The Best Diet to Lose Weight

Kelly Coffey

I’ll cut right to the chase: The best diet to lose weight involves never dieting again.

I get interviewed for books and podcasts, in part because I appear to be an exception to what’s being increasingly accepted as a rule: The more desperate we are to lose weight, the more weight we gain.

When I was 300+-pounds, I was desperate to weigh less. But every time I dieted, I ended up heavier than when I started. This is a common experience, but one we don’t often hear about. Why?

Without numbers to back this up, I’ll posit a theory: If television revenues rely on advertising, and much of those ads are for weight loss diets, there’s not gonna be much prime-time coverage of how ineffective diets are.

Just a theory.

If diets don’t help us lose weight, and, if they do, rarely result in long-term weight loss maintenance, then what does?

If we’re overweight and uncomfortable in a large body, is there a healthy, sustainable route to a more comfortable weight?

Absolutely, yes.

After years of struggling with my own weight, and almost a decade watching my personal training clients come to grips with theirs, It’s become abundantly clear that the key to healthy, sustainable weight loss is the same as the key to wellness in all facets of life:

Committing to take the best care of ourselves that we can, one tiny choice at a time.

Before you roll your eyes right out of your skull, hear me out.

If we are uncomfortably overweight, we can lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way that doesn’t feel like we’re having a food-related asthma attack. To do that, we practice taking the best care of our bodies as we are capable of in this moment.

And we begin doing that NOW.

Stop me if you’ve lived this one:

We’re following a weight loss diet because we’re sick and tired of being fat. We stay on the diet a few weeks. One day, the fact that we’re not thin after WEEKS of hard WORK makes us feel angry and crazy. Those feeling 1 demand relief, and eventually, inevitably, we get that relief in the surest way we know how.

Buh-bye, Diet.

If we’re 100 pounds from where we’re most comfortable, and we’re on a diet specifically to reach that distant  goal, it’s only a matter of time before the voice of self-sabotage reminds us that not eating this one piece of cake won’t make a lick of difference. Losing weight (the goal) and not eating the cake (one step we’d need to take to get there) ain’t even in the same time zone.

The tremendous disconnect between What and How we’re eating (no cake) and Why we’re eating that way (to lose 100) has much to do with so few of us ever reaching, and even fewer of us maintaining, that long term weight loss goal.

In order to change our deepest defaults, most of us need to get frequent, positive feedback from our new, healthier behaviors. Specifically, our new, stronger choices need to bring us pleasure.

So what’s a woman who wants to lose weight supposed to do?

Drop the Weight Loss Goal.

If losing weight’s been our motivation forever – if it’s been “Why” we’ve eaten certain things or in certain ways – dropping the weight loss goal may sound ridiculous. I know. So let’s start with something more accessible. Until can ditch the weight loss goal once and for all, let’s work on developing some other “Whys,” other reasons for making certain choices around what or how we eat. These caring, present-focused goals can help us make stronger choices consistently over the long term.

Long term goals are wicked hard to sustain.

Long term goals are wicked hard to sustain.

Here are some “Whys” to try on for size:

1. Eat to feel better.

The same foods that cause us so much internal strife can also produce physical discomfort. Most fast and processed foods, because they contain high amounts of sugar and/or hard-to-process fat, give us a brief and fleeting lift before we come crashing back to the ground, exhausted, anxious, and even hungrier than when we started. Steering clear of foods that deliver that post-binge Hulk Smash means feeling better TODAY, without having to wait for any pesky, theoretical “future.” OK, OK…the future may be a real thing. Sorry about the extraneous quotes.

2. Eat to curb the crazy.

If we’re compulsive around or addicted to certain foods, dropping those foods means experiencing peace the likes of which we may never have known. Ditching our trigger foods quiets cravings, obliterates obsession, and eradicates regret. Abstaining, mind you. Not limiting portions. If we have addictive tendencies, that limiting portions crap can get ugly.

3. Eat to demonstrate care.

Anyone who’s ever had a beloved pet or a kid knows how to make caring choices even when it feels hard, like when Fido doesn’t want the flea medicine, or when little Snooky doesn’t want to brush her teeth. We’re invested in keeping our beloveds healthy, because they are our responsibility, because we care about them, and because we are in charge of taking care of them. 2 Sometimes we care for and about these characters to the exclusion of caring for ourselves. As adults, we are responsible for us. We deserve nothing less than the same care and consideration we give others, because we’re just as important, and just as precious. 3

4. Eat to cultivate love.

There’s a big push to accept our bodies as they are, and to cultivate more love and positivity around the bodies we have, without struggling to change them. But that doesn’t just HAPPEN, no matter how many articles we read or how many body-love gurus we follow on Facebook. To get to that place where we feel LOVE, we need to just start going through the motions as though we already care about and love our bodies just exactly as they are, whether or not that feels particularly sincere.

When we practice taking the best care we can of ourselves and our bodies because we want to feel better and more peaceful, the action and the goal are clearly, 100% related. Every single choice we make produces positive feedback. Every caring action produces pleasure. And every ounce of pleasure inspires still more caring action.

This is the choice-action-positive feedback loop that’s missing when we go on diets, and part of why those diets are so seemingly impossible to sustain.

I know it feels counter-intuitive.  I’ve gained weight a few times since I lost over half my body weight 10+ years ago,  and each time I did my first instinct was to go on a diet. Old beliefs die hard. But I’ve proven many times what science is demonstrating: that dieting almost always results in weight gain. This is the rule.

Today, I am the exception to the rule, but not because I’m special or different or have anything at my disposal that most women who still struggle don’t have. I just worked to change my “Whys.”

Today, I maintain my weight by eating foods that keep me comfortable. Today, I maintain my weight by eating foods that cut down on my crazy.  Today, I maintain my weight by eating to show myself care. You can, too.



  1. For many of us they’re a constant, agonizing obsession.
  2. And we know – or at least hope – they’ll thank us in the end.
  3. Pooky.
Showing 29 comments
  • Julie

    Hi Kelly, I agree with your theory about why we don’t see much in mainstream media about the abysmal long term failure rate of diets. However, I’d like to add to your theory by pointing to other institutional social structures that encourage people to think dieting is a worthwhile endeavour: ‘health’ providers and governmental agencies. The pressure to being seen to be ‘doing something’ about the obesity crisis is enough of an incentive to continue recommending advice that is known to fail. Dieting has failed for absolute decades yet continues to be repeatedly ‘prescribed’ by most medical professionals as a solution to obesity despite yo-yo dieting being recognised in medical circles as being extremely hazardous to good health. Regardless of the documented failure of dieting and its resulting effect of an increasingly larger body mass, governmental agencies recommend placing ever-younger children on diets. How long will it take before they realise, “Oops, that problem just got bigger?” Or will they continue to blame the larger-bodied person for the problem? Yes, individual’s have agency and government/medical personnel do not put the food in our mouths that make us overweight but they sure have an agenda to support the food industries and businesses who support them . Thanks for a great post, I wish this kind of information was something mainstream media DID share as widely as they do the latest fad diet.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Thank you, Julie. You’re absolutely right, of course. The thing is, the folks pushing diets don’t realize that there’s healthier, more sustainable, more effective solutions that focus on the person and the issues rather than the surface manifestations and caloric intakes and whathaveyou.
      thank you for taking time to write.

  • Susan Bellissimo

    New mantra-
    Today, I eat foods that keep me comfortable.
    Today, I eat foods that cut down on my crazy.
    Today, I eat to show myself care.

    Thanks Coffey! You’re a GODDESS!

    • Kelly Coffey

      Susan, you’re making my heart shine today. Thanks, Lady 🙂

  • Helen K.

    This is such a great message and one I fight to keep in my head. Right now I’m also struggling with how to share this message with others. Specifically, my mom has just recently started one of the main stream diet plans and keeps coming to me seemingly expecting praise for this approach. I especially feel conflicted because I know one of the reasons she has started this now is because she is anxious about how she wants to look at my wedding this summer.

    Kelly do you have any advice for how to talk to my mom about this? I don’t want to put something down that she is excited about and I certainly am not free of body image insecurities or biases myself, but I also don’t want her to be hurt by the dieting industry and the cycle of dieting and weight re-gain that is so well documented. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    Thank you! I love the work you are doing.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Helen, I firmly believe we are 100% powerless over the thinking of others. The best thing you can possibly do to your mother is to be an example of health and joy and progress – whatever that means to you, and whatever that happens to look like. Inspire her, and she’ll ask you how you did it, and then, and only then, will she be truly open to wat you have to share.
      and love the lady up! Moms are a gigantic pain in the ass, but they’re pretty important, and they’re just doing the best they can with the information they have, like we all are.

      • Helen K.

        Thanks Kelley! I really appreciate the advice.

  • Stacey Harvey

    Today, I start paying attention to, and changing my “whys”. For years, I’ve been one of the ill-informed masses who fall for the hype of some new or improved diet plan out of total desperation and humiliation that we don’t look like a super model. All that time, effort, emotion, (not to mention the money) spent only to feel worse than we did before we picked up the phone & placed an order. I’ve tried pretty much all of them, and I’m still overweight, uncomfortable and beating myself up for it. Thank you Kelly, for your insight & compassion, and willingness to share with so many of us who are just discovering that we matter and deserve it all.

    • Kelly Coffey

      I’m So GLAD you found me, Stacey!!! Welcome to the light! LOL
      But seriously, it’s Much nicer here. I hope to see you in my course someday.

  • Lindsay

    I cannot tell you how much stumbling across your blog last night has changed my today. I am a formerly obese woman who excercises regularly and wears a size 4. Every day is a struggle. I did not believe anyone could ever believe or understand my food addiction until I started reading your words. I am so miserable in my thin body, so much worse than when I was overweight. Your words have given me hope. If we weren’t both heterosexual married women with young children, I’d think I was in love 🙂 I can’t thank you enough for sharing and I hope to someday be able to conquer my own beast and help others in a similar way.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Lindsay, I wouldn’t let the whole straight-with-kids thing stop me from falling in love with a woman if I were you. 🙂
      I’m glad you found me. Thank you for taking the time to write.

      • Katrin

        Love the comment, and your reply!

        • Kelly Coffey

          Thanks! 🙂

  • Sam

    Why is it that after I read your paragraph, ” We Deserve NOTHING LESS the same love & consideration we give others, because we’re just as IMPORTANT and just as precious.” It just blew my mind. Yes I know this but it did not register I work as a healthcare giver for 20 yrs and would do anything to help someone … Even work on my day off. Not put myself first thinking I don’t want to be selfish but reading your blog I need to be somewhat selfish to take care of me!
    thank you!

  • Adam Trainor

    You get it. Goals based on end-game scenarios always either fail in one of the war’s battles or succeed… and then what? I reached my goal. Now what? We are better of getting our Buddha on. Get all about right now.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Amen! Thanks for taking the time to write, Adam. Go get yr Buddha on. 🙂

  • Shannon

    Oh Coffey …. why is it you can #1 make so much sense #2 tell me what I need to hear (not want to hear) in a good way and #3 bring tears to my eyes because it touches me so darned deep?? I have a million questions for you …. but I promise to hold them until the next e Session this fall. I think I’m just about ready to take that plunge!

    As always … you rock it lady. Thank you.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Shannon, it’s probably because you and I are cut from the same cloth, friend. I’ll be excited to see your name on my screen in…
      Yeah, probably July 🙂

  • Kirsty

    Hi Kelly,

    Been grappling with this very issue for the past couple months as to why I just can’t lose the last 10kgs (40 down over the past 3 years), and stuff my face in response!!!! My wheel of balance is so lobsided and I resonate with your ‘practice taking the best care of our bodies as we are capable of in this moment’ part…I’m an all or nothing-er and then wonder why I feel so overwhelmed all the time and crash and burn in response. I choose ‘now’to start taking care of me as much as I am capable…

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom 🙂

  • Emily Headen

    Are everybody’s trigger foods different? I am fine with any of these things by itself – fat, sugar, salt, starch. But if If I start combining them, things go south fast. I actually hate sugar-based candy and if you said, “you need to stop having that little bit of sugar in your iced coffee” I would say, “OK, no problem”. BUT me + sugar + fat= Sign me up for a loaf of zucchini bread, a large bag of peanut butter m&ms and that bar of dark chocolate that was supposed to last all week. Ask me to give up chocolate and I will ignore you and tell you I can handle it, and possibly stab you if you become too insistent. It’s similar with the white carbs- I never want more than one piece of toast or half a cup of plain rice. Me + starch + salt + fat= All that and bag of chips or a plate of fried anything (have you ever tried unsalted chips? Blech!).

    There is a common feeling that accompanies these unholy combo foods for me: I am relieved when they are finally gone, yet paradoxically afraid of them being gone. I can’t stop thinking about them when they are around. Addicted much? I certainly don’t feel that way about the pint of raspberries, head of lettuce, skirt steak, almond milk, basmati rice, and other fruits, veggies and meat currently in my fridge. I need to pay attention to the foods that cause this addictive feeling- obviously I knew some foods cause this feeling in me already, but recognizing the unholy combo at the root of the problem is incredibly helpful. Totally explains that pineapple fried rice and cookie dough ice cream are the same thing as far as my brain is concerned, even if the ice cream is gluten free and made out of coconut milk. They are both Monkey Brains!! I am *so* on to something. Thanks for opening my eyes.

    • Kirsten Houseknecht

      i think everyone’s food anything is different.
      but in my case yes the “unholy trinity” is bad bad news. fat/sugar/carbs

      there are also certain foods that for whatever reason i just cannot do in moderation.
      (although it helped me a lot to re package everything into “servings” instead of the big bag)

  • Kirsten Houseknecht

    as usual brilliant and re stating or re phrasing things in a way that makes me go “Du’Oh!”

    the only thing i will add is that an AWFUL lot of “diet” products and foods are horribly bad for you. obviously you eat them because you are trying to make a “good change” in your diet, but equally obviously it wont work because in fact its junk.
    some examples in my own life and food journey:

    1. i keep some of the low calorie treat stuff around to bust cravings and i had to go through a LOT of those to find stuff that was tasty and health-wise “only kind of so so” the rest? tasted like cardboard (so didn’t help with the craving for me) AND were worse for me in many ways than just eating whatever i wanted would have been!

    2. when you go on a diet and try to buy stuff that fits into it you are often (not always!) sabotaging yourself in some other way low fat? bet its loaded in sugar…. low sugar? tons of chemicals you may not want and probably high fat….low calorie? serving size for mice, loading with stuff that makes me feel bloated and tired

    3. stuff is often really crazily labeled. like who knew a pack of ramen soup (which no, isn’t the healthiest thing for you but its cheap) was “two servings”. seriously?

    4. which brings us to “its cheap”. (and its partner “its fast”) Thanks to subsidies on corn and some other products, the cheapest foods, the most easily available foods, are often LOADED with sugar (and therefore calories too) stuff that you can get anywhere, on the road, in supermarkets, etc etc …cheap? yes, fast? yes, not really good for you. (i can feed my self and my hubby on pasta and sugar loaded tomato sauce for a couple dollars or less…. but its not the best option for a diabetic, just “cheap and fast”) i am lucky, i happen to adore a lot of foods that are very very good for me to eat. sadly they … aren’t the cheapest options.

    Being AWARE of those problems, and understanding that for each individual you will have to find some way of working around them or dealing with them … can make a big difference.
    (even if the way you deal with them is to remind yourself that when you add in the insulin cost, that pasta isnt that cheap)

  • Rob Stone

    Hi Kelly
    Seriously Fantastic post and down to earth way of looking at becoming very happy people.
    I have lost 70lb over the last 3 years but I was always into fitness but never lost weight.
    It wasn’t until I decided to look at how much I was eating, I realised and now just eat to keep healthy rather than be happy.
    Eat to live, not live to eat I heard somewhere and it’s so true.
    The more people that realise that diets and fad diet’s don’t work, but to eat how you know you will be able to in 1, 2 even 5 years time is the way to go. When it adds up to a little less calories a day than that Big Mac.. the weight does come off.
    Again, superb post Kelly.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Thank you, and for taking the time to write, Rob 🙂

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