RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

Why diets don’t work

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

28th November 2018

Can you think back to the last time you went on a diet?

That doesn’t mean officially being ‘on a diet’, like following Weight Watchers or going to the extreme of ‘juice cleansing’.

A diet is anything undertaken for the purposes of trying to lower your weight. Even if it is reframed as ‘balance’ or a ‘lifestyle change’, it’s still a diet!

Other examples of pseudo diets include:

  • Cutting or counting carbohydrates.  
  • Only eating ‘safe foods’ that are low in carbohydrates, calories or fat. 
  • Only eating at certain times of the day. 
  • Making up for eating certain foods by skipping meals, eating less than you normally would, or telling yourself you will be ‘good’ tomorrow.
  • Cutting back when you are feeling fat, or in preparation for a special event. 
  • Basing what you are going to eat now, on what you have eaten earlier today, even if you are hungry or desire something different. 
  • Cutting out or restricting certain food groups based on the idea that they are ‘bad’ or not good for you. For example, cutting out gluten, dairy or sugar without underlying reasons for needing to do this.
  • Pacifying hunger by drinking coffee or diet coke. 
  • Putting on a false food face when out e.g. saying no to pudding/cake/dessert or certain foods in front of others when you actually really want it. You then leaving the meal and overeat on your way home, more than you would have done if you had just eaten the pudding. 

So, now you know what a diet is, let’s get back to the question…

Can you think back to the last time you went on a diet?

Did the diet work?

By that I don’t just mean did you lose weight. I mean, did you actually lose weight and keep it off? Was it sustainable? Do you still feel satisfied, fulfilled and free from continuous food and weight thoughts?

My best bet is a no. 

It’s become more and more known that diets don’t work among individuals and professionals. This article has been written to help you understand why dieting doesn’t work so you can start to break the habit of dieting.

Dieting is associated with:

Weight regain

Yep! It’s been published in the Australian Government Guidelines and is yet to slip into the UK’s. Based on reviewing the highest quality research, they state “Weight regain after intentional weight loss happens most of the time”.

Most weight re-gain tends to occur within 1 year, and the rest within the following 4 years. In Fiona Willer’s words, the evidence is strong, and “we can be as sure of this as we are that smoking causing cancer!”

Binge eating and food obsession

Dieting damages our relationship with food. When our bodies are deprived, our brain doesn’t know that you’re just trying to be ‘good’. It just thinks you are starving.

Have you ever had strong urges to want to eat when dieting? Perhaps scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest, drooling at delicious looking food.

We have biological survival mechanisms that kick in to make us want to eat, and there are a number of hormones that create this. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but fighting biology is a losing battle and these normal biological urges to want to eat will kick in at some point.

A loss of ability to detect hunger, fullness and satisfaction

Relying on outside food rules/diet plans/calories/points teaches us to ignore our natural biological signals that were created to help us detect hunger, fullness and satisfaction. This can result in over or under-eating.

For example, if you’re counting calories, what happens if you feel hungry but you’ve used up all of your calorie? You either remain hungry, or beat yourself up for going over and promise you will be ‘good’ tomorrow. Equally, what if you don’t use up all of your calories for the day? It’s unlikely you would let them go to waste, and eat them anyway!  

It’s no wonder our hunger and fullness signals don’t hang about any more. If we’re not listening to them, they are seen as wasted energy and don’t show up.

Slowed metabolism

Dieting makes it harder to not only lose weight again next time, but much easier to gain it back. Your body becomes better at storing fat, and more efficient at using less energy.

So what can you do if diets don’t work?

This can all be quite mind blowing, especially if you’ve been dieting for many many years. But there is a way out, I promise.

For more on 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

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