Why “Fad” Diets Failed My Patients… Strategize for Success!



I’ve seen thousands of patients who have previously “failed” to achieve meaningful results using popular fad diets. In fact, the failure of “fad” diets to solve my patients’ struggles has been so troublesome to me that it has caused a great deal of contemplation and reflection over the years. And, many times, I’ve lost sleep over the very common and extremely dangerous problem of excess body weight that demands a powerful solution.

Research studies confirm my experience. The International Journal for Obesity reported that fewer than 1 in 20 motivated individuals on self-diets were able to lose and maintain weight over a 3 year time period! Why should these motivated individuals suffer from excess body weight, when it would seem so unnecessary? In many ways, it just doesn’t make sense. Trust me, there is a better way…

If you are overweight, I’m convinced that you absolutely must embrace powerful tools and strategies in 3 crucial areas if you are going to be successful. After all, the patients who come to see me are typically very successful people, yet they “failed” with typical diets. They are most often:

  • Extremely motivated towards excellence
  • Very determined to reach personal goals
  • Intelligent by all measures
  • Self-disciplined in almost every area of life
  • Achievers who are very productive individuals

How can they accomplish so much in life and yet not be able to achieve their weight loss goals with the extremely popular diets. It is not logical to them or to their friends and family members. And it has been the source of extreme frustration, countless tears, and the painful “agony of defeat”.

A very successful business owner, husband and father recently met with me in my office to get some help. “Dr. Tague, I’ve been successful in EVERY area of my life except this one. Why can’t I control my weight? I’ve got over 200 employees, multiple successful stores, and a great family. I work out with a trainer a few times a week. Yet even when I follow a diet, I just can’t achieve any significant weight loss. Why? I’m a successful man, why can’t I be ‘successful’ with weight loss?”

That very gifted and capable man is one of thousands of individuals (including physicians, nurses, dieticians, attorneys, business owners, pastors, friends, family members, truck drivers, homemakers, business owners, and construction workers) who I have counseled and who “had their act together”. They are a group of determined individuals who, regardless of effort, have not been able to lose significant weight and maintain the lean, trim, fit bodies that they are so motivated to possess. I have felt their pain and frustration, and shed a number of tears with them as they have recited their historical journey of disappointment.

I’ve listened, considered, and “heard” their painful experiences with dieting. In summary, here is what these individuals have relayed to me in their own words over the years. There are 4 recurring disappointing outcomes that my patients experienced with fad diets:

  1. They “needed more food”. Dieting left them feeling hunger, cravings, and just “missing” favorite foods, making them feel “robbed” of some of life’s important pleasures and comforts. They did not feel satisfied.
  2. They “lost energy”. Dieting produced fatigue, lack of energy, and a depressed mood, that was worse than being overweight.
  3. They “felt deprived”. Dieting left a sense of nutrition deprivation, missing out on healthy foods that were “forbidden” on that particular diet. Example: “When I was on the Atkins Diet, eating all that bacon and butter, while not eating more fruit, it just didn’t seem healthy!”
  4. They either “never lost much weight” or they “regained it quickly”.

The journal JAMA reported in 2005 on a study done with 160 obese individuals who, on average, were 87 pounds overweight. The researchers placed them on one of 4 popular fad diets (Weight Watchers, Zone Diet, Ornish Diet, or Atkins). The average weight loss after one year, including 2 months of “maximum effort”, was a disappointing 6.4 lbs, just 7% of what the individuals needed to lose to reach their ideal weight!

Obviously better than nothing, but 6.4 lbs after a year of effort is just not considered satisfactory to my goal-oriented “achiever” patients. They want real results! (Note: To understand what is possible, in one of our Center For Nutrition studies involving 73 obese patients, the average weight loss was 47.1 lbs with 10.9 inches lost from their waist in just 9 months!)

So what is a “dieter” to do? I’ve learned over the years that people are each unique, needs differ, goals differ, preferences differ. Everyone struggling with their weight absolutely needs a plan specifically for them. However, every dieter must have powerful tools and strategies in place to manage 3 extremely important areas if they are going to be successful. You absolutely must have a plan to manage:

  1. Appetite and cravings. This area must be managed proactively, or it will absolutely sabotage the most determined of dieters. Willpower simply is not effective when battling hunger, cravings, common food addictions, or persistent desires for favorite foods.
  2. Metabolism and energy. Dieting and weight loss most often lowers metabolism rate and the ability to turn stored body fat into useful energy. Make sure your plan addresses this BEFORE you lose your first pound. Having energy is mandatory for great health!
  3. Nutritional needs. On popular diets, researchers have determined that you would have to consume 25,575 calories of allowed foods to achieve the minimum RDA for vitamins and minerals. Diets like Atkins for Life, the DASH Diet and the South Beach Diet have all been determined to be deficient for 27 vitamins and minerals! Before you start a diet, make sure you are POSITIVE you WILL achieve all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

In fact, the main mistake that I’ve seen in dieters over the years is that they overestimate the power of standard diets for losing weight and keeping it off long-term. Here are the 3 steps I use with my patients, and they work:

  1. Assess the causes of the overweight (medical, hormonal, psychological, biochemical, nutritional, physiological, genetic predispositions, medications, etc).
  2. Outline in detail a personal, individualized, comprehensive set of powerful strategies for success.
  3. Monitor results, including energy, weight, appetite, and health, and modify those same effective strategies LONG TERM to stay in control.

Know that long-term weight control is absolutely achievable. Be encouraged, but be wise as you start your journey of success!

For Optimum Health,

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. is a nutrition & weight loss specialist and the Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, P.A.

Dr. Tague is an Alpha Omega Alpha honors graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Tulane. Dr. Tague is board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. His medical practice has focused on optimum health, nutrition, and weight loss since 1996.

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One thought on “Why “Fad” Diets Failed My Patients… Strategize for Success!

  1. Thank you for helping me with my weight loss. I am still maintaining it…although I realize a couple of months isn’t that long of time. I am determined, though, to follow your advice. I really don’t want to ‘pack it on’, again, or have a 3rd heart attack which may end my life, so I try to be faithful to my diet and exercise goals. My family is very helpful, too…asking me almost daily how much I weigh, or if I’m keeping the weight off. It may get old after a while, but I’m glad they care. They want me around as much as I want to be around. That’s great motivation…and the fact that I’m a grandmother of one grandchild. Who would want to sabotage the chance to experience him growing up? Not me!!