Useless Diets: Why no diet works – but you must try them all

Remember I told you I was on a 1-week Vegan challenge, way back in October? Yeah, I’m way behind on the results, sorry about that. I’m not gonna make excuses saying I didn’t have time – I don’t believe in ‘having time’ (see below).

Something else I don’t believe in, is diets. At least not in what we call diets these days. If you look up where the word diet comes from, Google shows you this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 3.45.17 PM

See the last line? Greek – ‘diaita’. A way of life. This is, in a nutshell, the reason why all these powders, pills, belly- and waistbands, electric power plates and magazine diets that are re-named and re-promoted year after year, don’t work.

They tell you to change what you eat, wear and do for X weeks, and then you’ll weigh Y pounds less. And sometimes you do. But as sure as the sun rises in the morning, once you’re done and you stop, here comes the yo-yo effect. And with it, the weight returns. No diet works. It’s only logical. You can not expect permanent change from a temporary tweak.

And usually you don’t. You wouldn’t rent a car for a month and then immediately sell your bike. Because you know once you return the car, you’ll have to get to work again without it.

You’d also never say: “I’m just gonna stop smoking for a month, because I want to be healthier, save money and smell better. After a month I’ll go back to smoking, but I’m sure I’ll keep my health, money and fresh odor!”

Every 5-year-old can see why this can never work. So why should it be any different when it comes to food? The simple truth is: For a permanent improvement, you need a permanent change.

There is more truth in this funny comic, than it’s source lets on (it argues the exact opposite of what I’m saying):


Okay, fine, so I need a permanent change, but which diet is it Niklas? Is it Paleo? Pescaterian? Vegetarian? Fruitarian? Raw? Atkins? Low-Carb? Vegan?

You can immediately see the next problem: With so many diets to choose, which one is right for me? The answer is none of the above. They’re all BS.

Wait, let me explain! Now I’ve got everyone yelling at me. The Vegans in the one corner, the Paleo people in the other.

And that’s exactly what the problem is: the yelling. So Vegans, please stop yelling: “Eating animals is murder! No one should eat ANYTHING that comes from an animal!” and Paleo people, please stop with the: “Death to grains! Don’t eat it if it didn’t have a face!”, just for a second.

Because if you all stopped yelling and just took 10 minutes to think about the other side, and think about your own perspective critically, here’s what you would see.

For the Paleo people: Have you ever thought about the fact that primal humans back in the day probably didn’t catch an antelope every single day?

They didn’t have a supermarket to buy 10 pounds of ground meat in, and hunting was a lengthy and exhaustive group effort. There’s a decent chance they only got to eat meat once a week or even less.

For the Vegans: Did you know that there is not a single indigenous population on this planet, that eats entirely plant-based? 

Even the most remote, healthy, ancient and nature-bound humans eat, to some extent, animals or animal-based products. The Aborigines? Eggs, frogs and ants. The Aztecs? Insects, and sometimes a turkey or a dog. The Jains in India (Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of nonviolence towards all living beings)? Even those consume milk and eggs.

So while it’s probably healthy and right to let go of some animal-based products, it doesn’t do the world any good if you go extinct by avoiding all of them.

So who’s the winner in this? Answer: The guy who eats Vegan 6 days a week and then allows himself to have an awesome steak on Sunday. This guy gets the best of both worlds.

Extreme ideologies always come with extreme consequences. The good and the bad. So why do people tend towards these extremes? This is a comfort zone thing. 

It’s much easier to hang out in the Vegan or the Paleo camp, where lots of people are, and yell at the other group, than to be in the middle. Want to know who really has it tough? The guy above, because he gets yelled at by everybody.

The Vegans yell at him for eating meat and ‘being immoral’ and the Paleo people just shoot him odd looks for all the fruit he eats – even though he’s probably the only one who’s right.

That’s sad. Enough with the black and white thinking! The answer is always in the middle.

And this isn’t me talking: Listen to the wise words of Charlie Munger, investor, billionaire and, most importantly for his credibility, called “the smartest person they know” by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and many more:

Another thing I think should be avoided is extremely intense ideology, because it cabbages up one’s mind. When you’re young, it’s easy to drift into loyalties and when you announce that you’re a loyal member and you start shouting the orthodox ideology out, what you’re doing is pounding it in, pounding it in, and you’re gradually ruining your mind.

[Watch his USC Law commencement speech]

Great, so no diet works, yet you’re telling me I need to make permanent change? To what? If it’s all random anyways, why not just give up?

The truth is there are as many diets as there are people on this planet.

Some people are allergic to fruit, others almost choke when eating peanuts, and some thrive on eating only meat.

That’s why, even though all diets are useless, you must still try all of them.

Education is the only way. The permanent change lies in educating yourself.

Be mindful of what you eat. Try things. Read, learn, explore. All of the above mentioned diets have some benefits and some drawbacks.

The only person who can find out what’s best for you – is you. It is up to you to determine what components you should take of which diet and how much of it. So here’s some actionable advice for what you can do right now:

  • Pick 4 different diets – make the list right now! (You can download a list of 10 different diets and my personal suggestions below)
  • Try each one for a week. Make it food experiment month. Or, if you want to go slower, try a diet for one week, then take a week off, and then try the next one. Make sure you’re healthy before starting out.
  • Once you have tried a few diets for a week, try the one that worked best for a month. Notice what’s good and what’s bad.
  • Swap the bad parts by gradually introducing other diets, until you arrive at something that makes you feel energetic, focused, fit and, most importantly, good about yourself.
  • Upon finding out your own personal diet, stick with it – but only for as long as it makes sense. There will come a time when you have to change your diet again. What works today will not necessarily work in 2 years.

Why a week? While a week is not long enough to notice big changes, it’s certainly enough to find out if something is not meant for you. If you can’t even eat a high-carb Vegan diet for a week, because you fall asleep while bench pressing in the gym, or you’re nose swells up to twice its size, you certainly shouldn’t try it for a month or longer.

A week is enough to find out if you feel good with something, and want to follow up with a longer trial.

If you follow the above steps, I promise you, within 6 months or less you will arrive at something that works really well for you. The last part is crucial though.

Once you have found a diet you like, do stick with it. But remember: Avoid extreme ideologies.

Don’t be so naive as to think you have found the holy grail of eating for yourself. You must keep educating yourself. Maybe you will develop an allergy, illness, or taste for something in the future, that will require you to adapt your diet once more – and the whole process starts over again.

No matter how much you like those veggies now, don’t let them cabbage up your mind in the future 😉

Click below to download a list of 10 diets you can try and great starting guides how you can tackle each of them – I also tell you the 4 I picked for myself.

After doing Paleo for a while, I started with a 1-week Vegan challenge. Let me know what you’re gonna start with and which diets you picked in the comments below!

Have fun with this and remember:

Every step outside of your comfort zone is a step towards happiness.