The 5 Stages of Dieting Failure

by | Aug 2, 2020 | Lifestyle, Nutrition

Raise your hand if you’ve ever failed a diet.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever failed more than one diet.

If you’re reading this and didn’t raise a hand, then I’m not sure you’re in the right place.

Let’s face it, you’ve failed a diet, probably more than one at that.

Guess what?


But after listening to my softball girls talk about the 5 Stages of Grief as it relates to our season (YIKES!), I started to realize that those stages don’t just apply to grief or loss…

That’s actually VERY similar to the self-sabotage process that takes place in a dieting fail.

I know you think it’s just a “slip up” or “a one time thing,” but there’s a much larger psychological component to this.

One that if we take the time to understand, we can work WITH and not against to actually achieve dieting success.

So, here you have it – The 5 Stages of Dieting Failure.

Stage #1: Denial

Denial is the first stage in the process, and in a diet, it manifests in a few different ways.

The first comes in the denial of needing the diet.

Picture this:

You start your diet and things are going great!

The scale is moving in the right direction.

You feel energized for your days.

You don’t hate what you’re doing or the changes you’re seeing in your body.

Things are going SO WELL that you believe this is THE PLAN.

Until it’s not…

One day you step on the scale and it’s the same number as yesterday (or worse, it’s up). You chalk it up to a fluke and move on with your day.

But when it happens again the next day, you’re downright confused.

So why do you even need this diet?

Oh, that’s right, YOU DON’T!

This really isn’t the plan, it’s just not the right time to diet, and you’re destined to be fat and hate your body forever.

But this leads right into the second form of denial…

The confusion and frustration around the number on the scale leads straight to a blowout binge.

You down anything and everything to really prove that you don’t need this diet and that you truly are destined to be fat.

Then, you step on the scale the next morning and YIKES!

There is NO WAY you did that bad! I mean it was BAD, but you were still semi-careful in choosing White Claw/Truly over cocktails and burger and fries without the bun.

There’s no way you could have gained 4+ pounds!

How could this happen!?

But what you don’t realize is that you forgot about the bar snacks, the little sampler bites from your friends’ plates, and the late-night snack once you got home.

Ahhh, denial.

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure denial ever completely goes away. Being honest about our actions and efforts during a diet might be the HARDEST part because we love to justify and minimize our mistakes.

But it must be done…

As difficult as it is to own up to your mistakes or honestly evaluate your efforts, it’s the only way to move forward, continue through the stages, and get back to dieting success!

Stage #2: Anger

Stage #2 is anger, and this might be the most physically and emotionally damaging stage.

Let’s talk about what sparks the anger…

You go out to eat with friends high on motivation and your plan is so rigid that you have to say no to food and drinks you love.

You step on the scale and see the number is either the same or up.

You look in the mirror and see the same areas with seemingly the same amount of fluff.

Whatever you do you see NO CHANGES, then you blow it and binge again.

But here’s where anger becomes damaging…

Anger is a stress emotion that triggers the body’s stress response.

That releases cortisol.

Cortisol prevents recovery.

Which causes water retention.

Which leads to further cravings and binges.

Which leads to further slip ups, more weight gain, and another round in this never-ending dieting cycle.

But, believe it or not, anger is necessary.

It’s an important part of the process that we need not stifle down, but actually FEEL.


That’s what I tell all of my clients because the more it’s held in, the deeper you dive into the stress response, the more likely you are to make more mistakes, and the less likely you are to get results.

Working through your anger brings you one step closer to true and sustainable results.

Stage #3: Bargaining

While working through your anger brings you closer to sustainable results, there are still three more stages to work through.

Stage #3 is bargaining.

As a coach, this is where I see most people get stuck in the dieting cycle.

“If I lose X amount of weight, I’ll allow myself to have Y.”

“I’ll stop restricting myself so much once I reach X weight.”

“If I could just lose X, I’ll stop destroying myself during workouts.”

This is the stage of false hope.

It’s the stage where you try to make yourself believe that you can avoid the difficulties of dieting by negotiating with yourself.

At this point, you are SO DESPERATE to see results or change that you will do ANYTHING in an attempt to spark change.

Stage #3 is also where you begin the What If Game.

You begin to cycle through a variety of ideas or visions to cover up and prevent you from owning up to your mistakes, working through your anger, and making real changes that fit your lifestyle!

Bargaining blows.


Because unfortunately, in the dieting world bargaining serves as a quick fix and gets people fast results.

It’s less painful.

It’s a shorter commitment with less work.

People believe bargaining works.

People believe it is the solution to their dieting, which is why so many get STUCK in Stage #3.

Stage #4: Depression

Now, feelings of depression creep in to just about every stage of the 5 Stages of Dieting Failure, but there is an actual stage where this is all you feel.

It’s commonly believed to be the feeling of emptiness.

This is the stage where you realize that you have once again failed a diet.

Nutritionally, this stage manifests in one of two ways:

  1. Eat nothing and withdraw from all meal plans or dieting protocols.
  2. Neglect all pieces of dieting advice and eat everything.

When it comes to exercise, people withdraw from workouts. They approach with less intensity and focus or just quit showing up altogether.

At this point, dieting just feels too overwhelming.

You’ve convinced yourself that you’re just destined to be fat and that you will never be able to change the fact that you HATE your body.

You pull away from all coaching and advice because in your mind you’re wondering “What’s the point?”

This is the stage wherein you tell yourself you will never diet again.

It’s the one where couch binges become a regular thing, and you resist anything healthy or type of activity that’s not button pressing on the remote.

Unfortunately, this is the darkest of all stages, and is the stage where people get wrapped up long-term.

If you’re reading this and you’re in this stage right now, I’m here to tell you that you DO NOT need to stay here.

This is NOT the end destination.

Celebrate the smallest of small victories and do something good for you each and every day.

You are so close to the best stage in dieting failure, you just simply need a change in perspective and a little good in your day.

Stage #5: Acceptance

I told you that you’re so close to the best stage!

Acceptance doesn’t mean that it’s okay that you blew your diet again.

Quite simply, it means that you blew you’re diet and you will be okay.

In this stage, you finally start to feel a sense of stability and motivation.

You begin to recognize that where you’re at is not at all where you want to be and that it is time for an adjustment.

Now, it’s important to note that this stage is not all sunshine and roses.

You will face moments of stress, frustration, and disappointment; however, you find yourself in more moments motivated to move forward and create change.

In this stage, you’re going to start looking for opportunities to change.

You begin to look at gym memberships, training programs, and your schedule for workout times.

You begin making simple changes to your diet, researching dieting protocols, and looking up nutrition coaches.

This is the transitional stage.

You understand that you blew your diet this time, but there’s no changing your past events and in front of you is the chance to make long-term, sustainable changes to your diet and life.

No matter where you’re at in your dieting stages, I want to encourage you to learn more about how to apply fat loss strategies to YOUR UNIQUE LIFE!

The best way to do that is to grab hold of the 100% FREE Applied Fat Loss Series. This is a 6-Part Webinar Series Designed for Fat Loss. In it I cover 6 major components to fat loss:

  • Goal Setting
  • Nutrition & Dieting
  • Stress Management
  • Training for YOUR Lifestyle
  • Characteristics of a Great Coach
  • The Difference Between Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss

Grab your copy HERE.

About The Author

Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.

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