Ditch the Diet: A Practical Guide to Losing Weight

Ditch the Diet: A Practical Guide to Losing Weight and How to Keep it Off Forever

By Amanda Sherman

Did you know that diets have a 95% failure rate?  The “instant gratification” they are selling you can keep you on the proverbial hamster wheel of losing weight and inevitably gaining it back over and over and over again.  


And, that is why it is a billion-dollar industry, because who doesn’t want overnight results, right?!  In 2022 alone, the diet industry rang up 76 billion dollars in sales!!!!  Some clever marketing, a few before and after photos, a promise that you’ll fit back into those jeans you wore in high school…SOLD!


Sign me up for that 30-day, 20-lb weight loss; I’m so here for it.  And yet, every year, without fail, millions of people try the next trend in diet/exercise, or worse, the same one they did last year, because this time, they ARE going to stick to it!


The TRUTH is, if it were that easy and those diets worked, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.  I can bet you didn’t gain the weight you want to lose overnight; probably not in 30 days either, so you won’t lose it that fast AND keep it off for good.


WHY not, you ask? Well, there are several reasons, but let’s start with 3:

  1. To lose even 1 lb a week consistently, you have to burn 500 calories a day or cut out 500 calories a day from your diet… Every single day, for the scale to tip in your favor.  Now, that’s just 1 lb a week.  


So you want to lose 10 lbs in a month? (which is conservative compared to the diet pills/plans that are promised/advertised) You’d have to cut 1,166 calories from your diet or burn that much EVERY SINGLE DAY for a month!!!!!  Ok, if you are trying to lose 100+ lbs and are eating 1,000 plus extra calories a day right now, then it’s possible, for sure.  


But, if you only have 10-20 lbs to lose and all you are lacking is a consistent exercise routine, or you have poor nutrition/sleep habits, then no way this is going to work.  And, even if you do lose the weight, you are almost GUARANTEED to gain it back, plus potentially more!  


When dieting to this extreme, not only do you slow down your metabolism, which will stall long-term weight loss results, but you also increase your chances of injury and long-term health side effects.  For real results, that last a lifetime, the hard truth is you need to take a more conservative approach.  It may take months or years to get to your ultimate goal.  But, with this approach, you only have to do the work once!  And, you don’t have to cut out your favorite foods or kill yourself in the gym to get there.  I will include steps below on “how to” implement this strategy.   If you’re ready to get off that “hamster wheel,” keep reading…


       2. Have you heard of Weight Set Point?  The National Library of Medicine states, “The theory posits that the human body has a predetermined weight or fat mass set-point range. Various compensatory physiological mechanisms maintain that set point and resist deviation from it. Feedback systems are vital in driving the body weight back toward the set point… 


Notably, the rate at which one regains weight following weight loss is considerably high, with over 80% of individuals eventually regaining the weight they lost.[5] The set-point theory may explain the high incidence of regained weight… When an individual loses weight, the body triggers increased appetite through modulation of satiety hormones, altered food preferences through behavioral changes, and overcompensated reduction in metabolism to drive the body weight back toward the set-point range.”  


Click here if you want to read the rest of the above-mentioned article.   


In conclusion, the faster you lose the weight, and, the more extreme measures you take to get there, the more likely you are to regain the weight and potentially more!  Your body will resist keeping the changes because it is biologically hard-wired to get you back to where you were, as a means for survival.  


So, if you cut 1,000 calories a day from your diet and lose 10 lbs, as soon as you resume your “pre-diet” diet, you will start gaining the weight back.   Can you maintain a calorie deficit forever?  And, would you want to live like that?  I’m willing to bet the answer is no, and this is why strict diets don’t work as a long-term solution.


When you approach weight loss at a slower rate, the body has time to gradually adapt and you can reset your weight set point if you make small changes over time, that are sustainable for the rest of your life, not just a quick fix until you get to your goal.


       3. Restriction affects not just your body, but also your mind, and can lead to eating disorders if you keep repeating the same pattern.  “ The restrict-binge cycle is a familiar pattern for many dieters. It involves periods of strict dieting or food restriction followed by episodes of uncontrollable overeating or binge eating. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a sign of low willpower, but rather a result of complex biological and psychological triggers….   


When we deprive ourselves of calories through dieting, our bodies try to ensure our survival by triggering hormones that increase our food cravings. 1 One such hormone is ghrelin, often called the “hunger hormone”…    Studies have shown that when food intake is restricted, ghrelin production increases, causing intense cravings. 2 This explains why sticking to a diet can feel like an uphill battle: the more we restrict, the more we crave food…    


The impact of hormonal changes due to dietary restriction goes beyond mere hunger pangs. 1 Restriction also slows down your metabolism, 4 leading to a greater tendency to retain energy (in the form of body fat) when you eventually do eat….     Furthermore, it’s important to consider the psychological toll of the restrict-binge cycle. Constant self-deprivation can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and failure when we inevitably “give in” to cravings. This emotional distress can create a vicious cycle where we turn to food for comfort, further reinforcing the cycle of restriction and binging.”  


Want to read more on this topic?  Click here for the rest of this article.


Ready to give up on “giving up your favorite foods” once and for all?!  You can live in a world where all the foods you love to enjoy are allowed, I promise you! But, you may need to add in some key nutrition that your current diet is lacking.  If you get everything you NEED, you won’t feel the need to overindulge or feel guilty when you do.  I eat pizza every week! Empanadas, fries, and cake too.  But, I eat my veggies, make sure I get enough protein, and work out daily.  


The key is to find a balance that you can live with for the rest of your life and to uncover which habits add up to your benefit, as well as, which ones are to your detriment so you can make the necessary adjustments that get you the results you want.


Ok, so as you can see, the evidence is stacking up in favor of ditching diets once and for all.  So, what do you do then, if your goal is still to lose weight? Here are 8 methods that work, if you want to lose weight and keep it off forever


  • Set Realistic Goals + Measure Results

When it comes to weight loss, what is a realistic expectation timewise to achieve your goal?  The answer is, it depends.  How much weight do you want to lose?  What are you willing to change (for good)?  


Things like how often you can commit to exercising, what nutrition habits are you willing to adjust, etc. all are pivotal factors when creating a realistic timeline.  For instance, if I want to lose 10 lbs, but I’m only willing to work out 1x/week and don’t want to cut anything out of my diet, then it’s unrealistic to think I will get there in 3 months.  Can I still lose the weight?  Sure.  But, it may take 1 year+ with only that one small change.  It’s important to be honest with yourself about the changes you are willing to make long term.  If you need help setting realistic goals, let one of our coaches guide you!  *more on this in #7


Once you have your goal set, you need to measure every metric you can, consistently.   Your weight, circumference measurements, days you come to the gym, calories consumed and burned in a food log, weight/sets/reps performed in your workouts, etc.  You can’t track progress if you don’t measure it.  


Every measure of success counts and should be noted and celebrated.  That .5 lb loss or ½” off your waist may not seem like a lot at the moment, but over time it adds up.  That one extra rep today may not seem like a huge win, but it’s evidence that the needle is moving in the right direction.  And, the more evidence you see, the more work you’ll be willing to put in.  Every hit of success ultimately drives your motivation to keep pushing forward.  Those small successes are what ultimately add up to get you to your goal and keep you there.


  • Lift weights 3x+ a week

There are so many misconceptions out there about weight training.  I would go as far as to say that it extends further than a misconception and borders on actual fear!  There seems to be almost a stigma to it; if you don’t want super big muscles or to be an extreme athlete or bodybuilder, then don’t hit the weights. 


If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they wanted to: lose weight, be stronger, have a lean body, improve their balance, be more mobile, have more energy, and even wish for 6-pack ABS!!!, but then in the same sentence, they said they didn’t want to lift weights?  Because they don’t want to get big, bulky, get hurt, look masculine, and the list goes on and on.  First off, I’d have a lot of nickels, because of the 1,000 people I’ve consulted, nearly every single one of them gave me an excuse like that.  Second, they wouldn’t have reached their goals.  


When I started this article, I asked if you wanted off the proverbial hamster wheel of gaining and losing weight, yes?  Well, of all the things that will help you achieve this goal, once and for all, I would list weight training as #1!!!  


Here’s a list of reasons WHY weight training helps with weight loss, but in addition, adds so many other benefits to your life and health, too!


  • Strength training boosts your metabolism
  • Increases strength (makes it easier to perform everyday activities like household chores or running after the kids)
  • Decreases abdominal fat – (hello 6 pack, can you hear me now?)
  • Appear leaner overall (muscles take up less space than fat, so even if you weigh the same, muscle gives a tighter, leaner shape)
  • Improves heart health
  • Decreases the risk of falling and overall reduces the chance of injury
  • Helps manage blood sugar levels
  • Boosts mood and self-esteem
  • Protects your brain from cognitive decline
  • Allows for greater mobility and flexibility
  • Click here to read more


So please tell me your plan isn’t to just get on the treadmill!  That is sticking to the hamster wheel approach.  I promise you if you implement strength training into your life, not only will you have an easier time reaching and maintaining your goal weight, but as you can see from the list above, you will receive a host of other benefits, too! #getlifted


  • Aim for up to 10,000 steps/day and track your consistency

Almost everyone today carries a smartphone or wears a smartwatch with the capability to track their daily steps.  Use this to your advantage to first track what your daily count is now and then set a goal to increase it 500-1,000 steps higher and try to hit that mark daily.  


When you can maintain that level for 2 weeks and feel comfortable achieving that number of steps consistently, you can keep increasing it a little at a time until you find the sweet spot of what helps you reach your goal and gives you the most health benefits, besides the number on the scale.


There are a host of benefits to walking daily:  improved mood, sleep, and immunity, assists in weight loss/maintenance, protects your bones, and reduces stress, just to name a few.  Click here to read more about the benefits. 


So, what is the magic number of steps?  While the exact number varies due to age, gender, and other factors like how active you are at your job, etc., 8-10,000 steps a day is a great target to aim for and is supported by science.  Want to read more on why these daily steps are not only beneficial for your overall health but also how it helps with weight loss?  Click here for a guide on how many steps to take and all the benefits it delivers.


In my personal experience, the combination of weight training and hitting that 10k mark daily helps me maintain my weight and allows me to eat all the foods I love without guilt.  Plus, it 100% adds to my daily happiness.  I live for those walks, and I always feel better when I finish than when I begin.  But, you don’t have to get it all in 1 day or 1 session.


You could take 3-4 mini walks daily for 5-10 minutes each.  Park a little further away, opt to take the stairs when it’s an option, or walk around your house when you’re on the phone with a friend/family member.  Every step adds up!  And, over time you will build the habit until it becomes second nature, like brushing your teeth.  Just keep going.


  • Keep track of what you eat in a Food Log

When I said “If I had a nickel for every time people didn’t want to lift weights to lose weight…” it would be triple that for the amount of times, people told me they didn’t want to track/log their food.  I get it; it takes time and might make you feel a little self-conscious about the habits you are currently keeping, BUT I promise you it holds the key to those FOREVER results you desire.


You don’t have to live under a “microscope” indefinitely, but it is helpful to look at what you are eating now, what it adds up to, and most importantly what you are currently missing in your diet.  You may need more fiber, more protein, more carbs, or calories (I know, crazy right!).  But, if you don’t take an honest look at what you’re doing now, you can’t make the changes necessary to get the results you want.


So let me get this straight; you want to lose weight, but aren’t willing to look at your eating habits?  That’s like wanting to save money and not looking at your bank account to see where you could cut back on your spending.  To make the changes that will get you results for a lifetime, and are ones you would choose and stick to, this is necessary.


The difference between the approach I’m suggesting and the harsh restrictive diets you may have tried in the past is, that this method allows you to figure out how to keep eating the foods you love, and what you need to add in, to still get the results you want!  


In other words, you CAN have your cake and eat it too!  If you get everything you need, you can have everything you want.  I use My Fitness Pal to log my food, it sets my daily calorie allowance and allows me to customize my Macro ratios to support my goals.  This, my friends, is how I eat pizza, fries, avi toast, and whatever else I want, when I want, without tipping the scale to my detriment.


I learned how much protein, carbs, fats, fiber, and calories I NEED in a day to get results.  When I plan my day, I start with what I want to eat first.  I add in the tacos (you can add whatever food you crave for the day) and I see what that adds up to calorie-wise, how much fat, carbs, protein, etc.  Then, I see what I need to add in to balance that out.  Do I need 4 veggies to get my fiber content?  Do I need 2 protein shakes to balance out how much fat was in the tacos?  Either way, I still add foods I like and am willing to eat daily to get the numbers right.  This method is an “add-in” vs. a takeaway.  


Need help learning how to get started with your Food Log journey?  Talk with one of our trainers to book a nutrition session today.


  • When you get bored, switch up your routine

Ok, so you have your workout routine and food log set on point, you’re losing weight consistently, feeling great, and then BOOM! You have a backslide moment where you binge on foods or fall off your program at the gym.  


This is inevitable at some point.  But, it’s ok.  That just means you need to spice up your routine to get back on track.  Add some new foods to your diet, start a new program, and take some new classes.  The road to results isn’t always linear.  There are going to be obstacles, setbacks, detours, etc. just like everything else in life.  The key is to recognize what triggers them and have a plan to correct them when they arrive.  


Things like lack of sleep, stress, boredom, and holidays can all be triggers to stray from the routine.  The trick is to catch yourself when you veer off the path and get back on as soon as you can.  If you have a setback, it’s ok.   Beating yourself up over gaining back a few pounds will not help, I promise.  But, showing up to the gym will.  Planning your next few days in a food log will.  Trying a new class, new recipe, making sure you get enough sleep, or just adding in a day of fun or relaxation to reset your will.  And, a few days of bad eating or not working out will not undo all the work you did.  But, quitting will.  Just keep going 🙂


  • Get more sleep

This is by far one of the biggest things you can do to turbocharge your results!  Whether you’re just trying to lose weight or you’re trying to build muscle, proper rest is your secret weapon because it affects your metabolism, hormones, cravings, muscle development/recovery, and more.   Sufficient rest can help you get better results because:  it helps prevent injury (muscles can recover properly and when you’re well rested you will be more alert and that awareness leads to better form), increases metabolism, positively influences the body’s response to nutrition and stress, and increases cognitive function.  


But, don’t just take my word for it.  Here are a few excerpts from 2 different sites that support this.  The first is from NASM, the second is from Web MD.  


“Optimal recovery (and even increased metabolism) requires a favorite activity among many young humans, sleep…. Noted neuroscientist Dr. Walker had been quoted as saying, “Sleep is probably the greatest legal performance-enhancing drug that few are abusing enough….”  Numerous studies have indicated that people require proper sleep for optimal cognitive, motor, and physiological functions…  The body releases hormones that are vital to recovery at night. One, in particular, is the human growth hormone (HGH)…. Growth hormone acts on many tissues to help promote healing, recovery, and growth, but it also helps to raise other hormones vital to recovery, such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1)… Proper sleep also influences the body’s response to stress and nutrition. In one study, sleep-deprived men were shown to have impaired glucose metabolism, decreased testosterone, and increased afternoon cortisol… Lastly, proper sleep is vital to making decisions that may directly promote optimal recovery – through nutrition. Researchers found that men and women deprived of sleep were much more likely to make poor nutrition choices…  Given the importance of nutrition in recovery, a sleep-deprived diet is not likely one that optimizes tissue healing or any performance.


“Too little sleep triggers a cortisol spike. This stress hormone signals your body to conserve energy to fuel your waking hours…. Translation: You’re more apt to hang on to fat….  Sleep deprivation makes you “metabolically groggy,” University of Chicago researchers say. Within just 4 days of insufficient ZZZs, your body’s ability to process insulin — a hormone needed to change sugar, starches, and other food into energy — goes awry. Insulin sensitivity, the researchers found, dropped by more than 30%….  Here’s why that’s bad: When your body doesn’t respond properly to insulin, your body has trouble processing fats from your bloodstream, so it ends up storing them as fat….  So it’s not so much that if you sleep, you’ll lose weight, but that too little sleep hampers your metabolism and contributes to weight gain.”


Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep every night for optimal performance.  Some athletes sleep 12 hours a night.  This extra time accommodates the heavier demands of the hours of training they put on their body daily.   Just like finding the sweet spot of what nutrition you need, how often to work out, and what type of exercise helps you achieve the best results, you can experiment with how many hours of sleep are necessary for you to look, feel, and perform your best.


Some keys to a good night’s sleep include:

  • Say goodnight to screen time (no phone, TV, or computer) 1 hour before bed
  • Keep your bedroom dark/dim and cool
  • Limit caffeine consumption after 2 pm
  • Try not to eat or drink alcohol 2 hours before bedtime
  • Stick to a schedule (rise & shine + go to sleep at the same time daily)
  • Create a ritual – bath, meditation, stretch, journal:  anything that helps prepare you for bed
  • Listen to white noise or a sleep meditation to help you fall asleep


  • Try meditation &  journaling to uncover mental blocks & triggers

I’m not sure who said this and I’m paraphrasing here, but… “You can go to the gym, drink your water, eat your veggies, and take your vitamins, but if you don’t deal with the shit going on in your head and your heart, you’re still going to be unhealthy.”  


BOOM!  Mic drop moment.  


That might be a harsh pill to swallow, but it bears repeating because I will tell you that I wasn’t able to eat all the foods I do now without guilt, weight gain, etc. until I did.  I was the epitome of living in a perpetual cycle of dieting, working out to my detriment, taking diet pills, and being beyond sleep-deprived, and I felt like no matter how hard I worked I was getting nowhere.  That is, until I changed how I thought about what I was doing, WHY I was doing it, and was willing to make changes that were for my health, not a # on the scale, and in a way that was building me up instead of tearing me down.


I did it for LOVE vs. HATE.  Trust me when I say, you can’t hate yourself thin or to a 6 pack.  That mentality is what the diet industry is built on, and also why it doesn’t work long term.   You are way more likely to show up for the person you love vs. the one you hate.  If you are willing to keep trying and experimenting with methods until you find one that works for you, you will no doubt be successful, and for life.  The trick is to build habits that make you feel good about yourself.  If you drank 3 bottles of water today, give yourself a proverbial gold star.  Did you go to the gym too? Awesome, give yourself another one.  Oh, and you logged your food, as well? Dang love!  You are CRUSHING it!  Keep it up.  One good habit, one day at a time.  Focus on all the good things you can do for you and they will add up.  Just keep going.


So how did I get there?  Besides all the healthy habits listed above (exercise, nutrition, quality sleep),  journaling and meditation have helped me immeasurably.  The stories we tell ourselves about who we are and who can or can’t be, the emotions we suppress or indulge in trying to fill ourselves up with food, alcohol, shopping, etc…, and the sleepless nights that can accompany these indulgences all take a toll on our mental health.  Plus, they form our beliefs about what is possible and ultimately drive the habits we develop.  


Just like you can’t save money without looking at your spending habits, or change your nutrition without looking at your eating habits, you can’t change your beliefs or way of thinking if you don’t take a look under the proverbial hood.   For me, it was the belief that “if I’m fat, no one will love me.”  I was killing myself dieting and exercising hours a day to try to outrun my food habits which were a means to fill the void of the love I felt I was deprived of.  Even when I was thin, I thought I wasn’t thin enough.  What we see in the mirror is often not what is actually in front of us, but rather how we feel about ourselves on the inside; that’s what reflects back to us.  It’s why someone can tell us we look so good, but we can’t see it.  Or when we point out a flaw, people look at us like we’re crazy because we’re the ONLY one who sees it.


Our vision is skewed by our beliefs.  And, our beliefs are shaped by thoughts we’ve repeated so many times, we take them as fact even if they aren’t true.   It took a lot of self-reflection and a willingness to understand why I was struggling to think I was enough, regardless of my weight.  


Here are a few journal prompts to help you uncover the beliefs that are driving you:

  • Why do you want to lose weight?  Is it for you?  Are you comparing yourself to someone else?  Did someone tell you you should?  Is it due to health issues? 
  • What happens if/when you do?  How will that change your life? How will it change your perception of who you are? Why is it important to you?
  • If you didn’t lose the weight and stayed the same, would you still love yourself?  Do you love yourself now?
  • How long have you been trying to lose weight?  How many diets have you tried? 
  • Is there someone overweight in your life that inspires you? That you think is beautiful the way they are and you love?
  • Do you believe your worth is attached to your weight?  Are you waiting until you reach a goal to live life, be loved, and feel enough?


These are just a few questions to help you uncover what beliefs you currently hold and believe me, knowledge is power.  You can change your beliefs!  All you have to do is repeat a positive thought and/or action enough times and you will start to see a completely different you, even if you don’t physically change.


I didn’t get the results I wanted until I loved the reflection I saw in the mirror, as is.  When I was no longer attached to a number on the scale, but instead just wanted to take care of me the best that I could, that’s when it happened.  I started doing exercises I liked, eating 3-5 veggies a day, meditating and journaling, and finding clothes that I loved on the body I had, not the one I wished I had.  I started loving what I could do with my body vs. judging it based on looks/numbers alone.  More importantly, I stopped comparing my body to others and past versions of myself.  The funny thing is, that’s when the pounds fell off, and easily.


YouTube has tons of FREE meditations with affirmations and these do help reprogram your mind.  There are weight loss ones, self-love ones, and anything you could imagine.  I listen to sleep meditations and I do not doubt that it helped me reframe my beliefs.  Combined with the healthy actions I implemented, I am now healthy, happy, and able to eat whatever I want guilt-free.  


  • Work with a coach +/or therapist

If you’re not sure what exercise program would help you achieve your results, how to set a calorie and macro budget, or want more guidance on journaling and meditation, consult a coach and/or therapist.  We have amazing trainers here who can help set you up with a great workout plan, and nutrition plan, and will guide you through the process as you start this lifetime journey to wellness.   Email lionel@spa23.com to set up an appointment today!


If you want more guidance on journaling and meditation or uncovering the beliefs that may be holding you back, you can look for local classes, watch YouTube videos to learn more, or find a therapist who can help you navigate all obstacles.  When I couldn’t solve the puzzle on my own, I went to a trainer, nutritionist, therapist, and read every book, took every class, and tried every method I could.  You deserve to look and feel your best.  It’s ok to not have all the answers; let someone guide you so you can have the life and body you dream of.  I know you got this, don’t give up!  


Thank you for reading ❤️

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