Before signing up for another diet designed by someone who doesn’t know you, here are five reasons to steer clear of dieting.
Diets don’t work. Anyone who says they have found the proven way to lose weight and keep it off for everyone is lying. When you restrict calories enough to drop below your natural set-point weight range, your body pushes back, causing you to regain weight. Repeatedly losing and regaining weight (yo-yo dieting) may be worse for your health than if you never dieted.
Weight does not equal health. People can be healthy or unhealthy at both lower and higher weights. Even in research that shows an association between weight loss and improved health, it’s unclear whether it’s the weight loss that’s responsible for better health, or the behaviors people adopt to lose weight, such as better nutrition and regular physical activity.
Dieting gets in the way of lasting change. It doesn’t help you develop sustainable habits. When you treat nutrition and physical activity only as a means to weight loss, you’re not likely to eat well or be active if your attempts don’t lead to the results you want– and you’re more likely to return to old habits even if you do lose weight.
Dieting takes brainpower. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Don’t spend time logging food and tracking calories or macros. Don’t exhaust yourself worrying whether food fits diet rules or beating yourself up because you ate “forbidden” foods. Weighing less will not free you from body image concerns. Any newfound self-esteem evaporates when weight is regained.
Restriction can lead to bingeing. Dieting and food restriction can increase the risk of binge eating. When you feel deprived, you’re more likely to overeat once you stop restricting. This restrict-binge cycle is the opposite of a moderate, balanced, peaceful approach to eating.
What to do instead…
Investigate intuitive eating. Babies and very young children know when and how much to eat, based on innate hunger and fullness cues. We start to unlearn those cues once we’re encouraged to “eat three more bites,” “clean your plate,” or are taught there are “good” and “bad” foods. Intuitive eating is a skill we can relearn, and the outcome is better.
“Intuitive Eating,” “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat,” and “Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful,” are a few guides.
Focus on wellness, not weight. Embrace new habits for whole-body health whether or not they affect weight. Physical activity, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and managing stress improve health. Focus on building better habits that leave you feeling good. Research shows that a “Health At Every Size” approach improves health regardless of weight.
Cultivate body respect. When you diet, it is usually from a place of body hatred. This year, nurture body respect and acceptance. Weighing less will ultimately not make you happy. It is only a temporary body image boost. People who accept their size– regardless of what that size is– take better care of themselves and enjoy better health.
Say “no” to weight stigma. Weight stigma is toxic. It may be responsible for most health problems attributed to higher body weights. Victims of weight stigma are less likely to seek preventive health care and more likely to engage in harmful behaviors. Everyone benefits from increasing compassion, acceptance, and respect for all people– including ourselves.