Have you tried all the methods under the sun, and wonder if you can simply lose weight without dieting?
Have a think about how many weight loss attempts you have made in the last year?
If it’s more than 1, you’re certainly not alone with this! One in 4 adults is trying to lose weight most of the time (1).
And I get it. As a New Year emerges, we suddenly feel:
- a resurgence of excitement to improve our health
- that we have a clean slate to get rid of those “bad” habits
- motivated to start that new diet or “lifestyle”
The start of a New Year certainly is a good time to start from fresh and re-set ourselves for the year ahead. I am not trying to ruin the fun here. However, do think through your resolutions very carefully. Because unfortunately, when it comes to weight loss, studies show that the majority of people will regain weight after trying to diet, 80% of people in fact (2). Around 30-60% will gain it back, and some more…
So, you may be wondering whether this is there another more sustainable way to lose weight without dieting?
Firstly, let’s be clear what a diet is.
A diet is any way of eating, undertaken for the purposes of losing weight.
Diets can be disguised as:
- Offering ‘balance’ or ‘lifestyle’, but still, tell you to restrict/control.
- Tracking calories or counting points.
- Choosing low calorie, fat or carb foods to be safe.
- Cutting back in preparation for a special event.
- Making up for what you ate yesterday by doing more exercise or eating less.
- Passing by hunger with coffee/diet coke/water.
“A diet is any kind of eating plan undertaken for the purposes of losing weight.“
So, what’s wrong with just being a little sensible and trying to cut back?
Changing behaviours for the sole purpose of trying to lose weight can backfire for many. Even if you’re aiming to lose weight without dieting – like doing anything “official”. Whichever way you try it, even if it’s a ‘sensible’ way it can come with side effects. I guarantee you’ve experienced this for yourself too. If diets or restriction worked then we would all be thin right?
Why? Well, we are fighting biology. You can read more about this in my article “why diets don’t work”. In essence, diets are making us work against ourselves and paradoxically, we end up achieving the exact opposite of what we wanted in the first place. Argh!
Also, it’s estimated that 75% of women suffer with some form of disordered eating. That includes some common behaviours such as banishing carbs and skipping meals, feeling anxious around food, having a constant hang-up with food and body weight, being strict around food and attaching self-worth to body shape and size (3). Dieting or restriction exacerbates this.
Even the Australian Government Guidelines have accepted that the majority of people will regain weight after trying to diet (4). And further research shows that at least one-third of people who start a diet will actually regain more weight than they lost (5). Can you believe that dieting (aka the pursuit of weight loss) is the single biggest predictor of weight gain!
It’s not all bad news though.
What if I told you that you don’t have to make another “weight loss” type resolution again?
What if you could stop dieting, improve your relationship with food and your overall health another way?
I bet you’d be pretty excited to know how, right?
Well, let me tell you there is a way.
It’s called Intuitive Eating. This is about working with your appetite rather than in fear of it. It is an evidence-based, mindful practice that is associated with:
- A lower BMI (6, 7, 8) and you can read more about the specifics of what and how “to do Intuitive Eating” (link to IE article here).
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Less disordered eating
- Improved body satisfaction
- Improved self esteem
- A higher likelihood of taking part in physical activity
- Improved general wellbeing (9)
If you feel ready to start practicing Intuitive Eating, your experiences and relationship with food will change for the better.
As we approach the new year and you see more adverts trying to sell you the next big weight loss tool, just remember that these are just not backed up by long term evidence. We know that any form of food deprivation and chronic restriction can lead to cravings and binge eating. We know that Intuitive Eating can help stop this and improve your relationship with food to increase your overall health and wellbeing.
To answer the question – “Can I lose weight without dieting?”
The answer is: when you’re honouring your natural hunger, fullness, satiety cues, sleeping well, managing stress, and moving in a way that feels good for you, your weight will settle where it wants to settle. This could be up, down, or somewhere in the middle. It’s just impossible to predict!
Fighting our natural bodies desires (ignoring hunger, trying to control and restrict) through pursuing weight loss, is the very thing that often results in weight gain, and can create a disconnected and troublesome relationship with food.
So, if you decide that you still need to make a resolution for the year ahead, then perhaps consider making one that means you’re going to break up with dieting for good.
For more on how to start intuitive eating, how to stop binge eating sugar, how to stop food obsession, emotional eating, stress eating, yo-yo dieting, and how to start intuitive eating check out my FREE download. This will guide you through some of the first steps to support you through your food problems. You will learn how to stop food obsession, and how to start intuitive eating.
- BBC News (2004) Many people diet most of the time [Online]. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3454099.stm [accessed 18th December 2018].
Anderson, James W., et al. “Long-term weight-loss maintenance: a meta-analysis of US studies–.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 74.5 (2001): 579-584.
- UNC School of Medicine (2008) Survey finds disordered eating behaviors among three out of four American women. Available from: http://www.med.unc.edu/www/newsarchive/2008/april/survey-finds-disordered-eating-behaviors-among-three-out-of-four-american-women [accessed 18th December 2018].
- Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). (2013). Clinical Practice Guidelines of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, Adolescents and Children in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n57_obesity_guidelines_140630.pdf
- Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E et al. (2007) Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Am Psychol 62, 220–233.
- Tylka TL. Development and psychometric evaluation of a measure of intuitive eating. J Couns Psychol. 2006;53(2):226-240.
- Hawks S, Madanat H, Hawks J, Harris A. The relationship between intuitive eating and health indicators among college women. Am J Health Educ. 2005;36(6):331-336.
- Denny KN, Loth K, Eisenberg ME, Neumark-Sztainer D. Intuitive eating in young adults. who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors? Appetite. 2012.
- Schaefer JT & Magnuson AB. (2014). A review of interventions that promote eating by internal cues. J Acad Nutr Diet; 114: 734-760.