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Why Diets Fail & Saving is Difficult

On nearly every New Year’s resolution list out there you’ll find some variation of “lose weight” and “save money.”  Go ahead and google it.  I’ll wait.

Do you see a problem with either of these goals?  Clearly there is one, because so frequently people fail to achieve them.  


Goal: Save the world.

Problem 1: Where do you start?  War, famine, pollution, Dora the Explorer? 

Problem 2: Who is going to help you?  While I applaud your ambition, this big of a goal is simply unobtainable on your own.

Problem 3: How will you maintain your motivation?  What are you gonna do when warlords are getting you down?  What will keep you from quitting when Dora evades your capture yet again?

Problem 4: How do you know when you’re done?  Where does it end?  Tell me, where does it end?!


The Michigan Surgeon General put out a publication addressing why diets fail, here are a couple of their citations: 

Diets deprive us.  Many diets involve eliminating certain foods or even whole food groups. 

I can think of no more self-depriving activity than saving.  Certainly, there are some expenses that are never missed (fees & interest), but what about the “fun stuff” that has to be cut (eating out & pedicures)?  

Chip & Dan Heath co-authors of Switch explain that, “psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource.  It’s like doing bench presses at the gym.  The first one is easy, when your muscles are fresh.  But with each additional repetition, your muscles get more exhausted, until you can’t lift that bar again.”


Diets are temporary. Once they have reached their goal, most people go back to “normal” eating, so the weight comes back.

Not all diets are temporary.  Technically you’ll always have a diet so long as you eat.  

Good saving and diet plans reshape your habits to make you sustainably healthier both fiscally and physically.  

Husband gave up soda for Lent and hasn’t been able to stand the taste since.  We’ve gone through several rounds of budget cuts, and, you know, I just can’t tell you what we eliminated because I don’t miss anything. 


Diets often don’t fit into normal life. Weighing and measuring food may help you lose weight, but aren’t practical as long-term strategies for most people.

Sometimes budgets aren’t practical.  As people search for miracle diets, they too search for magical financial fixes.  Choosing a method that fits your lifestyle can be difficult but is absolutely necessary for success.

If you can’t resist Cheetos, don’t keep them in the house.  If you can’t keep track of your spending on a credit card, use cash.  And if the people around you are perpetuating your unhealthy habits, then maybe it’s time for a change.


A few of my own theories on goal failure:

  • Non-specificity– save $1 and you’ve saved money, is the goal accomplished?  Save for a $4,000 emergency fund?  Great goal, but when’s the deadline?  Time-lines and targets offer needed incentive for butts to get moving.
  • Unrealistic-ness – trying to lose 50lbs in a week is blatantly unrealistic, but people still try to do it.  Paying off $40,000 of debt in 2 months, an equally non-achievable goal for most people.  Having high-expectations isn’t a bad thing, but setting yourself up for failure is.
  • All Pain, No Gain (In Sight) – As the Heath’s said, “self-control is an exhaustible resource.”   Greasing the wheels of change with periodic rewards may just be the best bet to ensure that the ultmate change actually happens.


Article publié pour la première fois le 30/09/2010

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