“Dieters lose weight at first, but almost always gain it back, along with body insecurities, emotional ties to food, and a suppressed metabolism.” (1)
Rejecting the Diet Mentality is principle number one of the intuitive eating framework and the critical first step towards rediscovering your intuitive eater.
So, What Counts as A Diet?
A diet is anything that restricts what, when or how much you eat in the name of weight loss or changing your body shape. Can you think back to how many diets you've been on? On average, a woman will try seven diets in her lifetime. Perhaps you’re still on a diet and don’t even know it. This is what we call pseudo-dieting. Some examples of this include:
Meticulously counting macros
Eating only "safe" foods
Eating only at certain times of the day
Paying penance for eating "bad" foods such as skipping meals or doing extra exercise
Cutting back on food for a special event
Pacifying hunger by drinking coffee, water or diet drinks
Putting on a "false food face" in public
Judging what you deserve to eat based on what you've eaten earlier on in the day
Becoming a vegetarian, vegan etc. only for the purpose of losing weight
Cutting out food groups based on the belief that they are "bad for you"
Competing with someone else who is dieting and feeling obligated to be equally virtuous
Why Diet’s Don’t Work
Can you think back to the last time you were on a diet? Did you manage to lose weight AND keep it off long-term? If the research is anything to go by, my guess is no.
A large-scale 2015 study containing more than 278,000 people found that within 5 years, the proportion of people that had regained all their lost weight or more, was somewhere between 95 and 98%. (2) Would you take medication that was proven ineffective 95% of the time? I hear the little voice asking, what about the other 5%? Did it work for them? That depends on how you define success. What parts of your life are you willing to give up to keep the weight off? It's a lot for this group.
Furthermore, a 2007 meta-analysis of weight-loss studies found that people’s weight usually reaches its lowest point somewhere around the six-month mark of any diet or “lifestyle change”; it then starts increasing at about one year, after which the rate of weight regain speeds up over time. (3) If this resonates with you, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that diet culture has co-opted you, among millions of others into believing that it’s your fault you couldn’t keep the weight off. It’s not. You don’t fail the diet; the diet fails you. Here’s how:
1. It slows your metabolism:
Your body can't tell the difference between dieting and actual starvation, so it will compensate for the shortage of calories by slowing the metabolism, burning muscle for energy, and becoming super-efficient at doing more, for less. In other words, you become a pro at storing fat.
2. It leads to overeating and bingeing:
The science shows us that dieting leads to bingeing. When we skip meals or drastically lower calorie intake, the brain sends out neurotransmitters and hormones like ghrelin and neuropeptide Y - powerful orexigenics, which stimulate appetite. These continue to build, until you eat enough to "trip the switch", for the fullness hormone, leptin, to get released.
3. There is a loss of innate hunger & fullness cues:
When we rely on external cues to tell us when, what and how much to eat, we lose trust in our own bodies to tell us what we need.
4. It causes rebound weight gain:
With every new diet, your weight can go up higher than your original weight. How many people do you know who have sustained weight loss over a long period of time? And how many of those are furiously counting calories or killing themselves in the gym?
If not dieting, then what?
It's normal for this to be all new and for it to feel a bit mind blowing. There is a way out, I promise. Intuitive eating can help you to nurture your body, rather than starve it, encourage a reconnection with your body's innate signals of hunger, fullness and food preference and help you find the weight you are meant to be at. It is possible to find health and wellbeing, without the obsession.
Click here to book a free discovery call if you're interested in working with me 1:1 to support you in your journey out of dieting.
1. MacLean, P.S., Bergouignan, A., Cornier, M.A. and Jackman, M.R., 2011. Biology's response to dieting: the impetus for weight regain. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 301(3), pp.R581-R600.
2. Fildes, A., Charlton, J., Rudisill, C., Littlejohns, P., Prevost, A.T. and Gulliford, M.C., 2015. Probability of an obese person attaining normal body weight: cohort study using electronic health records. American journal of public health, 105(9), pp.e54-e59.
3. Dansinger, M.L., Tatsioni, A., Wong, J.B., Chung, M. and Balk, E.M., 2007. Meta-analysis: the effect of dietary counseling for weight loss. Annals of internal medicine, 147(1), pp.41-50.