Why Dieting Doesn’t Work

More people are starting to realize that dieting doesn’t work, thank goodness!  Because really, dieting doesn’t work.  But before we can say that we’re stepping away from the diet mentality, we need to define dieting.  What is a diet?  There are the typical diets, of course–Jenny Craig, South Beach, Atkins, The Grapefruit Diet, calorie and carb counting/ restricting.  Then, there are the modern diets, such as Paleo, raw food, clean eating, and gluten free.  And what about vegetarian and vegan diets?  Do those count, too?  One main factor that defines dieting is the purpose behind choosing what you eat.  Is it to lose weight?  To tone your body or burn more fat?  Is it simply because this is what you are used to doing and can’t even control your thoughts around food choices?  Also, I think it’s important to consider your relationship with food and your body.  Do you feel that they are connected in a positive or negative way?  Is your self-worth defined, even in part, by what you eat or how much you eat?  All of these factors can help in defining dieting.

There are many reasons you shouldn’t diet–there are books written about it!  But I’ll name some of the most important reasons here in this blog post.  Hopefully it will get you thinking about your relationship with food and how you can improve that relationship to become a healthier one.

1. Every body is unique.

Every body has a unique metabolism and body composition.  While one person may feel more energy by following a certain food plan, another person may feel drained and famished.  Even diets that are “personalized” are often based on faulty calculations and scientific estimates, at best.  They aren’t really accurate.  Trust me, as a dietitian, I’ve had to calculate many a diet for patients over the years (as part of my job working in certain settings), and those calculations are far from accurate.  Even if we do know “scientifically” how many calories you should eat in a day, whose to say the best form of those calories for your body?  Really, only your body can help you to figure that out.  And if you’ve spent years dieting, it’s going to take a lot of time to get back to the place where you can really hear and listen to your body’s needs.

2. Dieting causes more problems than good.

In the long run, diets cause far more harm than good.  For starters, they actually cause you to gain more weight.  Many studies have demonstrated that dieters eventually gain more weight than what they had initially lost.  Many diets cause you to create more stress hormones, which tell your body to store more fat.  Diets can harm metabolism, slowing it down more and more with each diet you try.  Diets can also cause you to change body shape, meaning that more fat may actually be stored around your abdomen, which can be dangerous and lead to a higher risk of heart disease.

3. Food restriction of any kind makes you binge more!

When you feel deprived or when your body is deprived of adequate fuel, it often leads to binges.  This isn’t a bad thing, really.  It’s your body’s way of telling you that you are not eating enough.  Biologically speaking, your body is doing just what it should–it’s communicating with you to help you understand its needs.  But ultimately, binges are not healthful physically, emotionally, or mentally.

4. Diets lead to emotional and psychological damage.

Maybe you feel an initial boost of confidence after losing a few quick pounds?  But eventually, dieting leads to loss of confidence and self-trust.  Your confidence becomes directly linked to your weight and food intake, which is not healthy at all.  Dieting is linked to skewed body image and is directly linked to eating disorders.

“I want to be healthy and feel better, though!”  I hear this so much.  Most people really believe that dieting is the only way to obtain health and energy, when in reality dieting will take you further away from these goals.  The best answer?  Learn to eat intuitively, which means learning to eat for YOUR BODY.  No restrictions, no good or bad foods,  no wrong or right choices, and no mistakes.  It’s not an easy process or a short one.  Learning to listen to your body’s needs take a lot of time, patience, and practice.

The best advice I can give you is to start by working with a dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating, such as myself.  You can find an IE (intuitive eating) dietitian in your area by searching on the intuitive eating website.  You can work with me.  I’ll be adding “services” to the blog soon.

The point is, nutrition and health is much like psychology-one way doesn’t work for everyone.  Nutrition is subjective.  Just like working with a therapist can help you understand your unique psyche, working with an IE dietitian can help you understand your unique metabolism and nutritional needs.  But at the end of the day, like a therapist, a dietitian is a coach while YOU are the pro.  We help you tune in and hear those signals that are waiting for you to listen.

Eating is a joyful, meaningful experience and dieting takes us further from health, wellness, and the pleasure of enjoying life.  Have a great week, ya’ll!

Here’s my oatmeal breakfast from a few days ago.  Oats, cinnamon, a banana, and Trader Joe’s raw almond butter.

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