Do Diets Actually Work?
Diets have been around for centuries. From the tapeworm diet to Adkins, South Beach to Weight Watchers, Paleo to Keto, you get the drift. There are hundreds out there and the question that comes up time and time again, is “Do diets really work for sustained weight loss?” With summer just around the corner, you or someone you know may be trying to slim down for swimsuit season. Let’s face it, body image plays a role in society and how we believe others perceive us. By definition, body image is the “subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body”, as defined by Merriam Webster. Body image is what fuels the “weight loss industry”. But if they worked, would it be such a booming business? Likely not. Let’s explore WHY diets don’t work in the long run.
Dieting Alone is a Temporary Fix with No Long-term Gain
The vast majority of people who lose weight through dieting end up regaining all the weight. As many as 60% of those gain back more weight than they originally lost. Done repeatedly — as many women who struggle with weight do — dieting can actually cause you to gain weight over time to a level that goes beyond your set point weight, or the weight that best supports your body. You may have heard this referred to as yo-yo dieting. There are a variety of reasons that contribute to this phenomenon that we will look at more closely.
Dieting Causes You to Want Food More
It’s a survival mechanism. We need to eat to live — calories are converted into energy, and we exist off that energy. Without it, our bodies start to shut down. So, when food is in short supply, hormones kick in that are designed to make sure you eat. Those hormones also make food taste better. The result is a double whammy that makes food much harder to ignore.
Dieting Disrupts Your Natural Ques Signaling Hunger
Similarly, weight loss through dieting causes the hormones that are responsible for helping you feel full to drop. At the same time, the hormones that make you feel hungry to increase . It’s your body’s way of ensuring its survival. Because it doesn’t know that food is scarce because you’re restricting it purposefully, it thinks it is facing a famine. Your body thinks it’s helping you by gaining weight, so that the next time you’re faced with a famine, you’ll have enough fat stored to get you through it. Survival of the fittest, folks.
Dieting Destroys Your Relationship with Food
When we’re on a diet, we tend to dismiss what it means to approach food in a natural, intuitive way. Eat this, don’t eat that- You know the vicious circle. You don’t learn how to truly nourish yourself. Instead, you’re in a constant push-pull, driven by your dissatisfaction with your body, between wanting to lose weight and learning how to feed yourself to support your body’s natural state of being.
Dieting Leads to Overeating and Food Dependence
Because our bodies are complex, the microsystems within it can become disrupted when a hormone is lacking in one system and the body tries to compensate by increasing it in another. Eating a low-calorie diet can increase the levels of cortisol in our bodies, which is the hormone related to stress. In turn, this us to eat more by setting up a reward system in our brains. This can also lead to eating disorders such as bulimia.
Dieting Slows Down the Metabolic Rate
When you deprive your body of necessary and essential nutrients for too long, you’ll likely find yourself less than healthy. This can also cause weight gain. It may have nothing to do with calories, but everything to do with the body’s attempt to take care of itself by getting the vitamins and minerals that it needs.
Dieting Has Become a Norm
This false standard causes emotional pain and suffering in the lives of women today. The pressure you feel to diet may have less to do with wellness and more to do with vanity. The industry selling you your insecurities has a lot of money invested in it to make sure that you continue to buy diet products. And what’s the only way to keep you buying? By selling you products that are meant to fail.
If Dieting Doesn’t Work How Do We Manage Weight?
We have established that diets don’t work yet we still want to feel good in our own skin. They’re the vessels that carry us through life and it would be nice to have a pleasant relationship with them! There are plenty of ways that we can connect to and enjoy our bodies that have nothing to do with restrictive dieting and compulsive exercising while still experiencing weight loss.
Change your focus from looking good to feeling good- This is about changing from the inside out, using intrinsic motivation to guide your decisions. When we’re in touch with what we truly need and want, we can make choices that feel good in the moment. Mindfulness is the bridge to noticing what makes you really feel good and then doing it regularly.
Self-acceptance- The first step in taking care of ourselves is to adopt a non-judgmental attitude towards ourselves, regardless of our size. This allows us to see what is — without self-criticism. Change that is motivated by shame doesn’t last.
Stop trying to lose weight- Set your sights on doing what’s necessary to help you feel good instead. Generally, those are activities that will support our bodies in achieving and maintaining their set point weight.
Re-frame your thinking about exercise- It replaces anxiety, stress, and shame with a new, relationship with movement, joy, and play that can make physical activity a regular part of your life. Movement doesn’t have to be associated with calories and weight loss.
Weight loss is about so much more than caloric intake and proper nutrition. It is about whole mind and body wellness. Contact Dr. Kells in Salt Lake City today to find out how our whole body system approach can help you not only lose weight, but help you keep the weight off and increase your overall health and happiness.