Here's Why Diets Don't Work
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
TW: diets, weight loss, diet culture and eating disorders
Regret. You know the feeling. You've "fallen off the wagon" after a weekend of indulging and now, you're left feeling guilty and frustrated.
You vow to yourself that on Monday, you'll start fresh, eat clean (and get it right this time, dammit)!
We're all familiar with the feeling of failure that comes with trying to maintain a strict healthy lifestyle. You're definitely not alone.
But, there's a reason why this seemingly simple task is so damn difficult and why we keep having to restart and refresh:
👏 diets 👏 do 👏 not 👏 work 👏
And I know what you're thinking: "I don't do diets."
But when we define a "diet" as any series of food rules or restrictions, I think we can all agree that we've created at least some rules when it comes to the type of food we consume and when (thanks, intermittent fasting).
DIETS DON'T WORK
There's a reason we can't stick to our healthy lifestyles or weight loss diets. They are unsustainable, when they include that much restriction.
Sure, you might able to get through keto for a few months (maybe even a year) but let me ask you: have you ever been able to sustain a version of your "healthy lifestyle" for 2+ years without fail?
To me, that would be a success 👍
Bonus: you wouldn't end up trapped in a weight cycling rollercoaster, yo-yo dieting your way into low self esteem and problematic eating patterns.
So let's unpack why the dieting industry should be cancelled and how you can avoid the pitfalls of another crash cleanse, clean eating overhaul, or disordered detox failure.
DIET CULTURE'S AN OLD PRO
First off, it's easy to throw out a buzzword like "diet culture" without really knowing what it means. And it's important to know thine enemy, so let's break it down.
Diet culture's been around for ages (100+ years in fact), and keeps shape shifting depending on current trends. It's even snuck its way into the newest wellness world and what we like to call "healthy lifestyles".
Diet culture is a system designed to make you believe that:
⚡️ thinness equals health, and you're a failure if you don't achieve either of those things
⚡️ your weight equals your worth, and you need to spend all of your energy, time and money trying to shrink your body
⚡️ morality comes with food, making you a good person for eating "healthy" and a bad one for "cheating"
⚡️ anyone who doesn't fit this ideal, including women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of colour, and people with disabilities should be oppressed and ostracized
(The above definition of diet culture is loosely borrowed from Christy Harrison, author of Anti-Diet)
So if defining diet culture doesn't have you feeling cringe, let's discuss why diet culture has tricked us into making our weight the most important thing👇
THE DISH ON DIETS
We like to think we've moved past the "low fat weight watchers" era, and are embracing wellness over weight loss in 2021.
But diet culture is sneaky as hell and we often still equate losing weight with maintaining our health.
Dieting (whether for wellness or weight loss) is a flawed system for many reasons, including the unhealthy relationship it creates between you, the food you choose to eat and how you feel about your body.
The global weight-loss industry is expected to earn $278.95 billion by 2023.
Which means they have a 👏 vested 👏 interest 👏 in 👏 taking 👏 your 👏 money👏 .
And what's more profitable than repeat customers? The system is designed to fail and there's actually a bunch of research on how 👇
Secretly, I think we all want the newest diet trend that's going to solve all our problems and make it easier to look like a Kardashian. Aren't we all just waiting for someone to unlock the code?
And I know you: you've tried them them all, from keto to gluten-free to juice cleanses to skinny tea.
So either you're the biggest failure (hint: you're not), or there's something wrong here...
Did you know:
⚡️ There's evidence out there that predicts that up to 95% of diets actually fail.
⚡️ Studies show that dieting is one of the strongest predictors of weight gain, regardless of the actual body weight of the dieting individual.
⚡️ Top that with up to 2/3 of dieters who gain back more weight than before they started dieting, and we've got ourselves a formula for failure.
Reminder: any form of eating that restricts certain foods, groups of food or creates rules around food timing with the goal of weight loss or maintenance 👏 is 👏 a 👏 diet 👏.
(Yup, that can include things like intermittent fasting, paleo, keto and Whole30).
DISORDERED EATING ON A DIET
There is a difference between disordered eating and an eating disorders.
⚡️ Eating disorders are officially categorized as mental illness (and include anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder and EDNOS) and require much more professional support.
Eating disorders are very complicated and there's a lot we don't understand. But dieting could be one of the most common predictors of developing an eating disorder.
In fact, 35% of women who diet "normally" end up with dieting pathology (unhealthy food or calorie restriction) and 20-25% of those women progress to partial or full-blown eating disorders.
⚡️ Disordered eating is a net-negative relationship with food, aka the "juice" of eating for health or weigh loss is just not worth the "squeeze" on your mental wellbeing.
Encouraging weight loss by dieting as the solution to health problems, increases the likelihood of disordered eating behaviour and complicates your relationship with food.
When you're in it and it's (temporarily) working, dieting's exciting. But if you base your happiness and self worth on a number on the scale, it can backfire.
So yeah, dieting messes with our minds. But, it can also have negative health impacts that go far beyond a number on the scale 👇
DIETS DO HARM
Would you sign up for a spa day that left you feeling more stressed at the end? Not only does dieting not work, it can actually cause harm.
⚡️ The yo-yo fluctuation from weight loss to weight gain (also known as weight cycling), can be a precursor to many health issues, including cardiovascular disease, inflammation, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.
⚡️ Studies have shown that weight
cycling accounts for increased risk of mortality.
⚡️ Dieting often forces the body into starvation mode and your cells don’t know you're voluntarily restricting your food intake. Activate survival mode: metabolism slows down and food cravings escalate. Our bodies learn from this and adapt, causing rebound weight gain.
So, is dieting really worth it, when we know it's this ineffective?
RUN (DON'T WALK) AWAY
Ultimately, dieting causes more harm than good, and sadly it's often all in the pursuit of an impossible body ideal.
Wellness isn’t supposed to be overwhelming. Our lifestyle isn't supposed to cause guilt or shame. Food's here to nourish us, to fuel our bodies and bring us satisfaction.
There is a way to be healthy, enjoy wellness and keep your sanity at the same time.
💛 Swapping wellness-overwhelm for a better relationship with food will change your health from the inside out. Intuitive eating is the way through. Practicing body respect will lead you to a place of self love and neutrality towards how you look.
💛 No more crash cleanses, out of control binges or Monday morning "resets". You deserve so much more.
tl;dr: Diet culture is a system designed to teach us that we're not worthy, dieting for weight loss doesn't work and your weight doesn't equal your health. The most important thing you can do is focus on a better relationship with food.
💛 Now's your chance to start your Food Freedom Breakthrough. If you're ready to shift your mindset and change your relationship with food, click below for my free Journal Prompt Workbook!