I know that you know someone who knows someone… that have lost weight on a diet. Me too! And I can also tell you that I’ve done a loooooot of diets and I’ve always lost weight when I was following strictly the rules. Until a point… And let me tell you why, despite experiencing losing weight on a diet, I scream out loud that diets don’t work.
Just a little disclaimer here : when I talk about diets in this article, I mean weight-loss diets and I’m not talking about medical or specific protocols.
“You have to reduce your calories intake to lose weight”
“Count your points”
“Eat less carbs”
“Eat less fat”
… I figure that you’ve already heard all that statements?
But if weight should be the result of a so-easy equation between calories-in/calories-out, why are we still facing an obesity epidemic? Why so many people are still desperate because they’re not losing weight? Not to mention those ladies suffering from their body image, but we’ll talk about it later on.
As I said in the introduction, I have quite an experience in diets… In fact, I’ll not be able to tell you all those diets I’ve tried but it started when I was 14. And I’ll always remember that first dieting experience because as always on diets, I’ve faced my first frustrations!
After that, I was always on a diet. Always! And I’ve always gained back pounds after finishing a diet. Always! And all of this led to body image disorder and a bad relationship with my body. It’s very personal but I think it’s important to share that with you. And sometimes, even if I’m way better now, that creepy inner voice try to come back but now I know how to answer ;)
What I understood during my journey so far is that I have a special relationship with food. I come from a family who suffered lack of food in the past and my grandparents were always telling me, as a child, to eat a lot because I was lucky to have food in abundance. And it was also a kind of reward sometimes. And I think that’s the case for a lot of family : “If you finish your plate, you will have a dessert” or “let’s go the restaurant to celebrate your success”. I don’t blame people nor my family about that but unfortunately that kind of behavior can lead to disordered eating. And in my case, I developed some bad relationships with food.
Except that food is a fuel at its basics. It’s aim to give us energy and not exhaust us physically and emotionally.
And all of this can lead to a mix between guilt, satisfaction, punishment, anxiety, obsession. We don’t even know what we should do or shouldn’t. Completely lost.
And here comes the diet industry. This industry is completely based on our tendency to see all things negative. Why? Because that’s a human behavior from our ancestors in order to survive. And the industry is using that to convince you to go on a diet, indeed, on their diet which is better or more effective than the others. Can you relate?
I must confess : diets work when the rules are strictly followed. But what you may not be aware of is that it’s short term solutions. Because actually, diets fail on the long term and I’ll give you 5 main reasons why :
You lose your autonomy
The major problem with diet is that they take you out your responsibility and expertise. You’re not the expert, but the diet program is. Instead of teaching you how to lose weight, the diet is telling you what to do and that’s it. Another example is diets with meal delivery services. Even if that seems convenient, you don’t learn anything. You just eat what we deliver you (and most of all, you have zero control on ingredients they may use).
So, when your diet is over, what do you do?
Dieting disconnects you from what your body really needs
One big problem with dieting is that it teaches us to eat according to arbitrary food rules, instead of tuning into our own cravings and hunger signals. Except that your body knows what is good for you and what you need. Your brain is able to control your weight at a healthy level. Your body is made of connexions, bio-chemical signals, and when the symphony is working (because you gave your body good nourishment), you’ll be able to get more in touch with your own internal food cues.
And a byproduct of that is when you’re not nourished well, when you disconnect from your body, you produce less serotonin : your happiness hormone!
Do you know that 95% of people who followed a diet will gain back their weight and ⅔ of them will even gain more?
Dieting send survival messages to your body
Dieting will tell your body to switch on survival mode. Indeed, it’s a good thing as your body is made to survive and that means he is working. It was a necessary mechanisms for our ancestors when they had to walk miles and miles to find something to eat.
When your body switch on that mode, he will reduce his metabolism to save energy to keep you alive.
He will switch off some non-vital functions like periods for women because your body is not able to give birth when it’s undernourished.
And in order to lose weight (because metabolism reduction means weight-loss pace reduction), you will reduce your food again and again.
And you’ll start to be frustrated, obsessed with food especially sugary foods.
Well, that’s your body trying to reach for the quickest, surest form of energy: simple carbs, AKA sugar to keep you alive.
He does what it takes to protect you!
Dieting can lead to disordered eating and negative self-talk
Regarding what I’ve told you below, those messages may lead to disordered eating and wreak havoc your relationship with food.
It can result in food guilt, which can really take a toll on your mental and emotional health. When you’re on a diet, there is a lot of guilt and shame around eating some foods (depending on the diet) and sometimes you may think that you “felt out off the wagon” and start thinking you’re a failure.
But you’re not!
Dieting don’t take your “primary foods” needs into account
Diet programs usually give you a plan and rules to follow.
But other factors are also important : sleep, stress management, your emotions, financial situation, your career… That’s what we call “primary food”.
How do you feel today? Do you love your job? How are things going on at home? Are you happy? When you look at all these thin ladies smiling at you on those ads “lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks”, what are you really seeking? Weight loss or happiness?
Your weight and in the end your health is not only about what you eat, but how you feel nourished on and off the plate.
You need to look at the “big picture”.
It’s all about connection. Connect with your body, listen to it, listen to your emotions, try to understand why you feel that way with food.
You need to trust yourself and your body! Your body is your one and only home for life. So take care of it.
There’s nothing wrong to want to lose weight, to feel better in your body but do it with love and compassion towards yourself and not as a punishment. Do it for the right reasons, for you not for others.
Learn how to improve your health first because you don’t have to lose weight to be healthy but you certainly have to be healthy to lose and maintain a healthy weight on the long term!