• Katie Valley, RHNP

Why Diets Don't Work for Healthy Weightloss, According to a Holistic Nutritionist

Updated: May 17

One diet does not work for everyone... if it did, there would only be one diet, right?

This is why one friend may have success and feels great on the keto diet, but when you tried it, you suffered from digestive issues. Or why your sister THRIVED on a vegan diet, but you noticed a drop in energy, low mood and an increase in anxiety.


This is because of something called bio-individuality. We are all unique individuals with different needs. It's important to understand this, especially if you are embarking on a new healthy weight loss journey, or making changes towards optimal wellness.


Now let's get clear on some definitions. Typically, when we hear the word “diet” we conjure up images of a long list of foods we have to avoid, or calories we have to count and restrict. That’s because this is how most “diets” work.  


According to the dictionary, there are two definitions of diet:

  1. the kinds of foods a person, animal or community habitually eat (for example, vegetarian, vegan or paleo diet);

  2.  a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons. 


When I refer to the word “diet” I mean it in the “abundance of foods enjoyed because they support an individual’s health” context, not a restrictive “you can’t eat that” diet or “you can only eat 1200 calories a day” diet.

Here's the reality: restrictive strategies set us up for failure in the long run.  As a society, we’ve been falling victim to the diet mentality for way too long and then blame ourselves because it doesn’t work. First of all- it’s not your fault. ANY restrictive diet will have a yo-yo effect.


When you deprive your body of the nutrition it needs, it keeps track.  

Think of the last restrictive you were on. Are you still on it? Have you stopped and started it or tried another method multiple times since then? Did you experience feeling shame or guilt because you "fell off the wagon" again? I'm not here to judge. I'm asking you these questions because I've been there! I started and stopped so many diets in the past and wish I had known then- what I know now.


Read my story, here.


If You Want to Achieve Healthy Weightloss...

If your health goal is to lose weight, it's important to understand the reason you want that outcome. Is it to fit into those shorts from last summer? Is it because you have your mindset on a certain number on the scale? These reasons might seem "good" in theory, but are they really worth the time spent agonizing over every morsel, calorie or the shame you feel when you have that birthday cake? Because I can tell you from experience (and research) that will only backfire. Hence, yo-yo dieting.


What Actually Works

First of all...realize and remember that you are amazing just the way you are!  You are not the number on your scale.  Yes, I know what it’s like to have that as a big focus because I’ve been there too.  If the scale stresses you out, feel free to hide it for a while as you focus your energy and eating healthier, improving your digestion, being more active and taking better care of yourself.  This is a great opportunity to put some focus back on YOU.  Once I shifted my mindset away from "how can I deprive myself" to "how can I nourish myself" there was this monumental shift in the decisions I made to fuel my body.


And get this- it works with my clients, too!

Food is nutritious and you don’t have to fear it, be deprived of it or demonize it in order to reach your goals.   

Secondly, you deserve to feel amazing.

Remember when I talked about bio-individuality earlier? This is where noticing which foods make you feel good and which make you feel lousy, comes in handy. Choosing foods based on preference, needs, and how you feel AFTER the meal is important. This takes some time- you'll need to get in tune with your body and realize there is a connection between what you eat, and how you feel. Do you experience digestive discomfort every time you eat dairy? This could be a food sensitivity causing inflammation and contributing to further health issues if you continue to eat dairy. Just like restrictive diets are not conducive to your ultimate health goals, neither is continuing to eat a food you know is causing your body distress.




Pay close attention to how you FEEL after you eat.  Notice which foods make you feel good and energized and which ones make you feel sluggish, bloated, gassy, tired, light-headed or give you brain fog after a short time.  Really try to tune in to which foods give you energy and which ones cause symptoms of any kind. Remember, everybody is different. Many people are sensitive to something that can cause unnecessary side effects or reactions (bloating, gas, headaches, brain fog, etc.), so paying close attention to how you feel is key. Also, just because food is supposed to be healthy, doesn’t mean it’s healthy for YOU and your unique body.  


Utilize a food journal No, not to track calories or portions. Instead, this can be a big help for tracking things like how many fruits/veggies you’re eating (get in allllll the micronutrients and antioxidants), if you’re getting enough protein and carbs for fuel and if you’re consuming an adequate amount of healthy fats. More importantly, it helps you become more conscious of what you’re eating and how different foods may affect you.  Journaling can help you make better choices and plan your meals accordingly.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”  ~Hippocrates

Ditch Calorie Counting It bears repeating. Are you really going to count and track every morsel for the rest of your life? So why do it now? Instead, I encourage you to place a strong emphasis on making food choices that feed our body on a cellular level, not just counting calories.  When the focus is solely on counting calories, the focus is on a number rather than the value of nutrition.  There are many people that count calories, focused on say, 1600 calories a day, but they’re not doing their health any favors because the number becomes more important than WHAT they’re eating.


So, quality (of food) over quantity (of calories) is what has and always will, work.

How to Track Progress If weight loss is your goal, I encourage you to get a baseline idea of where your at, however, do not obsess over a number. Even better, measure success through improvements in other areas of your life. Do you notice more energy? Better sleep? Lessening cravings? Improved mood? Better lab numbers when you get your yearly physical? Do your clothes fit more comfortably? It's overall health improvements that matter most, anyway! Despite popular belief, the scale is not the best indicator of progress- here's why.


  1. Our weight fluctuates. Water retention, inflammation from yesterday's intense workout, hormonal changes etc. If you notice your mood or energy is impacted by what that scale says in the morning, get rid of it.

  2. It doesn't differentiate between lean muscle and fat. You can be losing fat and optimizing lean muscle mass (great for your metabolism, by the way) and never see the scale move. But your clothes might fit better and you have more energy in your workouts.



Your Support System Another important aspect of making nutrition and lifestyle changes has to do with your support system.  Do you have the support from one or more people? Maybe it’s your spouse, significant other or another family member or perhaps it’s a friend or coworker.

  Change isn’t always easy so having people that understand your goals that can support the changes you want to make, can make it easier.  Do you have people in your life that are rooting for you?


You may also need to address the fact, that not everyone may be supportive of your goals. One of the biggest reasons - they are concerned as to what that might mean for them. How are your new behaviors and goals going to change their lives? Try not to get upset if this happens. Consider having a conversation with your family or friends you may feel will create resistance or obstacles to your goals. Talk about how you are feeling and explain the benefits everyone else will receive if you take this course. Also, let them know ahead of time what you might need from them to be successful.


It's important to surround yourself with people that have your best interest at heart and truly want you to succeed.  Share your goals with someone that will be there to cheer you on and give you encouragement when you need it. 




You've tried the one size fits all diet plan.

You've tried the weight loss pills.

You've tried shakes and meal replacements.


But what you haven't probably tried, is the plan designed with YOU in mind.


Book a free call to see how working with me, can change your life.




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Katie Valley Wellness LLC

Holistic Nutritionist in Ann Arbor and Online

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