There is a growing body of research to show that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain over time. 95-97% of dieters will regain the weight they lost (often more) within 5 years (often sooner). Most people know that dieting does not work in the long run, but may be surprised to learn that dieting actually increases your risk for gaining even more weight in the future.
If we had a vaccine for a serious illness that failed 95-97% of the time, would doctors still recommend it? Would you blame yourself when it didn't work? No, absolutely not! Except that's exactly what we do when we buy into the diet mentality. Dieting builds expectations of weight loss that often ends in frustration and disappointment. It's easy to fall into to this trap, when you feel like dieting is the only option available to you. Perhaps you blame yourself because you don't have enough willpower, you just love food too much, or you have a sweet tooth you can't control.
There is no denying that having the willpower to stay on a diet can give you a temporary sense of power and control, but becoming an Intuitive Eater offers a lifelong sense of self-empowerment.
Intuitive Eating teaches you how to tune into and respond to what your body needs. Am I hungry? Am I comfortably full and satisfied? In contrast, dieting erodes trust in your body because "rules" dictate your food choices, regardless of how you feel. This creates a disconnect between what your body is experiencing and what you're told to do, and this may leave you feeling like you don't know how to eat any more.
The first step to fully embracing the process of Intuitive Eating is to say goodbye to the false hope that dieting will help you lose weight quickly, easily and permanently. Recognizing the toll dieting has taken on you, and that diets don't work metabolically or emotionally will help you begin to let go.
I understand your desire to lose weight is very strong. I also understand how difficult it may be to accept that dieting is not the solution you had hoped it would be. In order to nourish a healthier relationship with food, you must put your desire to lose weight on the back burner. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet or food plan may still be out there, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating. Let's dive in a bit deeper to fully understand why dieting doesn't work and the harm dieting has caused your emotional, social and physical well-being.
Dieting leads to weight gain over time.
Study after study has shown that while dieting may result in temporary weight loss, the majority of dieters re-gain all the weight they lost (and often more). There are a host of biological and survival mechanism at play, which are responsible for weight re-bounding following a diet.
Our bodies are built to survive. When we restrict food for weight loss, our body doesn't know if this a real or self induced famine. In either case, your body readily adapts by slowing down your metabolism to burn fuel more efficiently. Another adaptive mechanism your body uses to survive dieting is that it starts to cannibalizing its own muscle tissue to use for energy. This is a bit like being so poor and cold, you burn the walls of your house to stay warm. Weight cycling results in a loss of muscle tissue over time and this contributes to a slowing down of your metabolism.
Another way in which your body adapts to survive dieting is through a process known as "fat overshooting". As weight loss occurs, you lose a combination of fat, muscle and water. This triggers a biological shift that promotes more efficient fuel storage in the form of body fat. This results in hormonal changes that actually make you feel hungrier and you start thinking about food more.
Taken together, these factors make it very difficult for anyone to achieve sustainable weight loss. Compounding these issues is that fact that our food environment is highly toxic. Unhealthy, highly processed foods are cheap, convenient and readily available to us day and night. The diet industry, is a multi-billion dollar industry, that plays off our insecurities and offers a solution (dieting) that doesn't work. The diet industry is the only business in the world that sells a product that doesn't work. Instead of blaming the diet industry for product failure- we blame ourselves, and chalking failure up to lack of willpower or self-discipline.
Weight loss in the name of "health"
Most of the clients I coach, contact me because they want to pursue weight loss for health reasons. Maybe they are just tired of feeling uncomfortable in their body, or perhaps even a doctor has told them they need to lose weight in order to be healthy. There is a growing body evidence that proves otherwise.
High quality studies with millions of participants have shown that being at a lower weight does not necessarily confer better health or health outcomes. Health is not one dimensional and it cannot be measured by a number on the scale.
Weight bias and stigma are perpetuated by this unfounded belief that weight loss must be pursued to achieve health. Regardless of your body size, healthy behaviours are important. Our goal in working together is to shift your focus from weight management, to healthy behaviours that are sustainable. By rejecting the diet mentality and embracing this new ideal, you are joining forces with millions of people who have been criticized, shamed, demoralized and blamed for their body size, but are now standing up and speaking out. You are now part of something greater. There is a growing movement known as "Health At Every Size" (HAES) which is challenging societal norms and cultural paradigms that have stigmatized and discriminated against people because of their body size for decades. If this is new information to you, and you're feeling just a tad bit emotional right now........Welcome- you have found your tribe!
Dieting harms your social emotional well-being.
Dieting teaches us to make decisions abut food and eating that are dictated by rules. The diet tells you what, when and how much to eat, with total disregard for your food preferences, hungry cues and your energy needs. This makes most people feel deprived and depressed within a short period of time. Having someone else tell you what to eat is only fun for a little while, or let's be honest- never. We all want autonomy over our food choices, and no one wants someone else dictating to them, what they should or should not be eating. For most people this triggers an inner rebellion, because it infringes on healthy personal boundaries.
If you think back to your first experience with dieting, most people feel a bit nostalgic. The first diet worked so well and the weight came off so easily. Sadly, this first experience is a seductive trap that propels most people into a perpetual cycle of weight loss and gain that can go on for years. Each time you repeat the diet cycle, those survival mechanism we discussed kick in, and your body quickly adapts. This makes it harder and harder to lose weight with each weight loss attempt. Each time a diet fails, a learned helplessness begins to emerge, stealing your self confidence and eroding trust in your innate ability to nourish yourself. You begin to feel defeated and your self esteem sinks lower. You may feel dissatisfied with your body, pre-occupied with food, and experience cravings. You may be distracted from other personal goals and experience weight stigmatization and discrimination.
Even when you're not on a diet, you may feel the lingering effects of the diet mentality. Unconsciously you may be labeling foods "good" and "bad" or still following "the rules" of dieting, that dictate when or how much you can eat, regardless of how you feel. This creates an obstacle to fully tuning into your body's signals for hunger, fullness and satiety.
Intuitive Eating is focused on removing these obstacles and cultivating attunement, so that your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations align with your food choices and health goals. Dieting erodes trust in your ability to simply listen to and respond to what your body needs. This clash is known as "cognitive dissonance" because what you're experiencing (e.g. "I am hungry"), and what you're told to do (e.g. it's not time to eat) are in conflict. This leaves dieters feeling confused about eating, and feeling like they can't trust their body to tell them how to eat any more.
In the self-reflection exercises in the link below, you will be exploring the true cost of dieting. You will be digging a bit deeper into your dieting history and reflection on any self-limiting beliefs you may hold.
Download a PDF version of this self reflection exercises here.
Nutrition Consulting and Corporate Wellness. The information on this site is intended to inform, not prescribe. For diagnosis and treatment medical and health related concerns, please seek the advice of a qualified physician.