Why When Talking Weight Loss, We Don’t Talk About ‘Diets’ or ‘Maintenance’

Nutrition // Georgina Moore // 22 February 2013

It’s time to throw words like ‘diet’ and ‘maintenence’ into the garbage bin along with any junk food left in your kitchen. If you want to lose weight and stay in control of what you see on the scales permanently, then all the diet and exercise books in the world won’t help you. You need to re-program the way you think about food, exercise and ultimately yourself.

As a dietitian, I’m constantly asked by patients if I can construct a ‘diet plan’ to help them lose weight. Generally, I try and turn the conversation around.

There is no ‘trick’ to weight loss. Eat more calories than you burn off, and your body will store them, and you’ll get bigger. Cut down on the calories and up your expenditure with more activity and exercise, and it will get smaller. Simply, your body will do as it’s told, and you are the one giving it the instructions.

I could give you a nutrition plan, but I want to know what kind of instructions you plan to give your body when you go ‘off’ it. Will you just go back to your previous lifestyle – the old recipes you cooked and the old portion sizes – I want to know how you plan to keep that weight off for decades, not weeks or months.


If you aren’t interested in having a conversation with me about sustaining healthy habits long-term, then you just might be a yo-yo dieter.

Yo-yo dieters follow fad diets, lose weight and achieve their goal (or get pretty close). They then revert to old eating patterns and end up gaining the weight back. Often, to their horror, they gain a little extra weight too. They might wait a few months or a year before jumping on another fad. And the cycle begins again.

The problem with fad diets is that they are typically structured around extreme behaviours, removing an element of your diet that you need or skewing your diet to focus on one nutritional group. For example, they might be focused on no carbs, no fruit, all protein, or minimal dairy.

The removal of certain food groups from your diet is not a long-term solution; it isn’t even a sustainable short-term solution. This type of approach to food can lead to malnutrition as you are not getting the broad spectrum of nutrients that your body needs.

All or nothing nutrition plans can also lead to a sense of deprivation that can trigger dangerous behaviours. You might feel really positive when you start cutting out all the carbs and fruit, confident that this is the solution. But more often than not, you’ll find your inner teenager busting out. You’ll throw the towel in, buck the plan and not only cave in but potentially swing in the other direction, maybe even binging on the very food you have been avoiding.

Fad diets are all about the short cut, the quick fix rather than the slow burn. The lifestyle they present isn’t sustainable. You need to be honest with yourself. The truth is that significant changes to lifestyle take time and planning, but they are key if you picture yourself living a healthier life now and well into the future.

All is Not Lost

If this sounds all a bit doom and gloom, I have some good news. If you have been a yo-yo dieter in the past then all is not lost. Recent research* has shown that those with a history of cyclical dieting are just as likely to succeed and reach their goal weight with a sustained approach as anyone else.

No one is doomed to fail. You just need a plan and if your lifestyle needs a shake-up, chances are your thinking does too.

Fad Diets, a Fail Safe Route to Failure

Fad diets set you up to fail. 12WBT sets you up for success. It is structured to teach you the skills and give you the knowledge you need to make great dietary and lifestyle choices. You’ll learn which foods will keep you full AND meet your nutritional needs. You’ll see it isn’t rocket science and that healthy food can taste amazing. There is no such thing as ‘diet’ food – just good food.

We educate and guide you to make better decisions with the long-term goal being optimal health. If we use the word ‘diet’ we are referring generally to what you eat, not to deprivation.

We don’t aim for weight loss followed by maintenance; in fact to us maintenance is a dirty word. It suggests complacency. You need to take action to remain active. We want you to grab the new healthy lifestyle you have gained and hold strong.

We don’t want you falling back into old habits. That would mean we hadn’t done our job properly. Instead we challenge you to continue to challenge yourself, to establish new health and fitness goals so you remain empowered and in control of your lifestyle.

Leave the yo-yo back in the playground and take a grown up approach to your health.

*Reference: History of weight cycling does not impede future weight loss or metabolic improvements in postmenopausal women, C.Mason et al, published in Metabolism Clinical & Experimental Journal, 62 (2013), pp.127-136)


Meet the Author, Georgina Moore

Dietitian with over ten years of experience in hospitals and private practice, Georgie is a self-confessed fruit and vegie queen with a soft spot for pumpkin. Swapping doughnuts for apples as a child, she is your ultimate shopping list and nutrition planner, keeping your meals in check and your pantry clean. Running marathons in her spare time, she winds down drinking plenty of tea. Read author's full story here


  1. Rachel Reply

    I used to be a yoyo dieter, I ‘ve lost and gained 25-30 kgs at least 5 times in my life 🙁 Until recently I was eating more than twice the calories I needed, now I eat alot less but I am more satisfied. Because of the 12wbt, I know how to stay in control of what is happening with my body. I used to eat what I thought was healthy and exercise a bit and then cross my fingers and toes when I hopped on the scale and hoped and prayed and wished that it would tell me I had lost weight. Now I don’t do that. I look at the numbers (calories I’ve eaten and calories I’ve burned through exercise, and taking into account my constantly decreasing BMR) and I know before I get on the scale whether it is going to be good news or not (and I am happy to say so far so good). I am finally in control of my own health, no excuses, no blaming anyone else, no self sabotage, just do the planning, crunch the numbers, put the work in and get results!!

    1. Madeleine Reply

      Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, we love to hear how people are living and enjoying the 12WBT philosophy.


  2. Celia Ready Reply

    Hi Georgina I was doing 10 km charity runs a year and half ago. A 50 km charity walk. doing 10 km runs 2 to 3 times a week. Had some niggling issue with my lower back and then slowed down on the running to improve my back and pretty much stopped running took up walking long distances. Have other injuries trying to get over at present. I am on the 12WBT am trying to stick to food plan that Mich has given. I do have a dairy intolerance, sugar malabsorption and wheat intolerance. So am restricted to certain foods. Occasionally I try eating them and I get really bloated, constipated, irritable bowel, candida. So have to be really conscious of what I am eating but it gets to me because everyone else eats what they like so it causes arguments,

  3. Linda Curran Reply

    Hi, to be honest I am struggling with the foods on this nutritional plan. Most of the items on the weekly shopping list I need to purchase as I have never had those things in my pantry. Last night I made the Thai Fish Cakes and personally I thought they were disgusting. I don’t mean to be rude but like I said I am struggling.

    This is the first time I have ever had cottage cheese in my fridge and actually finished it and replenished it again….wow… that in itself is a bit of a miracle for me…

    I am hoping it will all get easier as we go on.


  4. Daniela Reply

    I used Michelle bridges ‘crunch time’ cookbook as a nutritional guide whilst doin. A separate exercise program. I found it had good ideas and generally sound advice. However I find that I need far more than 1200 calories a day with my exercise levels and i adjust accordingly. I’m hitting my goals -smashing them actually. So that’s not an issue.
    I’m slightly concerned that the recommended 1200 calorie intake is not sustainable for any adult for an extended period of time.
    So whilst you don’t like the word ‘maintenance’, you surely don’t advise people to restrict calories to only 1200 a day long term? Considering that an average adults intake as advised by the WHO is minimum 2100 cals. 1200 is actually quite restrictive.
    Could you please clarify then the advice given as to how people should continue with their eating post 12wbt?

  5. Erica Grandjean Reply

    Hi Daniela. I’m Erica, one of the dietitians here at 12WBT. Thanks for your post!

    It’s awesome to hear that you’ve been using Mish’s Crunchtime Cookbook and are achieving great results. It sounds like you’re training hard, which we love to hear!

    At 12WBT, we strongly believe in evidence based practise and the 1200 calories per day Meal Plan for female weight loss is no exception. Weight loss is a result of a calorie deficit. If we consume fewer calories than we burn, we lose weight. The greater the calorie deficit, the greater the weight loss. Studies have shown that 1000-1200 calorie diets are not only effective for weight loss, but that the weight loss is sustainable over a long period of time. However, that does not mean that 1200 calories per day is the magical calorie allowance for each individual… especially long term.

    1200 calories is great for weight loss but for weight maintenance (or weight loss while training at a high level), we recommend more. 12WBT provides a range of Calorie Levels for members with different goals – for those wanting to maintain their weight, we suggest starting with 1500 calories per day, making further adjustments until they find the number that works for them. For our members participating in our running Programs, we suggest 1500-2500 calories per day, depending on their training load. Everyone is different and if weight loss is no longer a goal for you, we encourage you to increase your calorie intake to something that allows you to maintain your weight and smash your training goals. You may do this by bulking up your main meals and/or adding larger or more frequent snacks into your day.

    I’m sure that you’ve learnt a lot about food, nutrition and portion sizes while you’ve been following the plans in the Crunchtime Cookbook – these lessons are most important as you form new eating habits. It’s these habits (e.g. smaller portion sizes, eating less processed foods, enjoying a variety of foods, etc.) that will keep you moving forwards to your goals, whatever they may be!

    Erica 🙂

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