Losing weight without dieting – is it really possible?
KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian
30th December 2018
Put your hand up if you have made a New Year resolution to lose some weight?
Now have a think to how many weight loss attempts you have made in 2018?
If it’s more than 1, you’re certainly not alone with this! One in 4 adults are 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).
So, you may be wondering whether this is there another more sustainable way?
Firstly, let’s be clear what a diet is. I know you are more sensible than following juice cleanses or celery juice diets, but there are some hidden demons.
A diet is any kind of eating plan 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 your behaviours for the sole purpose of trying to lose weight, backfires for the majority. Whichever way you try it, even if it’s a ‘sensible’ way. I guarantee you’ve experienced this for yourself too. If diets or restriction worked then we would all be thin!
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).
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 it is complete BS. 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.
So, if you decide that you still need to make a resolution for 2019, then make it that you’re going to break up with dieting for good.
- 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.
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