With all the diet talk that surrounds our culture, I find myself telling people that I don’t diet anymore pretty often. And the response is generally predictable. Either I get, “Good for you! Diets don’t work, anyway,” or “I care about my health so I am doing xyz plan.”
The second response is far more common. People don’t directly tell me that I don’t care about my health, but they imply that because they’re dieting they care about their health and because I’m not, I must not care.
The truth is that giving up dieting was the biggest step I’ve ever made toward my health. Diets ruled my life for many years and I’m not any better off because of it. In fact, I would argue that my health would be even better if I had given up dieting years before I did.
Dieting is Bad for Your Health
Diets are actually bad for your health, though that isn’t the message we hear in the media or in the doctor’s office. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why:
Diets don’t work long term. Anyone can follow a diet plan for a few months or even a year. But most diets are ineffective in the long-term. People may find that they lose weight on a particular diet only to gain it back (and more) when they no longer follow the plan.
Diets encourage disordered eating. If someone with anorexia tells you that they count the number of grapes they eat at breakfast, you would probably think that behavior is very unhealthy. But if someone is fat and they count their grapes you might cheer them on.
The behavior is the same and in both cases it is disordered eating. Diets encourage many behaviors that are disordered such as counting and measuring food, skipping meals, ignoring hunger signals, basing your worth on weight, chronic yo-yo dieting, weight fluctuations, and preoccupation with food and exercise.
Diets lead to weight cycling. When your weight is moving up and down frequently we call that “weight cycling”. Doing this over and over again is actually linked to poor health including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and immune problems.
Diets cause weight cycling. In fact, a study performed at UCLA found that the greatest predictor of weight gain was actually reporting having previously lost weight on a diet.
Diets cause emotional stress. Dieting can increase your stress levels. Focusing your life on food and exercise narrows your interests and keeps you from spending energy on other areas of your life that are important.
Dieting also leads to feelings of guilt and shame about eating specific foods, how much you eat, and your body. When dieting you tend to celebrate weight loss and put yourself down when you don’t lose. You can also find that your entire day can be ruined by stepping on the scale and not experiencing the desired results.
Give Up Dieting and Take Back Your Health
When you give up dieting, you’ll find that there’s much more room in your life for good health. For example:
Food will be in its proper place. When you don’t have to be obsessed with food and restriction you can spend more time looking up delicious recipes and trying new things.
You can eat with balance, variety, and moderation and give up foods that you don’t like. You may find that some foods don’t work for you. But those decisions will be made based on what your body is telling you not external rules.
Food will be something you enjoy, but not something that takes over your life. In fact, you’ll find that you just don’t worry about food anymore. It’s a need that you have and a part of life you enjoy, but not something that causes stress.
You’ll focus on other health behaviors. Eating and exercise are just two behaviors that can affect our health. When you spend all of your time focusing on them you might miss other things such as reducing your stress levels, taking appropriate supplements or medications, getting good sleep, spending time with friends, meeting spiritual needs and making time for fun.
You’ll let go of shame. This is one of the most important things you’ll gain by giving up dieting. You’ll no longer worry about feeling guilty about eating specific foods or what the scale says. Instead you can focus on how you feel. You’ll worry about feeling good, not being good.
This isn’t a quick and easy road. It can take time to unlearn behaviors that haven’t served you well and implement new ones. But in the end, giving up dieting will benefit you much more than the diet roller coaster. You’ll be able to experience better overall health and wellness and you’ll be able to have more joy in your life.
If you’re ready to stop dieting and focus on meeting your true needs, I can show you how. Contact me today and ask about an Am I Hungry? Workshop or one-on-one coaching.