The Secret to Why You Lose Weight on a Diet (the first time)

Have you ever been on a diet? If you’re like millions, you probably have.

Did you wonder why that diet worked so well the first time? Then you tried it again and maybe again? Where was that magic?

The allure of a dietThe Secret to Why You Lose Weight on a Diet (the first time)

There are reasons diets are alluring. A big reason:

Diets promise dramatic weight loss results.

People often go on a diet and do well – the first time around. They’ll have some success, but then get bored and slip, slash, slide back to old eating habits. Trying to get back on track, they realize poof! the magic disappeared. That diet rarely works the second, third, fourth time around.

How many times have you joined Weight Watchers?

Have you been on Weight Watchers? I have. It was the first formal diet program I went on as a young teen. It worked great the first time, but how many times did I rejoin hoping to get the magic back? (Too many to count.)

Diets work that way. Over the years many people have told me of their success with… (fill in the blank)…. They’re  successful with – for example, Atkins. It worked in helping get weight off yet didn’t help in keeping it off. Why?

An interesting phenomenon. Most diets – when followed diligently – work well at first and sometimes with significant success. It’s new and fresh. Unfortunately, not rarely sustainable. Andd future attempts? Not so well. For many it becomes yoyo dieting – a diet cycle so damaging to emotional health. Trust me I know.

The Secret to Why You Lose Weight on a Diet (the first time)

Why diets ‘work’

This is my philosophy of why diets work. You can fill in the blank with any diet. So, the way Paleo or keto or Atkins or gluten-free or South Beach, or whatever is the darling of the day.

I’ll use Maggie to illustrate. Maggie’s typical day:

  • No time for breakfast but grabs a donut at the office washing it down with a soda.
  • Overworked and on deadline, Maggie drinks her way through lunch with a caffeine and sugar-Laden beverage from the Starbucks in her building.
  • She ignores any hunger signals grabbing handfuls of jellybeans on her manager’s desk.
  • Brain fog rolls in later in the afternoon and another Starbucks is Maggie’s pick-me-up.
  • Leaving work and having nothing prepared for dinner, she speed dials Door Dash.
  • Exhausted from work and her poor eating habits, Maggie collapses with no energy to consider anything physical, like taking a walk. Instead, vegetating on the couch mindlessly noshing on sweet treats.

That’s been Maggie’s pattern for years.

Ready to change

Finally, ready to change, Maggie hears about a program and embraces it. Again, fill in the blank  – keto, Paleo, South Beach, Atkins, or any other diet.

These were some changes Maggie made.

  • She gave up her morning donuts and started eating a more substantial breakfast.
  • She quit drinking her sugar-laden coffee beverages.
  • She made time for lunch, bringing something from home.
  • She regularly ate an afternoon snack – most often it was a handful of nuts.

A big plus – Maggie had a plan for dinner. After a few days, feeling better with more energy, she started walking after her evening meal. So long couch spud.

Watch the video! 

What gets the credit?

As the weight started to drop, of course, Maggie gave credit to her new diet program. But look at the changes she made:

  • She started planning and eating regularly. She ate more vegetables.
  • She was eating more wholesome foods and limited or nearly gave up her ultra-processed foods.
  • She wasn’t eating so much refined white flour anymore, nor the fast food.
  • She was getting physical activity in the evening. Not to mention she eliminated – get this – 50 teaspoons of added sugar, crazy!

Diets can work not due to any magic, but because the person embraces new eating habits – awareness and paying attention. The dieter starts eating better, abandoning old, unhealthy eating habits, and then loses weight. Was it keto, Paleo, Atkins, gluten-free, South Beach, whatever, or because the dieter, in this case, Maggie, stopped eating so poorly? Think about it.

Is it the diet or the awareness and making better choices that facilitates change and weight loss?

Do me a favor this new year. Please don’t fall prey to the shiny new object and ask yourself:The Secret to Why You Lose Weight on a Diet (the first time)

  • Is this something I can see myself doing years down the road?
  • Is this nutrition I can live with?

No? Then think of an alternative approach.

Work with me

You’ve figured it out – I am not a fan of diets – been there/done that. I know how dieting affects people – I know how it affected me. I prescribe a gentler way, a gentle approach with mindfulness.

If you’re interested in my approach, please check out the Neily on Nutrition BE FREE Blueprint® to learn more.

The Secret to Why You Lose Weight on a Diet (the first time)

Enjoy this? Then check out these videos and posts!

Image credits: Pixababy, Canva

Jennifer “Neily” Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach


  1. Monet Fennema

    Well stated. Loved your magnet illustrations.

    Hope you keep up these informative articles.

    • Neily

      Thanks so much!

  2. Aaron Sustaita

    Great article! I have heard that when working out, you have to consider a very good diet of what works for you and what doesn’t. Whether that is to build muscle or just to lose weight. How does one consider a healthy diet when they want to bulk up, I’e heard of ‘dirty bulking’ before but not healthy. any recommendation for that?

    • Neily

      Hey Aaron- Okay…you got me on that one ‘dirty bulking’ – I really do not know. You will learn over the course of our class about healthy eating. Thanks for your comment. -Neily

  3. Fatiha Issa

    This is a really nice article. The illustration or example with Maggie made it more easier to understand. I always though diet is what made people lose weight and be healthy and not the food they eat. Thanks foor the useful information.

    • Neily

      You’re welcome! I’m glad you found it useful. -Neily

  4. Nikki

    Awesome read and rings true! I started out the new year doing Keto and a month in now I have seen some results. But honestly it is my huge change it food intake. For me it was sugar! I am now going to eat for health!
    Thanks Neily for the read.

    • Neily

      Yes! That’s it…the change in your food…and probably eating better quality food. Good luck! -Neily

      • Ramandeep kaur

        I love this post. Very useful information. I am struggling to weight loss from last 4 years since after my c- section. It was hard for me. But after reading this article, I am pretty sure. I can do it.
        Thank you so Ms. Neily.

        • Neily

          You’re welcome – glad you found it helpful!

    • Dawsen Deller

      I loved this blog post! I learned so much while reading it, I have struggled with weight loss ever since I began college but reading this allows me to realize that I can do it! Thank you!
      – Dawsen Deller

      • Neily

        Glad you liked it Dawsen! Lots of great info on my site that may help you.

  5. Arthur

    I love this article! My transformation journey has not been much enjoyable as I couldn’t eat the things I like( I have a big sweet tooth). But in the end, I am quite satisfied with my looks after a big transformation. I lost around 40kgs of weight in one year.

    • Neily

      Congratulations Arthur!


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