Oh dieting... You've probably been on a diet or two (or ten) in your life. If not, then you likely know quite a few people who have. Whether it looks like a diet or not, anything that restricts your food intake, invokes guilt, has "good" and "bad" foods, and dictates what you should or shouldn't eat is in fact a diet.
By jumping on the diet bandwagon, you're supporting a multi-billion dollar industry. Remember it is in their best interest if you have great short term success, but little long term success. That means you'll come back for more programs and/or resources and keep spending your money with them!
Diets can be more gentle and easy to customize like modern day Weight Watchers, they can be incredibly restrictive like the Atkins Diet, or they can provide you with all of the food you'll need for a short time such as Jenny Craig or Lite 'N Easy. These all have a few things in common though, and they are all the reasons I say ditch dieting to the curb!
1. Being thinner does not necessarily make you healthier.
We all know that being morbidly obese is not good for your health, but there are actually studies that have shown that people who are within the 'overweight' category tend to live longer than those in the 'average' weight category. This is partially because these are loose definitions, and partially because the BMI (often used by western doctors) is an inaccurate way to measure someone's body composition.
In the end it comes down to the fact that you can be overweight, have great fitness and eat a balanced diet. You can be overweight, have poor fitness and eat mostly junk food. You can be of average weight or below, be fit and eat a balanced diet. You can be of average weight or below, be unfit and eat mostly junk food. Or you can be any other combinations of weight, fitness, and nutritious food intake.
There are billions of people on this planet and each of our bodies is so very different! Studies have shown that regardless of your body weight, the thing that may make the biggest difference to health is actually your level of fitness. So whether you wear a size 2, 12, or 22 you can live a long healthy life as long as you take care of your body, maintain good fitness and eat a healthy diet.
2. Diets don't actually make you thinner long-term.
It's not breaking news... Doctors know that yo-yo dieting is linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, higher blood pressure, inflammation, and, ironically, long-term weight gain.
Most diets have little scientific evidence backing them for long-term success in achieving and maintaining weight loss goals. Seriously, the vast majority of dieters do NOT maintain any sort of weight loss. It's estimated that about 97% of dieters will re-gain any weight lost (plus more) within about 3 years.
3. Diets usually don't address the individual in front of them.
Instead of looking at a person, diet participants are put on a standard plan and any individual preferences or traits are largely ignored. It is assumed that you are not the expert on your body and therefore you're handing your power over to someone else. You are not asked how a certain food makes you feel. How is your energy? How is your sleep? Has your skin cleared up? Are you moody or grumpy? The vast majority of diets do not ever consider any of this! They are only concerned with a number on a scale. You are simply told what to eat, or more likely what not to eat, and left at that.
But you are an individual. What if your unique body thrives on lots of complex carbohydrates but you decide to go on an ultra low carb diet? What if your unique body thrives on high dietary fat and you go on a super low fat diet? You will NOT feel good! You are largely ignoring your body's signals and instead of living your best life and nourishing your body in the way it needs, you are dis-empowering yourself and numbing yourself to your innate body wisdom. You are the only one who lives within your body. Are you not the most qualified person to say what feels good to you?
4. When you are told you cannot have something, it is in your nature to immediately crave it.
When I tell you not to think about a purple elephant, I bet you just pictured a purple elephant! So by going on a diet that takes things away you love, you're going to immediately crave them! If on the other hand you weren't told to remove anything from your diet, but instead you just added new positive things, you wouldn't crave the old things so much. If you typically enjoy sweets, but your palate learned to recognize the sweetness in mangoes, bananas, spinach, apples, dates, pineapple, and oranges, you would over time automatically eat less of the health reducing sweets and eat more of the health promoting sweets because they'd make you feel great! These things give you natural energy and fuel you with goodness instead of taking anything away.
In conclusion, dieting just has so many negatives that there is simply NO reason to go down that path, ever! Dieting does not lead to long-term weight loss, and even if it did that does not necessarily mean you're going to be any healthier. By participating in a diet you are giving someone else a lot of money, the power to make decisions for you, ignoring your innate body wisdom, and setting yourself up for failure by entering a never-ending negative cycle.
So what to do? If dieting isn't the way to go, then what's the plan??
It's time to tune into your gut. To use your intuition and focus on health gains instead of weight loss! To add so many healthy choices to your life that the negative choices slowly fade away. To learn to love yourself as you are and not look to weight loss as a happiness booster. Check out next week's blog post to read more about what to do instead of a diet!
As usual, I welcome any comments or feedback you may have!
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