When you Google “Losing Weight” you get 43,000,000 results. These are results for weight loss programs, diet pills, tips to lose weight fast and a 40,000, 000 other things. Dieting is big business and every company that has a product to sell you has their own magical claim for happiness.
I started my first diet at the age of 14, and over the years (I am now 37), I have tried most of these diets and here’s what I have learned…..
1. Diets don’t work
Research shows that diets just don’t work. While you may lose some weight in the short term, more than 80% of people gain the weight back, plus more! When you restrict your calorie intake, your metabolism also slows down. You body goes into a state of “starvation” and holds on to the weight. This was useful back in the days when food was scarce – our bodies are super efficient at making the most of the calories it does get from our food. Instead, your body stores the fat and burns through your muscle and tissues. So when you lose weight by reducing calories, you are actually losing your muscle mass – this is incredibly important for a whole bunch of processes we’ll get to next.
2. Diets mess with your hormones
Especially diets that radically reduce your calorie intake (think the Lemon Detox Diet, The Hollywood Juice Fast Diet and many popular shake diets). These diets can mess with your sex hormones which can lead to reproductive and menstrual issues like infertility and loss of your period. They can also mess with your thyroid function which can lead to depression, fatigue, impaired memory and muscle aches and stiffness, and they put a lot of strain on your adrenal glands which can increase your level of stress hormones.
3. Diets are not sustainable for the long term
Dieting is not a long term, sustainable way of eating. They are typically based on eating a specific, and often very restrictive way for a set amount of time. So what happens after the “diet” is over? You need to go back to eating ‘normal’ food, and what happens when you go back to eating the way you ate before? You gain back the weight! This leads to my next point…..
4. Diets don’t teach you how to feed yourself for the long term
One of the reasons diets are not sustainable for the long term, is that they don’t teach you how to feed yourself after the diet is over. Eating by a very rigid meal plan or replacing meals with shakes can absolutely help you lose weight, but again, what happens when you go back to eating ‘normal’ food?
5. Diets put you out of touch with your appetite
Most diets have rigid portions and schedules or rules. Normal eaters vary their amounts and eating times according to need. Losing touch with internal feedback contributes to long-term failure. It also encourages us to give up trusting our intuition in other areas.
6. Diets teach our kids the same habits
Have you sat down with your family for dinner and while they are all eating, you are having a diet shake? Or you skip dinner all together because you’ve eaten all your ‘points’ for the day? When we do this in front of our children, this becomes normal to them. We can tell them all we like that they don’t need to diet, but if they see you doing it, they are far more likely to think this is a normal part of growing up.
7. Diets can be expensive
Many diets have you eating specific ingredients that can be very expensive. Some pre-packaged meal plans can cost around $160-$200 per week with meal replacement shakes can add up to over $70 and you still have to provide other meals – and that’s just for 1 person. Other diets can have you taking expensive supplements as well as food which can also add up quickly.
8. Dieting takes the enjoyment out of food
Food is not just about fuelling our bodies. Food also has social and emotional aspects that can be as important as nutritional ones. Eating with others helps us to connect and if we are always dieting, we risk losing that connection.
Diets also become about deprivation of the foods you love, and then guilt if you ‘slip up’ while on your diet. Even the language of dieting is negative – cheat, cleanse, I’ve been bad, fat day, junk food, binge and punish.
9. Dieting can make you feel like crap
When you diet, you can often feel tired, lightheaded, moody and have difficulty concentrating. The very nature of dieting means you reduce your nutrient intake. This will likely mean that you are lacking essential nutrients, including high quality iron, zinc, protein and fat.
Not only do diets make you feel like crap physically, they make you feel like crap emotionally too. Feeling as though you are not good enough the way you are or beating yourself up when you’ve ‘slipped up’ on your diet reduce your self esteem and also reduce any chance you had of sticking to the diet in the first place. Dieting language makes your body and food the enemy.
10. Dieting puts your life on hold
Are you hoping that once you lose weight, you will be able to start your life? How many times have you heard “Once I lose weight, I’ll take that yoga class” or “I’ll finally be able to wear what I want”. Let me tell you, if you are not doing that yoga class or wearing the clothes you want now, then you are not living!
Loving your body as it is feels better than pretty much anything else – and food is only one part of this. Accepting yourself the way you are right now, living in the now and enjoying your relationships, moving your body, having a job you love – these are all part of the bigger picture.