Atkins, South Beach, Sugar Free… you can bank on the fact that just about every week, a new ‘must try’ diet book appears on shelves, another celebrity releases their “fat blasting baby body workout” and an Instagram celebrity perfectly arranges their diet food in a flatlay. But the crux of all of these diets are almost identical – centred around restriction, elimination and attempting to “hack” the body.
Ultimately, the results are almost always identical too: eventual re-gain of the weight you’ve lost, blaming yourself, low self-esteem, overwhelm, frustration & desperation.
And, even if you’re not actively dieting right now, if you’ve ever dieted you may still be influenced by the ‘rules’ from past diets that you see beamed all around you on social media, TV and in magazines. In a way, this can leave us all in this constant state of “somewhat dieting” wherein we associate certain foods with guilt, hinge our self-worth on our dress size and don’t know how to listen to our own hunger signals.
To escape this cycle, all we need to do is wake up and doing so starts with finding out the truth about diets.
Here are 6 important reasons to stop dieting – right now:
1. Self-deprivation is a freakin’ terrible idea (and doesn’t work if your goal is long term, sustained weight loss).
The restriction mindset that every diet book under the sun tells us to embrace? Yeah… not so scientifically sound if your goal is long term weight loss or health management. The restriction mindset does however work in letting you lose weight and then almost immediately gain it all back plus more… which isn’t likely your goal but yay for diet companies, it means that they’ve just found a lifetime customer! When you’re fixed to the idea that repeated restriction will help you meet your goals in a healthy way, you’ll just keep coming back to diet companies for more.
And when you give food power over you, you’re ultimately only reinforcing emotional connections with food that really don’t have to be there.
RELATED: Why you should eat the “bad” foods
2. Diets don’t cater to your body.
That extensive family history of IBS, that grandpa with Type 2 diabetes, the mother with an incredibly fast metabolism, your cousin who could never gain weight… diet programs don’t know anything about these parts of your body’s genetic makeup.
Nor do they know about the first time you tried to diet on school camp in Grade 6, the time you made yourself throw up at work because you were so stressed, the emotional damage of your first crush ridiculing your body that still stays with you or every time you binge-eat a whole bag of cookies at 1am while you watch Game of Thrones.
In short, they don’t know you. And sure, they can make sweeping generalisations drawing on some of the similarities that all bodies have (that we require energy to live, that we’re largely made of water, that we’re held together by skin and bones and organs and tissue), but when it comes to your health, you really want to get individual advice.
Just because a high profile nutrition celeb on Instagram eats 1200 calories a day doesn’t mean that the impacts on your body will be identical. And, depending on hormonal activity and exercise levels, your own daily caloric requirements will vary from day to day.
Ever noticed that on some days, you could eat alllll day but on others, you aren’t hungry much at all?
Counting calories will lead to you paying attention to the wrong thing – arbitrary numbers – and ignoring the signals that your body is giving you. When you’re able to tap into what your body is telling you, you can tell when you’re hungry/full, why you’re eating and what sort of energy your body needs to consume.
When you’re counting calories, you become fixated. You train yourself to go for foods with the lowest calorie count even if their nutrient density also lowers. You teach yourself to actively try and “shortcut” your health and completely discount all the complexities that make your body, yours.
3. Diets aren’t sustainable.
Sure, you’ll probably lose weight drinking only lemon water… but what happens when you need to, yknow… consume some energy and eat something?
I’ll tell you what will happen: you’ll be ravenous from so much restriction and you’ll eat much more and much faster than your body actually needs, and you’ll take on this “last meal ever” mentality. And then you’ll gain weight. And then you’ll feel bad. And then you’ll restrict more. And then when that stops working they way you want it too, you’ll try another diet.
The vicious cycle continues.
Furthermore, when you try to override your body’s natural eating rhythm by pigeonholing it into 8 small meals a day or 1 large meal, you’re not giving yourself a chance to understand the relationship between your mind and body. Mental hunger and physical hunger work best in harmony with each other.
4. Diets ignore the fact that your wellness isn’t entirely entered around your body weight.
According to every diet ever, you’ll finally be able to start living your life and being healthy when you lose the weight.
Except that life starts now, and that although your decreased mass may result in one metric of increased physical health, you’ve just shot yourself in the foot in terms of mental and emotional health which is now tied up in notions of self-worth being inextricably linked to how much you eat. Uh oh.
There’s a reason why diet plans don’t address the mental components of weight loss:
- Diet writers usually aren’t at all qualified in psychology even a tiny bit; and
- If they did, they’d have to expose the fact that the “tips” they’re giving are incredibly psychologically damaging and doing so would be pretty detrimental to their profit margins (which, by the way, is the entire basis of their business – not your health).
5. Diets produce stress on the body.
Let’s talk about your metabolism, which helps regulate how your body uses energy – it’s kind of important to maintaining a healthy weight. Unfortunately the cycle of overeating and restriction that’s synonymous with dieting impacts your metabolism negatively.
The cycle of yo-yo dieting is stressful to your physical, mental, and emotional health.
The truth is, dieting is associated with weight gain in the long-term.
Your body, under these cycles, slows down your metabolism as a way to preserve energy. You’re literally putting your body under attack and it’s trying to fend off the attack.
6. Diets limit your connection to reality.
If you’re dieting, it’s damn hard to live in the present – and how can you live in the present when you’re constantly up in your head, counting calories and tracking macros and coming up with excuses to avoid the snack table at the party you’re attending?
This is why it’s so important to cultivate a thriving relationship between mind and body.
When you can honour your hunger cues and eat intuitively, you’re able to let go and live in the moment.