Have you been dieting for years and it never pays off?
Do you try and try again with various diets and still end up the exact same as before or worse?
Is constant dieting making you feel worse and hopeless about your life?
Do you feel like your self-esteem hinges upon reaching a certain number on a scale?
Like most people, you may go on a diet for a number of reasons:
You are convinced (usually by the diet industry and beauty magazines) that going on a certain diet will be beneficial for your life, especially in terms of physical health (your weight, muscle-mass, and skin) or your mental health (your levels of depression or anxiety, and overall joy), and especially to make you more beautiful, handsome and/or desirable. These messages blind you to the impossible and often dangerous requirements of the diet.
You believe a temporary eating routine will lead to permanent effects – which is an overly simplified concept perpetuated by the billion dollar diet and weight loss industry. For instance, a diet program on its surface promises that if you eat exactly the way they tell you to eat, you’ll end up being the version of yourself that they convince you that you should desire to be.
This makes you fixate more on the summit than the climb!
You are convinced that hard work and dedication to follow a strict diet and exercise plan is the real solution – rather than a much easier solution that you were born with that doesn’t require diet deprivation and punishment, intuitive eating (more on that below!).
You are pressured from popular culture and marketers, and sometimes family and friends, about the latest dieting trends that include certain foods and supplements. Then celebrities and newscasters spread this false information all over media in order to either sell a product or generate an easy “solution” that vulnerable people would tune into, especially children and teenagers.
You have been shamed by the media and sometimes friends and family and even your own doctor, about your body and weight, so you’d be willing to try anything to feel better about it. Trying a completely new routine or “solution” gives a temporary but powerful sense of hope that is unfortunately short lived.
The truth is diets simply do not work.
According to the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination, “95% of diets fail and most will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years.” Diets are unrealistic solutions that will cause you to force yourself abstain from certain foods to the point of complete exhaustion and ultimate departure from the diet.
In other words, NO ONE can succeed on a diet long-term. There is not something wrong with you personally because you have gone on and off diets your whole life. This is the case for most people – diets set you up to fail.
Eating the same types of food every single day will make you go insane - you are literally trying many different diets over and over again and expecting different results. Why get caught up in pursuing a glorified version of yourself to the point where you’ll slave over a system that won’t even guarantee long-term benefits?
What usually happens is that people quit diets when they get to a certain body type with which they are happy. You got what you wanted in the first place, so you can finally stop that draining process.
Except when you do quit the diet, you will most likely “fall back” to your original state or worse because your body will crave the foods it was missing, and your body will biologically want to load up on foods it craves. You can’t fight your body and nature – better to listen and work WITH your body!
The problem is that while diets can show short-term noticeable results, it is way too demanding and stressful for it to be a long-term consistent lifestyle – for EVERYONE, not just you!
On top of that, most diets lead to poor nutrition, which “can contribute to stress, tiredness and capacity to work, and over time, it can contribute to the risk of developing some illnesses and other health problems” (SA Health).
You are not a failure - it is completely normal to collapse under the pressures of a diet - it shows that you are a human being. We are omnivores and are meant to eat a variety of different foods ranging from fruits and vegetables to dairy and grains. Blocking out one or two food groups entirely will weaken your body.
You may be wondering now what you can do instead. Here are some healthier solutions.
Problems with food and weight often stem from emotional eating. You may be eating too much food in one sitting, unable to control when to stop and knowing how much is too much. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, it is important to “pay attention to hunger and fullness cues before, during, and after meals.”
It is critical to consistently listen to what your stomach is telling you as you eat - and to develop the ability and the courage to stop eating a meal when your stomach sends those cues.
You can always save food for a later time, and you can always eat again when hunger arises.
Contrary to what certain diets tell you, all foods are important to maintain a healthy lifestyle - an important footnote to tack onto that, though, is that too much or too little of one food group could bear negative effects.
By now, you’ve probably heard the saying “everything in moderation,” but no saying could be truer in this case. The best diet you can have is a balanced diet combined with the practice of intuitive eating.
If you’re not able or confident enough to know what a “moderate” amount of a certain food group is, a great place to start is with the book “Intuitive Eating” or my book “5 Simple Steps To Be Eating Disorder Free”.
Also, please don’t be so hard on your body size or yourself in general. Diet and beauty product companies want you to feel inadequate and insecure about yourself in order for you to buy their products, but it’s essential to learn to accept, love and care for the body you were born with. Realize that the bodies that the media celebrates are most often fake bodies that have been photo shopped and starved.
If you need more help, the therapists and dietitians at The Body Image Counseling Center are intuitive eating specialists and we can help you reconnect to your body and its natural hunger cues, WITHOUT dieting. Please throw out your scale, put down the step counters and calorie counters and call us to learn how be free from diets and body hatred!