert to previous habits such as binge eating, continually snacking and eating even when you’re full.

We make around 220 food-related decisions every day, with 94 per cent happening outside of our awareness.

Most people eat mindlessly, while at their desk, scrolling through social media or watching TV. 


Dr Campbell-Danesh, a behaviour change psychologist, based in Newcastle, has created his own method, called Focused Insight Training (F.I.T). 

His system, which changes the way you think about food, applies scientific insights to three main pillars: mind, body and food.

Every F.I.T. programme is personally tailored to your unique psychology and lifestyle so that you can gain more control over your eating. 

1. MIND:

The first step is to shift your mindset to see that diets are not the answer. 

In the long run going on another diet will hold you back from achieving the body that you want. 

You’ll be one step ahead when you drop the illusion that a short-term fix can be a long-term solution. 

You don’t brush your teeth intensely for seven days and then expect them to stay clean for the rest of your life.

2. BODY:

Research shows being physically active plays an important role in keeping weight off. 

Exercise naturally boosts your metabolism, counteracting the slowing of metabolism that occurs during weight loss.

The biggest mistake is to try and change too much too quickly. 

The secret to long-term weight loss is to create small, gradual changes that become habits. 

Small changes compound over time to lead to big results. 

Studies into the psychology of habits show that the simpler the action, the quicker it becomes second nature.

3. FOOD:

Rather than counting calories or starting a diet you can’t sustain.

Research from Stanford shows that having an eating pattern that you can stick with, on which you don’t feel deprived, and that has more whole, natural foods and fewer refined, processed ones is most important for weight loss. 

Switch your focus from restricting calories to nourishing your body with foods that you love to eat.

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